There’s Nothing Petite About Petit Verdot

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III as featured on Wine Enthusiast

GOTG Petit Verdot Illo
ILLUSTRATION BY JOÃO NEVES

If there is one grape variety that exemplifies the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it is Petit Verdot. This small grape earned its name, which translates to “little green,” due to its tendency to ripen later in the season as compared to its Bordeaux cohorts, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When allowed to fully ripen, this compact yet dynamic grape unveils jammy black fruits, enticing floral aromas and firm tannins along with a deep, dark purple color.

Due to its long, leisurely ripening period, many Châteaux in Bordeaux have replaced Petit Verdot plantings with varieties that ripen to their full potential more expeditiously. However, many New World wine regions are welcoming Petit Verdot into their vineyards to be celebrated as a single-varietal wine, as opposed to a petite percentage of a larger blend.

United States

In the North Fork of Long IslandNew YorkPellegrini Vineyards Winemaker Zander Hargrave believes that “the variety works well because it is late to go through veraison.” This later ripening protects it from early weather fluctuations. Further, the smaller berries are able to concentrate sugars in mid to late October, resulting in depth of flavor and more intense color. The wines exude wild fruit flavors and earthy undertones. In Virginia, many wineries are using Petit Verdot in place of Cabernet Sauvignon to satisfy consumers looking for an alternate big, bold style of red wine. These wines carry vibrant acidity along with ripe dark-berry fruit and, in the best examples, firm and gripping tannins.

Australia

Australia’s largest plantings of Petit Verdot can be found in the Riverland region, but it has also found success in the Barossa and Murray valleys as well as Riverina. Its ability to retain acidity in these warmer climates is key, leading to full-bodied wines with a flavor profile similar to Shiraz: intense red berry fruit, black pepper spice and floral notes such as lavender and violet.

Argentina

With more than 1,600 acres of Petit Verdot planted in Argentina, 72% are in the high-altitude, warm continental-climate region of Mendoza. Today, the regions of San JuanLa RiojaPatagonia and the Calchaquí Valley all have the grape under vine. “Petit Verdot gets fuller with sweeter, gentler tannins than you find where it originally came from,” says Tomás Hughes, winemaker at Finca Decero.

Does Swirling Wine Do Anything?

Does Swirling Wine Do Anything?

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III

as featured by Wine Enthusiast

Silhouetted person swirls red wine in glass
GETTY

There are few things more mesmerizing than watching a deep, ruby colored wine skillfully swirled around a large-bowled glass. Conversely, watching an “over-swirler” throw the wine around like a ride at an amusement park can seem quite pompous.

Regardless of style and technique, there’s a tremendous amount of value and purpose to the wine swirl. Most of it has to do with oxygen and aeration, but there are other reasons why the swirl is a key component in the 5 Ss of wine tasting.

It Opens the Wine

As soon as wine is exposed to oxygen, its aroma compounds become more detectable as they attach themselves to evaporating alcohol as it lifts from the glass. Oxygen also can help to soften harsh tannins on bigger wines, allowing them to become smoother and silkier.

Just about every wine will benefit from swirling to some extent, though younger, bolder wines may require more. But be cautious about overswirling an older vintage wine—oxygen can turn from friend to foe, and it’s easy to overoxidize a delicate, aged wine with too much swirling.

It Removes Off-Putting Odors

Oxygen will also help “blow off” a wine’s unwanted aromas. Sulfites, which may be added during the winemaking process or occur naturally as a biproduct of fermentation, can create an odor of burnt match or rotten eggs upon initially opening a bottle. With several seconds of swirling, those malodors often dissipate, leaving behind the aromas intended by the winemaker.

A Better Visual

By swirling wine higher up in the bowl, you can better analyze its color and viscosity. A given wine may seem medium ruby in color when resting at the bottom of the glass. But give it a few laps around the track, and its hue may appear lighter than originally detected.

Moreover, swirling leaves behind legs, also called tears, on the glass. They can indicate a wine’s viscosity and signify higher alcohol levels. The more legs that streak down the glass, the more you may want to watch how much you consume in one sitting.

How to Swirl Wine Correctly

There can be a fine line between executing an impressive swirl and potentially ruining everyone’s clothes with flying wine. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when perfecting your swirl.

Start small and keep the base of the glass on the table. Imagine there’s a small bead or pebble floating atop your wine, touching the side of the glass. See if you can envision moving that bead around the edge of the glass, without it off the table. Once the flow looks good, try to keep that same rolling motion as you raise the glass a few inches off the table.

