Wine 101

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A basic introduction to wine, plus pairing suggestions to make every dinner special. Don't be afraid to experiment with wine. Have a wine tasting party! Remember, there is no "right or wrong" when it comes to enjoying wine. Pairing the correct wine with the recommended food is not essential. Drink what you like, in the glass you like! CHEERS!


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How to Make Wine 101


  1. The Whites:

    Chardonnay: a versatile wine grape: its flavor and aromas are easily influenced by where it's grown and how it's made. Fruit flavors range from apple and lime in cooler climates to tropical fruits in warmer places. When barreled in oak, it takes on a richness characterized by honey and butter flavors. When barreled in stainless steel, it often retains more mineral flavors and comes across as fresher on the palate. Chardonnay excels in Burgundy, France. Cool coastal areas of California also produce excellent Chardonnay.

    Chardonnay is a favorite with seafood. Minerally versions, like those from Chablis, France, pair particularly well with oysters.
    Riesling: a crisp, clean wine with green apple, pear and lime flavors. The best offer pleasing mineral qualities as well. With age, Riesling takes on honey flavors and attractive oily aromas. Riesling grows well in Germany, the Alsace region of France, the Finger Lakes region of New York, and parts of Australia and Washington State.

    Riesling pairs nicely with spicy foods, poultry and pork. Try it with Thai food.
    Pinot Gris: is made from grapes that generally produce different styles of wine depending on where the grapes are grown and how they're handled in the cellar. In the Alsace region of France, and in places like Oregon and New Zealand, Pinot Gris typically makes rich wines marked by a bit of spice. The Italian style (Pinot Grigio) tends to be fresh, crisp and refreshing.

    Sample either style with seafood and pasta dishes, vegetarian food and poultry.

    Sauvignon Blanc: is a fresh, crisp, aromatic wine with grapefruit and grassy flavors. This wine is the star of the Loire region of France. It also shines in the Bordeaux region, where it is often blended with Semillon. In the New World, New Zealand has emerged as a prime spot for Sauvignon Blanc.

    Sauvignon Blanc is a food-friendly wine that goes well with many seafood, poultry and vegetable dishes.
  2. The Reds

    Merlot: a soft, supple wine with nice fruit flavors of plums and blackberries and occasionally mint, chocolate and eucalyptus flavors and aromas. Typically, it is ready to drink earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, which sometimes needs a few years for its astringent tannins to mellow. Outside of Europe, New World Merlot shines in places like California, Chile and Washington State.
    Cabernet Sauvignon: a more assertive than Merlot, with more tannin and greater aging potential. It can have flavors of blackberries, plums, black currants, and cassis. Aged in oak, Cabernet Sauvignon can take on flavors of vanilla, cedar, chocolate, and coffee. Beyond Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon does well in Napa, California, where it produces smooth, ripe wines. Washington State, Chile and Australia are also making excellent Cabernet.

    Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are very nice with meat dishes like beef and lamb.
    Pinot Noir: a notoriously difficult grape to grow, made its mark initially in Burgundy, France. The grape continues to deliver single-varietal wines that are among the best in the world. Pinot Noirs are delicate wines that taste of red fruits like cherries, raspberries and strawberries. With age, flavors and aromas become more complex, developing earthy notes like mushrooms and decaying leaves. Burgundy in particular is noted for developing these earthy flavors. In the New World, tasty Pinot Noir is being made in Oregon, New Zealand, and some of the cooler appellations of California.

    Pinot Noir is a versatile food wine, great with poultry, salmon, meat and vegetable dishes.
    Syrah: is at home in the Rhone region of France, where the grape makes spicy, rich, darkly delicious wines that increase in complexity as they age. Syrah also makes delicious wines in Australia, where it is marketed as Shiraz. Australian versions are typically big, bold and spicy with jammy fruit and aromas of leather and black fruit. Syrah also excels in Washington State, where it often displays an attractive acid balance, and in California, where the styles vary significantly.

    Syrah is a very versatile wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods. It's terrific with grilled meats.
  3. Other Reds to Consider:

    Sangiovese: is the wine grape that makes Chianti, a tremendous food wine with flavors and aromas of cherries and rose petals.

    Nebbiolo: is the grape variety that makes Barolo and Barbaresco, the noble (and pricey) red wines of the Piedmont region of Italy. With age, flavor notes of plums and cherries are enhanced by flavors of smoke, tar and roses.

    Malbec: is a star in Argentina, where it produces inky wines with an attractive smoke and leather quality. It also stands out in Cahors in southern France.

    Tempranillo: is a famous grape of Spain, where it is used in wines of the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions.

