The Basics: Restaurant Wine Service

11 05 2011

The 2011 Pop & Pour. A fine choice.

Anyone who has ordered a bottle of wine in a restaurant knows that there’s a specific series of steps that are inevitably followed by the wait staff before you’re left alone with your vino of choice.  Depending on your point of view, this process is either a charming ritual that enhances the dining experience or one of the ways to justify a 150%+ markup on a $30 bottle of wine.  If you’ve never heard the rationale behind each part of the restaurant wine service regime, this procedure might cause you unnecessary stress during what should be a relaxing night out, so here are the main things that happen after you place your wine order and how you should react to them: Read the rest of this entry »

The Basics: How To Store Wine

27 04 2011

I’ve mentioned previously that around 95% of all wine on the market is meant to be popped and poured (blog product placement totally intentional) within 6 months of purchase.  For these wines, unless you keep them in the trunk of your car or directly over top of your stove, storage conditions probably won’t be a huge concern.  However, for wines that are intended to be aged, or for any wine that you want to try and keep in optimal condition, storage techniques become much more important.  Proper storage helps ensure that your $20 (or $50, or $200) bottle of wine will give you your money’s worth and show itself as well as possible when you do pull the cork; best of all, you don’t need a high-tech humidity-controlled cellar to keep your wines in good shape.  If you follow these basic storage rules, you will be ahead of the wine-aging game: Read the rest of this entry »

The Basics: How To Taste Wine

15 04 2011

Everybody knows how to taste wine on some level, and most people kicking back with a glass after work or with dinner are probably perfectly happy relaxing with their vino without contaminating the experience with any kind of analytical process.  Totally fair and understandable.  But if you’re interested in taking the next step with your appreciation of wine, it really starts with being able to pick out individual components of a wine, knowing the main characteristics of a particular grape or region, and being able to tell different wines apart.  To do any of this, tasting your wine isn’t enough; you need to TASTE your wine.  Here’s a simplified way how to do it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Basics: When To Decant?

8 04 2011

Good news, casual wine drinkers:  in almost all cases, you will have to remember nothing about this post.  When drinking 95% of the wine currently on the market, decanting will be completely irrelevant, unless you simply enjoy doing it as part of the formal ritual of drinking wine (yeah, I don’t either).  But for that other 5% of wines, it does serve some useful functions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Basics: Do Wine Glasses Matter?

4 04 2011

The short answer:  yes.  The slightly less short answer:  wine glasses do matter, but as long as yours meet a few simple criteria, they will serve your purposes just fine.  It is very easy to get carried away with the finer points of matching a wine to a particular glass — if you don’t believe me, check out this site from the world’s top wine glass maker, Riedel, which showcases multiple unique glasses designed specifically for particular varietals (i.e. Gewurztraminer), regions (i.e. Paulliac, in Bordeaux, France), ripeness levels (i.e. Beerenauslese, a German designation), quality levels (i.e. Beaujolais Cru, higher-end Beaujolais from Burgundy, France) and even non-table-wines (i.e. Cognac, Port).  While this hyper-specific wine/glass matching might pay dividends for a select few wine experts, it is horrendously impractical for the rest of us and likely won’t result in any clearer appreciation of the underlying wine.  However, for anyone enjoying a drink of wine, your glass will help rather than hinder your drinking pleasure if it fits within these guidelines: Read the rest of this entry »

What’s The Best Way To Learn About Wine?

2 04 2011

So you like wine.  A lot.  You’ve gone from grabbing a bottle at the liquor store every now and then to having a small collection at home so that there’s always something available to open if the need (or desire) arises.  You’ve gone to a few wine tastings at local shops, bought and leafed through a couple wine magazines, tried to talk to sommeliers at restaurants, but there’s a knowledge gap that none of these things can properly fill.  You want to LEARN, build a base of understanding about wine that will give you a greater appreciation of every bottle you open.  How best to go about it? Read the rest of this entry »

The Basics: Hot vs. Cold Weather Wine

25 03 2011

I suppose this goes without saying, but the climate of a wine-growing region can have a profound impact on the resulting wine.  At its core, wine is an agricultural product, and even though there are a number of steps producers can take during the winemaking process to put their stamp on the flavour of their wares, much of what ends up in a bottle of wine is determined by the environment in which the grapes are grown and is locked in by harvest time.  This is useful for people trying to make wine-buying decisions, because it means that if you have a little knowledge about the general climatic conditions of the place where a bottle is from, you will be able to get some solid hints about what’s waiting for you inside. Read the rest of this entry »

Some Notes About Scoring

21 03 2011

It has been (correctly) pointed out to me that, in most cases, a wine’s rating or score is not an absolute value.  It’s not a direct measure of how good a particular wine is as matched up against every other wine in the world, but instead is a somewhat-relative reflection of how well a winemaker has created a wine of his or her chosen style, how well a producer has hit the vinicultural mark at which they were aiming.  So if you have two wines that are rated 90 points, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re equally matched to each other in every way in terms of flavour and quality; to properly assess these ratings, each wine is more accurately matched against others of a similar ilk.

My ratings don’t quite work that way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Basics: What’s Tannin?

16 03 2011

If you’re just getting into wine, you’re finding out that there is a LOT of information to assimilate and some steep learning to do.  Some of it, like figuring out the grape varieties and the major wine regions and the top producers, isn’t so bad, because it primarily just involves drinking a lot.  But other stuff, like the never-ending list of vocabulary that goes into describing a wine, is a lot trickier and can often become a barrier that increases the intimidation factor of wine to the point where many people decide it’s not worth the effort.

This should clear everything up...

For me, one of the terms in the wine glossary that I had the most trouble with was tannin.  Every wine review you see (including my own reviews below) makes reference to a particular bottle’s smooth, silky, bitter, soft, graceful, harsh or (stop me anytime) aggressive tannins…I had no idea what any of this meant until a couple years ago, well after I had started buying wine regularly.  Since it turns out that tannin is one of the basic building blocks of red wine and something that has to be understood by any would-be wine lover sooner or later, here’s my attempt at a primer. Read the rest of this entry »

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