Use a big-bowled glass. When it comes to wine glasses and swirling, size matters. Wider bowls create a lower center of gravity and better momentum for the liquid inside, allowing for a more stable experience. Start with one of these and save yourself the hassle of learning to swirl in a tiny tumbler—a recipe for disaster and nearly guaranteed to cause a spill.

Avoid the overswirl. Several seconds, or even a minute of swirling, does wonders for most wines (though again, be careful of those older vintages). But a glass of wine doesn’t need to be swirled constantly. After the initial swirl to kickstart oxygenation, the wine will continue to breathe and develop in the glass by itself. Also, all it takes is one overpowering flick of the wrist to send a nice Bordeaux sloshing out of the glass, left only to be enjoyed as a permanent stain on your favorite rug.

Is This Wine Any Good? The Five Most Important Structural Components to Know

BY MARSHALL TILDEN III

GETTY

How do you determine whether a wine is ”good”?

The first rule of thumb is to drink what you like. If you enjoy it, then it must be good!

However, if you want to gauge the technical quality of wine, there are five major structural components to assess. After you examine those levels, you can determine if and how they balance each other and lead to an intense or expressive wine with complexity on the nose, palate and finish.

Here are the five most important structural components of wine and how to understand them in the glass.

Sweetness

Just because a wine is fruity doesn’t mean it’s sweet.

Sweetness indicates the amount of residual sugar in wine. So, when people say they prefer a “dry wine,” it’s not to say they don’t enjoy fruity wines, just wines without any real sugar content.

There’s no direct correlation between sweetness or dryness and quality. Sure, you would be hard-pressed to find a 100-point White Zinfandel on Wine Enthusiast, but there are plenty of 100-point sweet wines, like Port and Tokaji, that are some of the most sought-after wines in the world.

Acidity

You know that mouthwatering feeling you get when you bite into a fresh pineapple or sip freshly squeezed lemonade? That’s acidity, and it’s one of the most important components of wine.

Derived from grape pulp, acidity accounts for less than 1% of the composition of wine. (Water comprises 80–86%, and alcohol typically 11–16%.) Acidity helps to make cool-climate white wines zippy and refreshing and helps rich reds, like Saint-Estèphe in Bordeaux or Rioja Gran Reserva, to age gracefully for decades.

While acidity will tend to be lower in red grapes than white, without medium to high acidity in a wine, it will appear as flabby or flat and it will be nearly impossible for it to exhibit balance or harmony.

Tannin

A great exercise to understand tannin is to peel the skin off a red grape and eat it by itself. That drying feeling in your mouth that sucks your cheeks in is from the tannin.

Extended maceration, in which winemakers press the grapes with their skins intact, is one way to impart tannins to wine. Since most white wines are produced without skin contact, the vast majority has little to no tannins.

However, tannins can also come from oak aging, so you will notice a bit of tannin in those big, buttery Napa Chardonnays and gloriously complex Sauternes.

Tannins are more prevalent in red wines because there is more skin contact with the juice during fermentation and when the juice is pressed, or when liquid is separated from solids. The more contact the juice has with the skins, and possibly stems, the more the tannins can be detected in a wine.

Without a healthy dose of tannins, it’s very difficult for a wine to improve and evolve over time. Conversely, a wine that is oversaturated with tannins, and that doesn’t possess enough fruit or acidity to balance it out, will feel astringent and come across as particularly bitter on the finish.

Alcohol

The cat’s out of the bag: Wine has alcohol, and it’s a critical component of the body and weight of your pour.

Alcohol is a byproduct of the fermentation process. The more sugar in whatever grapes are fermented, the higher the wine’s potential alcohol. Grapes develop sugar as they ripen, which explains why high-alcohol wines can come from generally warmer regions like Barossa in Australia, Priorat in Spain and many regions in California, while cool-climate white wines from Vinho Verde in Portugal or the Loire Valley in France tend to have lower alcohol levels.

Lower or higher levels of alcohol are not surefire signs of quality in wine, though. There must be a minimum level of around 8% alcohol by volume (abv) for even the lightest of white wines. And, for those big, high-alcohol reds that exceed 15% abv, there should be a hefty dose of fruit, ample tannins and at least moderate acidity to keep everything balanced.

Body

Residual sugar, tannin and alcohol work in tandem with fruit concentration to determine the body or weight of a wine. The denser the fruit and higher the alcohol, the heavier and fuller-bodied a wine will feel on the palate.

