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Posts Tagged ‘red wine’

Where Not to Have a Wine Tasting

June 19th, 2012 No comments
Allen Kelsey Grammer is Frasier Crane

In an episode of “Frasier,” Doctors Niles and Frasier Crane begin the show with a blind wine tasting…

Niles:  Now, now, let’s move on to number seven.

Frasier: [while blindfolded:] Ahhh… Touch of oak, hint of currant, whisper of…

Frasier’s father enters with his dog, Eddie, on a leash.

Frasier:  …what is that?  What is that?  Oh yes, wet dog!

While amusing in a sitcom, similar scenarios have played out in real life.  Because such a big part of wine tasting is connected with a wine’s nose, tasting wine in less-than-ideal locales can unfairly color your judgement of the soundness of a wine.  Here are some places you’d best avoid holding a wine tasting…

Where the dog sleeps, cat goes, or hamster scurries:  Strong pet odors from dog beds, litter boxes, or small mammal cages can make even the most appealing nose seem foul.  If holding a tasting in your living home, make sure there are no trace animal odors lingering in the room or on the furniture where you plan to gather.

Near a restroom:  This goes for restrooms inside restaurants, too (though most quality restaurants position their restrooms a good distance from their dining areas).  Still, save yourself and your guests embarrassment and disgust.  Never hold a tasting within flushing distance.

Near livestock: Though outdoor country wine tastings have increased, tasting wine close to cattle is usually less-than pleasant.  What is more, the scent of excrement can imbue a wine’s nose with a convincing “barnyard” aroma, masking the true nose of the wine altogether.

Outside near fast food restaurants:  Exhaust from the kitchens of fast food joints, in particular, can be extremely overpowering.  It’s hard to get a decent sniff of wine if your nose is bombarded by the scents of big burgers and fries.

Near pools:  Almost all pools utilize chlorinated water.  Because our sense of smell and taste are connected, having a wine tasting next to a heavily-chlorinated pool can color the wine with a chemical taste.  This is very apparent when tasting Zinfandels.  Just try taking a sip next to the pool, then take another sip 10 feet away; you’ll be amazed by the difference.

Near smokers:  Cigarette smoke can greatly kill the nose of many wines, and can add an artificial “tobacco” hint to some wines.

Within wind distance of a garbage dump:  Refer to “Near a restroom,” above.

In a heavily perfumed area:  Unplug your whole-room air freshener before you taste.  Strong scents of pine, violet, vanilla, etc., will unfairly impact the perceived scent of your wine.

In a moldy room:  Aside from obvious health hazards, tasting wine in a pungent, moldy room will not boost its rating.

…You get the idea!  To learn more about the nuances of wine and wine tasting, visit our Wine Storage Education Center.  The next time you host a wine tasting, be sure to take a good whiff and ask yourself “Is there anything in here that really smells?”

In Place of Red Wine…

June 12th, 2012 No comments

If you enjoy cooking with wine, you probably keep a few bottles on hand.  However, “wine emergencies” do happen; dogs and children can knock over portable wine racks, you can drop, break, or spill the last bottle of “perfect” red wine meant for your dinner, or you can be so rushed to get home and start cooking that you forget to pick up that “perfect bottle” in the first place!  Although nothing competes with a quality wine, below are a few cooking tricks to use in an emergency when you find yourself without a proper wine.

Wine is meant to enrich food, not compete with it.  Be sure your dish really requires that “wine flavor” before doing one of the following:  If your recipe really needs wine, substitute regular grape juice or cranberry juice.  Cranberry juice blends containing apple juice are also possible.  If the result is too sweet, add a tablespoon of vinegar.  (This really does work.)

Use a Napa 4-bottle wine dispenser to keep wine on hand while you cook.

If you are making a soup, stew, or sauce, do not add the wine alternative at the last minute.  Instead, add the substitution to your liquid as it simmers so you can accurately gauge the balance of its flavor and its overall scent.  If you need a red wine substitute for soup, consider using 1/2 a cup of broth mixed with 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.  Don’t have red wine vinegar?  Use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice instead!