    Gamay: makes the fresh and fruity, raspberry-flavored wines of the Beaujolais region of Burgundy.

    Zinfandel: has found its home in California, where it produces big, fruity, often spicy red wines.
  4. How to Store Wine:

    Wine must be stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Ideally, wine bottles should be stored on their side so that the wine keeps the cork moist and air tight.
    At what temperature should wine be served:

    The temperature at which wine is served has a tremendous impact on its taste. Serving wine too cold or too warm will negatively affect its taste and qualities.

    A conventional rule of thumb is that red wine should be served at room temperature while white wine should be served chilled. However, we need to be more precise, since room temperature varies from city to city and season to season, and some refrigerators may be set too cold.

    On average, for best results, wine must be served at the following temperatures:
    •Sparking Wine: 48?F (9? C)
    •White Wine: 53?F (12? C)
    •Rose Wine: 51?F (11? C)
    •Red Wine: 62?F (17? C)
    Slight variations of less than +/-10% are acceptable.
  5. How to open a bottle of wine:

    The traditional waiter’s corkscrew has four components:

    1) The main body, usually slightly curved to fit better to the palm of the hand.
    2) A fold-away foil cutter blade.
    3) A screw
    4) A hinged lever, to provide leverage so the cork can be pulled up and removed.

    To open a wine bottle, we must first use the blade to cut-off the foil around the top of the bottle. Be careful to remove enough foil (about ½” from the top) so that the wine doesn’t come in contact with the foil when the wine is poured.

    Next, insert the tip of the screw at the center of the cork’s surface and insert the rest of the screw by slowly turning clockwise. Don’t introduce the screw all the way through the cork to avoid cork particles falling in the wine.

    Finally, rest the small hook in the lever on the tip of the bottle to create a pivot point and pull out the cork.
  6. What kind of wine glass should you use:

    Wine glasses must be plain and transparent, so that you can appreciate the wine’s color, and made of glass or crystal. Wine glassesmust also have a stem to hold the glass without warming the wine with the heat of your hands. The best wine glasses are made by Riedeland can be as tall as a bottle of wine.

    While some people advocate the use of different glasses for wines from different grape varieties, I prefer to keep things simple with three glass options: glasses for red wine, for white wine and for sparkling wine.

    --Red wine

    Red wine glasses:
    are wider, with a very large bowl, since red wine needs to be swirled around to come in contact with the oxygen, and benefit from a larger area of contact with the air.

    White Wine:

    White wine glassesare tulip shaped. They are smaller than red wine glasses. The reduced surface area of contact with the wine prevents the white wine to warm up too fast.

    Sparkling Wine:

    Sparkling wine glassesare small and flute shaped (tall and thin). The reduced surface area of contact keeps the wine colder and the flute shape allows for the proper development of bubbles.
  7. How to pour wine:

    Wine must be poured slowly toward the center of the glass.The glass should be filled only up to slightly below the widest section of the glass (usually less than half a glass), so that the guest can swirl the wine without risk of spillage (see section Tasting Wine).Finish pouring the wine tilting the tip of the bottle upwards and slightly rotating your hand, so that the wine doesn’t drip.
    How to taste wine:

    The first step when tasting one is to inspect the cork. The cork must be intact and the only trace of wine must be at the bottom of the cork. If the cork appears moist, cracked or has wine stains on the sides or top, it most likely means that the wine has been exposed and is not in good condition.

    Another possibility is that the cork is hard and dry; a dry cork won’t be air tight and may be the sign of an exposed wine. You can also give the cork a quick sniff to see if you detect a moldy smell, which is a sure sign that wine has gone bad.

    If the cork seems OK, the next step is to pour a small amount of wine into the glass and swirl it vigorously by lightly pressing the bottom of the glass against the table and follow with a circular motion of your hand (be careful not to spill the wine). By swirling the wine, you will increase the wine’s surface of contact with the air and allow it to release its aroma.

    You can then pour more wine into the glass (about one third full, but never more than half) and proceed to enjoy your wine. If you have guests, serve the women and older persons first, followed by the rest of the people and you at the end.

    You can continue to swirl the wine and bringing your nose close to the glass to feel the wine's aroma before sipping it.
    How to store an opened bottle of wine:

    You can store an open bottle of wine in the refrigerator for up to 5 days without a negative effect on the wine's taste. Just remember to remove the bottle from the refrigerator with enough time for the wine to achieve its optimal temperature. As a rule of thumb, wine will warm up 4 degrees Fahrenheit every 10 minutes. If you know the temperature in your refrigerator, you can easily calculate how long you must wait before drinking the wine.

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Course/Dish: Other Drinks

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