A great way to judge body is to think about water and milk. A light-bodied wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will have a consistency similar to water, whereas a full-bodied wine like an Argentine Malbec will be closer to heavy cream. The collaborative effort of all these structural components leads you to determine whether you’re drinking a light-, medium- or full-bodied wine.

So, What Makes a ‘Good’ Wine?

Once you have made your assessments of all these structural components, you can then determine how they complement one another. Does the acidity balance out potentially high tannins?

Does the alcohol complement the high fruit concentration, leading to a long and pleasing finish? Does the combination of these components then culminate in an intense, expressive and potentially complex wine?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, you probably have a good, or possibly outstanding, wine on your hands.

Most important structural elements wine tasting
BY TOM ARENA

Published on October 26, 2021

What Temperature Should Wine be Stored at?

What Temperature Should Wine be Stored at?

To truly showcase your wine, storing and serving at the proper temperature is crucial. Determining the precise temperature your wine should be kept at is subject to several variables, all of which we’ll cover here.

WHAT IS THE BEST TEMPERATURE TO STORE WINE?

Storage time greatly impacts the conditions at which your wine should be kept. Generally, recommendations can be divided depending on whether you’re planning for short-term or long-term storage; where short-term is less than six months, and long-term is any time beyond that.

For short-term storage, you want to avoid any pre-mature aging or agitation. To do this, a constant temperature of 50°-59° Fahrenheit is best. If you’ll be storing your wine for longer, you’ll want to keep your cooler a little colder — 53° to 57° Fahrenheit. This temperature will prevent spoilage and allow the wine to age and mature gracefully.

VARIABLES IN WINE STORAGE

Red vs. White Wine Storage Temperature

While common to keep whites in the fridge and reds on the shelf, that’s not what the experts at Wine Enthusiast recommend. Although different wines should be served at different temperatures, all wines should be stored at the same temperature.

Whether white, red, sparkling or fortified, we suggest following the above-mentioned temperature guidelines, depending on how long you are storing your wine.

Ideal Temperature by Unit

For wine storage, coolers are available in single-zone models and dual-zone models. Single zones are often more economical, beginner friendly and ideal for long term storage of all wines. However, if you are looking to have both long-term and short-term storage as well as service temperatures in the same device, a dual-zone cooler is probably best. With dual-zone coolers, you can independently adjust the temperatures of two separate storage areas.

Are you exclusively storing wine, or do you have spirits, beer, and mixers to keep cold as well? If the latter is the case, consider looking into beverage-center units. These typically have space for beer/soda cans, standard bottles, and sparkling wine bottles. Not only do these units free up space in your standard refrigerator, but they offer a convenient space for all your entertaining needs and supplies.

Wine Fridge Temperature Range

Most standard units have a temperature range between 40° F and 65° F. Some specialized units can offer temperatures below 40° F, but that will be too low for most wines.

TIPS FOR PROPER WINE STORAGE

Say your reds and whites are stowed away, stored in a cooler at the ideal temperature. Is there anything else you should know about storage to enjoy optimal quality and flavor? The answer is: Yes.

  • The location of your unit is something to consider. We suggest avoiding any particularly harsh environments that could force your wine cooler to work harder than it has to. That means non-air-conditioned garages or patios in hot climates.
  • We strongly suggest avoiding areas that are subject to intense ambient temperature fluctuations. This is going to put some very unnecessary stress on your wine refrigerator. And while the units we offer can certainly stand up to the task, keeping your refrigerator in a relatively constant ambient temperature is going to prolong its life.
  • Like any refrigerating device, wine coolers are rated at certain max-capacities. It’s important to keep keen attention to these recommendations. When wine refrigerators are over-filled, they won’t be able to maintain a constant, ideal temperature. That brings us to our next point…
  • Wine refrigerators operate just fine when under-filled. So, we always consider buying for what your wine collection will be, not what it already is. This way, you’ll be able to comfortably grow your collection, without worrying about storage space.

IN CONCLUSION

All in all, our wine refrigerators are going to do most of the work for you. But you’ll just want to make a few considerations to ensure that you’re optimizing the performance of your unit. We suggest taking into account your current and future needs to determine which unit is best for your home. No matter what you decide, we’ve certainly got a wine refrigerator for you. Take a look around our online shop – the perfect unit is only a few clicks away!

There’s No Better Time to Organize Your Wine

Illustration of wine bottles in wood rack with cellar organization tags.