While nothing compares to meat marinated in red wine, any marinade will help make your meat more juicy and tender than if cooked alone.  If your meat dish requires a dry red, add a cup of lemon or lime juice for a generic tart taste, or a cup of orange or even pineapple juice for a tart-yet-sweet marinade.  Too strange?  Try 3/4 cup tomato juice and 1/4 cup vinegar.   (That’s actually not too bad!)

Although these alternatives may sound a bit odd, the results are far superior than if you resort to “cooking wine.”  Although you may have an inkling, resist the temptation to use cooking wine!  It is often flavored with salt and various additives that will easily compromise your dish.  Of course, the best course of action is to always have extra bottles of wine around “just in case.”  To ensure you always have a few bottles of red on hand, consider purchasing a Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser. This way, you’ll always have a bottle “on tap” and ready to go.  The Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser also fits conveniently in most kitchen spaces.  Cheers!

Some Dry Red Wines

June 5th, 2012 No comments

Are you new to the world of wine?  Unsure what wines are considered to be “dry?”  Read on!

Quite simply, dry wines have the greatest alcohol content; their juice ferments until almost all of the grape’s sugar is utilized.  Thus, dry wines contain little residual sugar and are not “sweet.”  What common wines are considered dry?  Here’s a little list for the eager wine student:

Host your own wine tasting event with a WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir (the wine that “goes well with everything”)
  • Merlot
  • Sangiovese
  • Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Red Zinfandel (it’s the White Zinfandel that’s the sweet stuff!)

Keep in mind that some of these wines may taste “fruity,” but do not confuse a wine’s fruitiness with its “sweetness.”  Fruit flavors often naturally balance a wine’s absence of sugar.  Also, don’t confuse a wine’s tannins with how dry it is.  Tannins can give sweet wines a “drier mouth feel,” but their abundance does not make a wine dry.  Remember: it’s all about the sugar!  Curious about how these wines taste?  Why not buy a bottle of each and host a few mini tastings, yourself?  You can easily save any leftover wine with the WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system. Cheers!

How to Swirl and Sniff Wine Like a Pro

May 29th, 2012 1 comment

At tastings, many newcomers to the world of wine are unsure about the proper etiquette surrounding swirling and sniffing wine.  Is there a right way to do it?  Or is it a little like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan: there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s?

wines lined up and ready to taste in proper wine glasses

Wines lined up and ready to taste! (Image from Wikipedia)

Since wine’s scent and taste are both key elements of any tasting, swirling and sniffing are encouraged in order to get the best overall sense of a wine.  While most newcomers think taking a single long, drawn out sniff from their glass completes the process, that’s only a beginning part!  Before even smelling your wine, you should be swirling it.  Swirling aerates wine, opening it up so that its inherent scents and flavors are brought to the fore.  You can swirl your glass while it is on the table, or you can hold your glass by the base or stem to swirl it.  What matters most is that you actually do swirl your wine!

Once your wine is swirled a bit, put your nose into the glass as far as it will go. (Don’t submerge your nose in the wine!)  Inhale deeply for a couple of seconds.  Use your diaphragm (your “belly”) to take in a full whiff of the wine’s aroma.  Swirl your glass a little more, then inhale again, smelling the wine a second time.  Swirl, sniff, swirl, sniff, etc.  See if you can identify the scents you are smelling.  Do you smell the wine’s fruitiness?  Do you smell berries, cherries, or figs?  Do you smell lemon, grapefruit, peach, or mango?  Observe how swirling and aerating your wine helps bring out a variety of curious scents hidden, before, in your wine.

While there are several quality wine glasses to choose from, wine glasses made specifically for the types of wine you’re tasting often allow you to perceive that wine’s aromas to the fullest.  For red wine tasting, consider using Riedel “O” stemless glasses, available as a mixed set, designed to enhance the main red varietals.  For white wines, consider a glass designed for your specific varietal, like a Riedel Vinum Classic Sauvignon Blanc wine glass for tasting Blanc fumé, Fumé blanc, Rotgipfler, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Spätrot-Rotgipfler, and Zierfandler.  Breathe in, and enjoy the experience!  Cheers!