Getty

Before your basement or hall closet turns into a cardboard box-laden nightmare, check out these top tips for how to store and organize your precious goods so you can always access the right wine at the right time.

First off: location, location, location.

If your collection is just a case or two, keep those bottles in as cool of a place as possible with very little light. Put your least expensive bottles on the top and the most expensive on the bottom. That way, it’s harder to access the good stuff in case some wandering hands come by.

Even with a small collection, consider buying a few racks to keep everything in good order and store your bottles horizontally. It’s better for the wine, and keeps the corks moist and ensures minimal air seeps into the bottle.

Avoid storing your collection in the kitchen, as it’s usually the warmest room in the house. A small wine refrigerator is a smart investment. Not only does it help organize your collection, but more importantly, it keeps the wine at the right temperature.

We Recommend:

Consider your organizational preferences.

There are various schools of thought on how best to organize a wine collection. Some group wine by region, some by grape variety, others by vintage or even price. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. The question is, what makes the most sense to you?

When you look for a bottle, do you always know just what you want, or do you start with one element and then narrow choices from there? Do you begin by identifying a specific country or region you want to drink a wine from? Maybe you gravitate toward a preferred variety? Whatever the answer, use it as a starting point for organization.

Generally, sorting by country is the easiest place to start. Ideally, each country would have its own section. Within that section, you might filter down to subregions, then perhaps by vintage and price.

For example, one section of your cellar might be devoted to France. Within that section, you could have smaller collections of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Languedoc and Loire. The wines could be grouped by vintage, perhaps in chronological order, or by order in which they’ll be in their optimal drinking window.

If there are better vintages, like 2009 or 2010 in Bordeaux, which should age longer, you may want to place them behind lesser-quality vintages that should be enjoyed sooner.

Start with wine tags.

If you are a meticulous organizer, wine tags are just the ticket. They’re little white pieces of paper with a hole in the middle that go around the neck of the bottle. If you store wine in a display-style rack, like a VintageView or Ultra Racks, the labels themselves will be displayed. But with a rack where the neck faces out, simply write the name of the winery, variety, vintage, price and any other information you want to easily be able to view.

Different colored tags can denote specific countries, regions or drinking windows. For example, red tags can mark wines to hold, yellow tags can denote selections that approach maturity and green tags could suggest bottles to drink now.

We Recommend:

Get geeky.

If your collection spans several regions and subregions, you may want to organize everything into a spreadsheet or use a wine inventory app.

A spreadsheet requires a lot of time, patience and maintenance. You’ll have to record everything consistently to know the true extent of your collection.

Similarly, anything consumed must be removed from your inventory document. Wines can either deleted or moved to a separate worksheet with tasting notes, which can keep a fun history of your experiences. If you have multiple bottles of the same wine, it’s also a valuable tool to track drinking windows.

A spreadsheet can also help identify what wine you might seek from a larger collection. You can filter the list by any desired criteria to better find the exact bottle you want, without spending a significant amount of time staring at your racks being overwhelmed.

For the more technologically minded, there are several apps to consider. CellarTrackerVinCellarVivino and VinoCell are all good choices. It’s just a matter of which format suits you best and if you want to use a scanning system.

Just be aware, even though some apps allow you to scan a barcode or QR code, not every wine will have one. So regardless of which you use, there will likely be some manual input of wines.

If you have a substantial collection, you may want to look into the eSommelier, a hardware/software system dedicated to cataloging every wine in your collection. It offers professional ratings for each wine, and information on when it’s ready to drink. The program even creates barcode labels for each bottle.

Personalize it.

Consider any other organizational strategies that best suit your needs. For example, if you have a few wine drinkers in your house, consider personalized shelves tailored to each person’s tastes.

Similarly, drinking recommendations based on occasion might be best for easy bottle selections. Consider different shelves or racks for wines meant for everyday consumption, versus those more complex and thought-provoking pours.

Other groupings can be organized around special events, like children’s birth years, or favorite travel destinations. The possibilities are endless. There’s no better time to explore your options and play with your bottles.

Published on March 28, 2020

Six Quick and Easy Tips for Navigating Restaurant Wine Lists Like a Pro

A woman looking at the wine list in the restaurant Saint Amour in Quebec City, CanadaAlamy

Have you ever been handed a wine list at a restaurant and been completely overwhelmed?

Everyone has been there at some point, and it can be daunting. You’re under pressure to order a tasty wine that everyone will enjoy, but don’t want to pick something that will require a second mortgage.