 

Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce

If you like to add wine to your pasta sauce, here’s an easy recipe that’s sure to make some happy tummies!  Here’s what you’ll need:

Red Wine and Meatball Sauce

Photo by Erik Möller

  • 1 pound (or more) ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg, yolk separated
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • parsley flakes
  • salt
  • pepper
Napa 4-bottle wine dispenser and wine preserver

Napa 4-bottle Wine Dispenser

In a large bowl, mix the egg, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and ground beef (or turkey) by hand.  Season liberally with salt and pepper, and continue mixing.  Shape your meat mixture into 20-30 small balls, and set them in a medium-to-large frying pan coated with olive oil.  Fry your meatballs, turning them as necessary until they are brown on all sides.  Drain excess oil from the pan, if necessary, and remove the meatballs.  (Set them aside for later.)  In a separate bowl, mix together the beef stock, wine, and tomato paste.  Add parsley flakes as desired.  Carefully pour mixture into your meatball pan, stirring gently until the sauce comes to a boil.  Add your meatballs!  Cover and simmer for 25-30 min.  Pour over pasta, and enjoy!  (And don’t forget to serve the wine you used for cooking with the meal.)  If you’ve prepared this dish in advance early in the day, consider using the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the rest of your wine fresh and ready to serve with the meal.

Do you have a favorite wine-sauce variation? Share it in the comments!

 

What’s Vintage Port?

April 24th, 2012 1 comment

Just as aged tawny ports are created from the “best” harvests, vintage port is made from only the finest harvests.  In fact, vintage port is the most desirable of all port wines, and collectors often proclaim vintage ports to be the pinnacles of their collections.   Vintage ports are very full-bodied wines with an abundance of sturdy tannins that make them loved and prized by port connoisseurs across the globe.  They are well-balanced, and contain gentle fruit flavors of cherries, figs, and hints of black licorice and chocolate.  (Don’t worry, even if you don’t care for black licorice you’ll probably still like vintage port; lots of folks who aren’t big licorice fans love it!)a bottle of vintage port from 1963

Vintage port is made from the grapes of the finest harvests of a single year.  After aging for two to three years in wood, the wine is bottled for at least fifteen years.  Unlike other port wines that are meant to be consumed at the time of purchase, some vintage ports are intended to be held onto.  For instance, the majority of vintage ports from 1991 to 2003 should be purchased and kept until their flavors peak.  Vintage ports that have “reached their peak” and should be enjoyed now are those from 1970, 1975, 1977, 1983, & 1998.  Some vintage ports can either be consumed now, or can be held until a later date.  These vintages are from 1980, 1985, 1987, & 1998.  (Be aware that the years of some vintages may be approximate, since not all port houses declare the same vintage year.)

Unlike tawny port, vintage port needs to be decanted when served.  Bottles of vintage port contain a lot of sediment, and decanting helps to remove it.  Consider using a sophisticated decanter like the Riedel Tyrol wine decanter to effectively aerate and remove the sediment from your bottle of vintage port.  If storing a vintage port in your wine cellar, make sure you store the bottle on its side (as you would any other wine), and keep it in a room with a maintained temperature.  Ideally, a steady temperature between 55 and 60 degrees is fantastic for port.  Cheers!

What Is Aged Tawny Port?

April 17th, 2012 1 comment

Aged tawny port is aged in years that are multiples of ten.

Like its younger cousin, tawny port, aged tawny port is one of the two most-popular wines aged in Portugal.  Both tawny and aged tawny port begin as ruby port, but instead of aging the wine between two to seven years to create tawny port, aged tawny port is kept at least ten years in wood.  Oftentimes, aged tawny port is held even longer.  The longer aged tawny port is allowed to age, the greater its complexity becomes.  It also tastes more smooth and mellow.

While just about any ruby port can be made into a tawny port, only the “best” blends of ruby port are utilized to make aged tawny port.  Aged tawny port is commonly aged for ten years at a time.  Therefore, you’ll find bottles indicating the wine has aged for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.  These numbers are good approximations of aging, since they indicate the age of the wine’s “average” blend.  (Read about how port is made here.)