Here are a handful of quick strategies to help navigate those intimidating and extravagant lists with a bit more ease.

Open with bubbles.

When you sit down and want to really go through the wine list, stall for time by ordering a bottle of bubbles.

Champagne is always a top choice, but there are so many excellent sparkling options typically available at a more accessible price point, particularly Prosecco and Cava. Not only is it a festive way to start any meal, but it allows for some breathing room to properly peruse the wine list and help open up everyone’s appetite.

Want to try something a little further out there? See if the restaurant has a pétillant naturel, or pét-nat, a rustic style of sparkling wine appearing increasingly on lists across the U.S.

Cropped shot of a group of friends hanging out and having champagne
Getty

There are no hard and fast rules on quality vs. price.

You’ll hear a lot of conflicting advice on what to order based on price. Some will tell you to never order the cheapest bottle on the list. Others say that the second-cheapest bottle of wine is what the restaurant wants to unload on unsuspecting customers too self-conscious to order the lowest-price wine.

The truth is, there is no quick cheat that’ll tell you which wine you should buy based on price. Sometimes, the cheapest wine is the owner’s favorite, and the restaurant gets a case discount. Or the most expensive wine is something the restaurant barely breaks even on, but keeps it around for prestige and to add to the overall experience.

What you can be sure of is that most beverage directors strive to make all the wines on their list ones that they enjoyed tasting, and deal with the price points later.

Take the road less traveled. 

 If you go into a steakhouse and look to a bottle of Napa Cab or Bordeaux, you are almost guaranteed to pay top dollar for a wine that usually has the highest markup in the joint. The same goes for a Barolo or Amarone at a five-star Italian restaurant. That’s because these are the types of bottles most diners associate with these sorts of restaurants.

However, if you look for Merlot or Zinfandel from Sonoma at that same steakhouse, you’ll likely find an outstanding wine with less sticker shock. A Valpolicella Superiore can offer the same value at your favorite Italian spot and would be a welcome alternative to Amarone. Restaurants tend to mark these bottles up less to entice diners to try their favorite “value wines.”

Double the retail price of the wine for comparison.

Most restaurants will charge a flat percentage markup on wine based on its cost. But some may play around with the prices where they think they can maximize profit.

If you are considering a wine you’re familiar with, a good rule of thumb is to double what you would pay in a local wine shop. That will give you a fair market assessment of restaurant pricing, though you should expect a bit more at higher-end restaurants.

If a wine you like is being offered at less than double its retail price, you’ve found a deal.

Group of coworkers having a dinner after job
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Ask questions.

It’s amazing how many bargains can be found just by striking up a conversation with the sommelier or your server. Tell them what wines you’ve enjoyed in the past and why. If they ask followup questions, they’re trying to get a sense of your taste, not quiz you.

Besides, getting to know your wine professional has all sorts of side benefits. Maybe the restaurant has one bottle left of an older vintage that they need to clear out to make room for a new wine. Or perhaps there are a few wines not even on the list that just arrived. Maybe a sales rep dropped off some sample bottles about which the sommelier would like opinions.

Having a conversation with the staff about your wine preferences and budget could lead to a stellar value selection.

Wine preference outweighs wine pairing.

It’s easy to get hung up on trying to find the perfect pairing, and wine culture places such emphasis on the “right” things to eat and drink together. But if you know that you don’t like Rhône wines and your server or sommelier recommends a Gigondas as the best pairing for your dish, chances are that you’ll be disappointed.

Be sure to order a wine that you know you will enjoy regardless of the food. After all, you’re the one paying the bill, right?

How to Understand (Almost) Everything on a Wine Label

How to Understand (Almost) Everything on a Wine Label

Classic examples of Old World and New World wine labels / Left photo: Meg Baggott; Right photo: Sara Littlejohn

Classic examples of Old World and New World wine labels / Left photo: Meg Baggott; Right photo: Sara Littlejohn

 

Have you ever looked at a bottle of ChiantiChâteauneuf-du-PapeTaurasi or Alentejo and wondered exactly what’s inside? Or how about when you come across a Rhône-style red blend from California? Wine labels can offer up a lot of information about what’s inside—that is if you can decode the cryptic language on the label.

But fear not. There are some basic formulas that can help you understand the rather confusing and sometimes smug words on wine labels.

How to Read a Wine Label

The first thing to determine is if the wine is from the Old World (Europe, the Mediterranean, parts of Western Asia) or New World (any other wine-producing region). While all labels will include basic facts like region, producer, alcohol by volume (abv) and vintage (unless nonvintage), there are some notable distinctions.

Here are the differences between what you may find on labels from these two categories.

Red wine from Cote de Bordeaux
Photo by Meg Baggott

Old World Wine Labels

The vast majority of Old World wines will typically only indicate regions and aging classifications on the front label, but not grape varieties.

For example, red Riojas are produced typically from Tempranillo grapes, possibly with Graciano, Garnacha and perhaps Mazuelo. (And how could anyone not know that Mazuelo is the name for Carignan in Rioja). The problem is you’d be hard-pressed to find a Rioja that lists any of these grapes on the front label, if at all. The same goes for Chianti (made from Sangiovese), Burgundy (Pinot Noir for red wines and Chardonnay for white), Bordeaux and many others.

The main reason for these labeling practices is that these wines are more about a regional style than the grapes themselves. The same grape can show different characteristics based on climate, soil and terroir. So, while it may seem like producers are trying to confuse you by not naming the grapes on their bottles, it’s actually quite the opposite.

In recent years, some Old World producers have begun to name their wine’s grapes on the back labels, or even occasionally on the front. The caveat is that you’re expected to know what grapes can be (and are allowed to be) used in specific regions. That’s where a hint of Old World presumption can kick in.

Another characteristic of an Old World label is it may offer guidelines to aging. Unlike many New World wine labels, terms like “Reserva” (or “Riserva” in Italy) and “Gran Reserva” have real meaning based on the region they’re from.

However, each region’s regulations for age classifications can have almost identical names, but be very different. For example, if a bottle of red Rioja has Reserva on the label, that means it has been aged for a minimum of 36 months, with at least 12 months in oak.

However, a bottle of Chianti with Riserva on the label has spent at least 24 months in oak, with another three months in bottle. Additionally, a Brunello di Montalcino with Riserva on the label has spent five years aging after harvest, with at least two of those years spent in oak and six months in bottle. This is compared to the standard four total years (two in oak and four months in bottle) for non-Riserva Brunello.

German Riesling Labels
Photo by Matthew Dimas

The most confusing wine labels of them all might be German, which contain a multitude of technical information and German-language terms like “Trockenbeerenauslese,” “Bernkasteler Badstube” and “Grosses Gewächs.” One glance and you may feel you need to be a Mensa member to ever understand these descriptions.

Here are a few tricks to help you decode German labels:

German Wine Quick Tips

German labels include ripeness levels.

For Prädikatswein, a designation that denotes superior quality wines, the levels range from the least ripe (Kabinett) to the ripest (Trockenbeerenauslese) and everything in between (Spätlese, Auslese and Beerenauslese). The ripeness levels can help indicate the sweetness level of the final wine. There may also be specific sweetness levels noted on German wine labels, which include Trocken (dry), Halbtrocken (half-dry/off-dry) and Eiswein (sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes). You may also see Feinherb stated (another term to represent off-dry wines). And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

When you see two names together, particularly if the first name ends with an ‘er,’ it denotes a subregion and vineyard.

So, Bernkasteler Badstube means the wine is from the Badstube vineyard, located within the Bernkastel subregion.

German wines have their own version of Crus, like Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Grosses Gewächs on a label refers to a “great growth” and a wine of the highest quality, where Grosse Lage and Erstes Lage refer to grand cru and premier cru, respectively.

From left to right; Kay Brothers 2017 Basket Pressed Amery Vineyard Grenache (McLaren Vale); d’Arenberg 2014 The Derelict Vineyard Grenache (McLaren Vale); Yalumba 2016 Old Bush Vine Gre­nache (Barossa Valley); and Koerner 2018 Gullyview Vineyard Cannonau Grenache (Clare Valley)
Photo by Sara Littlejohn

New World Wine Labels

With wines from the U.S., South America, Oceania and most other non-European countries, the grape variety almost always appears on the label.

Originally, New World wine labels focused less on where the grapes were grown because they were basically all unknown wine regions. Rather, they highlighted grapes to link the wines to iconic European regions. A Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot could be associated with Bordeaux, while a Chardonnay could be compared to Burgundy.

This also occurred because, unlike their Old World counterparts, the style of the wine focused more on the grape’s expression than the region, though this has certainly changed over time. Now, many non-European regions are home to some of the finest vineyards in the world.

New World wine labels tend to be fairly straightforward. More often than not, they provide the grapes, region, subregion and even a description of the wine’s aromas and flavors, usually on the back.

However, there are certainly exceptions to this rule. Take one of the most popular wines in the U.S. right now, The Prisoner. That name is literally all you’ll find on the front label, while the back label states simply that it’s a “red wine” from Napa Valley. These wines, like some Old World counterparts, count on the prestige of their name communicating all a wine connoisseur needs to know.

Certain New World wines may also be deemed a Rhône-style red blend or a super Tuscan-style wine. Again, you have to know the grapes used in the historic European regions to understand what’s in the bottle. Typically, Rhône-style red blends from California are a combination of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre other grapes permitted in France’s Rhône Valley.

Keep in mind that with New World labels, terms like “Reserve,” “Special” and “Selection” don’t have any regulatory minimums in terms of aging or vineyard location. They are basically marketing terms meant to imply a higher-quality bottling, but they can be slapped on any label and offer no guarantee.

The only term that really has legal meaning in the U.S. is “Meritage,” the combination of “merit” and “heritage.” A number of California winemakers banded together in the late 1980s to form the Meritage Association (now Meritage Alliance) and created this classification for Bordeaux-style blends produced by member wineries, intended as a designation of quality. These wines must be a blend of two or more of the red Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet FrancMalbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. They can’t have more than 90% of any single variety. For white Meritage, the blend must include at least two of the three Bordeaux white grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.

There’s a lot to learn from wine labels—so long as you know where to look. Keep these tricks in mind and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Published on January 21, 2020

Finding the Perfect Time to Open Aged Wine

As featured in  Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Finding the Perfect Time to Open Aged Wine

Wine bottle with two glasses

Recently, I had the pleasure of sampling a current vintage 100-point super Tuscan with a group of colleagues to celebrate a special occasion. While this iconic wine was extremely complex, focused and intense, it wasn’t really “drinking well.” Granted, it needed time to open up and perhaps a side of beef to pair with, but the consensus was that it wasn’t the earth-shattering experience the group had anticipated.

The following Sunday, I dug deep in my cellar to find a 1989 Clos des Jacobins Saint-Émilion Grand Cru that received a 90-point score in 1999. It had been stored properly for the last two decades, so I figured this was a perfect time to open it up.

I seemed to have caught it in its peak stage when it wasn’t just drinking well, it was drinking perfectly.  

It was slightly muted at first, but when it came to life, it displayed intense dried red fruit, fig, raisin, smoked chestnuts, tobacco leaf and forest floor on the nose and palate. The acidity was still kicking, and the tannins were supple and polished. Luckily enough, my pops and I seemed to have caught it in its peak stage when it wasn’t just drinking well, it was drinking perfectly.

As I sipped, I reminisced about that vintage of 1989, my sophomore year in high school. Visions of shredding away on my Gibson Les Paul came to mind, as well as the early stages of my high school golf career, summers working at camp and figuring out how to attract the opposite sex without making a complete fool of myself. My pops and I agreed that spending a quiet afternoon over a perfectly aged bottle of Bordeaux was exactly what we needed.

It wasn’t that the Saint-Émilion Grand Cru was necessarily a better wine than the young super Tuscan. In that moment, however, it was drinking better in its life cycle. But also, with its sophistication and wisdom, it opened a gateway for a little nostalgia and a walk down memory lane as only a perfectly aged bottle of wine can do.

Aerator vs Decanter: Which is Better?

As seen on Wine Enthusiast  www.winemag.com

While the premise behind aerating and decanting wine is quite similar, there are some notable differences between the two.

The goal of both is to aerate the wine—that is, to increase its exposure to oxygen. When you expand the surface area of the wine, you increase how much of it is contact with air. This allows the wine to more quickly develop intense aromas and flavors.

But the process isn’t guaranteed magic. Aerating a basic Pinot Grigio will not turn it into a perfectly aged Montrachet. The process of aeration, or limited oxidation, simply allows the potential complexities and nuances of a wine to emerge a bit faster.

vinOair Wine Aerator

So, what’s the difference between aerating and decanting? Let’s start with aerators. Typically, these are small devices that are either placed in or on the bottle or held by hand. Some variations introduce air into the device that the wine travels through, while others disperse the pour through various spouts. However, all serve to increase the wine’s exposure to air while it’s poured.

These low-profile aerators are ideal for young, opulent and tannic reds that may be a bit muted (closed) immediately upon opening a bottle, or whose tannins can overpower the balance of the wine. One of the main functions of aeration is to soften tannins, which allows the fruit and acid to shine through. Just about every wine will benefit from a bit of aeration.

Quick Wine Tip

Aerator: Use on young wines, particularly big, bold and tannic reds.

Decanter: Use on older wines and more delicate bottlings.

However, most aerators won’t address sediment found in some wine. As a refresher, sediment is the grainy buildup of solids in wine that often derives from fermentation and leftover yeast (lees). For most young wines, sediment is a non-issue, but it’s often present in older bottles.

Sediment can also clog some aerators. This can affect the flow of wine and potentially create a messy and unfortunate overflow situation.

Top view of decanter and wineglass with red wine on the wooden table
Getty

Therefore, a decanter is usually the preferred method to aerate older wines from the cellar. When poured slowly and properly, most of the wine’s sediment can be kept in the bottle. This is why many sommeliers use a candle or flashlight to illuminate the glass while pouring, so they can stop pouring once the sediment reaches the neck. This way, you’re sure to only be sipping on fine wine and not choking on grainy, solid sediment.

The art of decanting wine is a time-honored tradition. To watch the ritual of an aged Burgundy as it falls mesmerizingly into a beautifully crafted crystal decanter adds to its enjoyment.

So, to recap, the rule of thumb is simple. For young, big, bold and tannic wines, an aerator will do the trick. But for older, more delicate and fragile selections, grab a decanter and proceed with caution, as those wines may need a little extra care.

Pro tip: For young wines that need as much oxygen as they can get, double up and aerate the wine right into the decanter. Trust us, it really works.

Published on July 2, 2019
TOPICS:Wine Basics
About the Author
MARSHALL TILDEN III

From his first sips of wicker basket Chianti at his grandfather’s dinner table to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Tilden knew that there was something magical about wine. He earned his Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. Having been with Wine Enthusiast catalog since 2005, when he is not writing about wine he also runs the wine storage division and is head of W.E.’s in-house education program.

How to Know Who is Wine Worthy?

 

When to Open That Special Bottle 

(as featured in Wine Enthsuiast)
You know the bottles. They’ve been sitting in your wine fridge for a few years now, waiting for the perfect night and the perfect audience.

Getty
It’s always tempting to open up those special bottles when in good company of family and friends, particularly when a wonderfully delectable dish is included. However, deciding when to pull gems from the cellar can be one of the most agonizing decisions to make—especially if you have already had a glass or two and are being egged on by your pals.

Even though you may love the people surrounding you, are they truly going to appreciate what you are about to open? Has everyone already had too many glasses pass their palate to accurately assess the true quality of your potentially stellar selection? Are there simply too many people for anyone to get more than a drop or two of this high quality, highly-anticipated juice? These are the questions that need to be addressed and answered, under potentially stressful time constraints, before you pop open that vintage bottle you’ve been saving for just the right moment.

Here are a few rules of thumb to help guide you into making the right wine service decision, and avoiding the regret of opening something spectacular you later wish you hadn’t.

The smaller the group, the better.

When there are too many people, inevitably someone will not get a chance to taste the opened bottle and you will probably hear about it for months to come. Generally speaking for a single standard bottle, if there are any more than six people, you may want to save it for a more intimate gathering.

Know your audience.

If more than half of the group are really going to appreciate and enjoy something special, then pop the cork. Who knows, you may enlighten someone with an epiphany wine experience.

Keep food pairing in mind.

Having the perfect food pairing may not be totally necessary for the enjoyment of a high-quality bottle. However, having a terrible pairing, like a wonderfully aged Bordeaux with oysters, can certainly hinder a potentially memorable wine drinking experience.

Do it early in the night.

Taste buds tend to get a little tired as an evening of wine tasting progresses, rendering that glorious bottle mundane if it’s not one of the first poured. Plus, the more that your crew tends to consume, the less likely they are to get properly geeky about all of the intricacies of something that deserves a little more attention.

Be selfish.

Sometimes you just want to open a phenomenal wine because you feel like it. In those cases, forget about any of these suggestions and just crack it open! Sometimes life is too short to not drink your best wine.

Published on December 20, 2018
About the Author
MARSHALL TILDEN III

From his first sips of wicker basket Chianti at his grandfather’s dinner table to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Tilden knew that there was something magical about wine. He earned his Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. Having been with Wine Enthusiast catalog since 2005, when he is not writing about wine he also runs the wine storage division and is head of W.E.’s in-house education program.