The older the aged tawny port, the richer, softer, and smoother it tastes.  In addition to being a joy on the tongue, its level of complexity increases substantially with age.  Though many people try less-expensive tawny ports aged for ten years, first, I’d recommend having a twenty-year old bottle for your first taste of aged tawny port.  Why?  There will be a much more noticeable difference between your aged twenty-year bottle and a glass of regular, seven-year tawny.  Curious?  Have a glass, and see what you think!

Dare to Mix Red and White Wine?

April 10th, 2012 No comments

mixing red and white wineBefore reading further, please understand that wines like rosés are not just mixtures of red and white wines.  They are made by a process similar to red wine, but the skins of the grapes are removed before they fully turn the wine a deep shade of red.  (Read more about the process of making rosé wine in our previous post How to Choose a Great Rosé.) That said, some experimental wine drinkers delight in mixing red and white wines, producing curious concoctions that either intrigue or disgust  (This is the adult equivalent of the way kids mix multiple sodas together at fast food restaurants).  While purists will have no part in such playing, some wine drinkers delight in making their own mock blends of “signature” wines this way.

Is it possible to mix red and white wines to create new blends of your own?  Yes, it is.  Will they be any good?  While there’s no guarantee, if your palate is discriminating enough you may just very well be able to come up with a custom mix that suits your fancy (We can’t speak on behalf of your guests, however!).  And while your blend will not be a real rosé, it may still exhibit an interesting, rosé-like appearance.

How should you go about mixing red and white wines?  If you want your results to be drinkable, follow these simple steps:

  1. Decide on the two wines you want to mix.
  2. Fill a glass halfway with whichever wine has the weaker flavor.
  3. Add half a shot glass full of the stronger wine.
  4. Stir!
  5. Sip, and see what you think.  If the flavor is too weak, repeat to steps 3-5.

If you’re lucky, you may have discovered a personalized blend you’re absolutely crazy about.  Then again, you may have Frankenstein’s monster on your hands!  If so, discard your glass and use a wine preserver like the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the unused, untainted portions of your two opened bottles fresh for another time to be enjoyed on their own!  Good luck, and happy mixing!

Red Wines For All Foods

April 5th, 2012 No comments
Chicken, traditionally served with white wine, can also be enjoyed with red wine.

Traditionally served with white wine, chicken can also be enjoyed with red! (Photo by Steven Walling)

If you’ve read our recent post, If You’re Going to Drink, Choose Red!, you may be wondering how to effectively increase your red wine consumption by substituting it for white.  The good news is that there’s a red wine alternative to just about every “traditional” white-wine dish!

Though it may take you (and some of your guests) a little time to get out of the mindset that certain foods must always be enjoyed with either whites or reds, specifically, the rewards are more red wine consumption at your table and (quite often) more interesting pairings!

Let’s start with fish!  When it comes to the creatures of the sea, white wine has been given dominion.  However, there are excellent reds that will not overpower your fine, flaky fillets.  Try a baked or grilled fish dish with a bottle of Cabernet Franc or a nice Cote du Rhone.  These red wines, because of their low acidity, blend quite well with almost all of your typical fish dishes.

Next comes pasta!  If you’re eating pasta with tomato sauce, experiment with almost any red!  Reds, in general, are fantastic with tomato sauces (especially those with meatballs!)  If your pasta is covered with a tantalizing cheese sauce, consider pairing your plate with a light Burgundy or Merlot.  These two wines are excellent compliments to cheese sauces of all kinds, even ones that incorporate a bit of spice!

Lastly, we come to chicken!  Like the numerous reds that go well with tomato sauce, I urge you to experiment!  For a few starters, consider pairing your bird with a bottle of Pinot Noir, Chianti, Barolo, or (a personal favorite) Beaujolais.  Beaujolais works especially well with recipes involving cornish game hens sprinkled with rosemary, as well as barbecued chicken.  Have fun, be adventurous, and keep track of the reds you find work best with your favorite “white wine” foods.  Enjoy!

Wine May Help Prevent Diabetes

March 29th, 2012 No comments

American studies have shown that drinking wine helps to prevent type-2 diabetes, and a recent study conducted in Europe concurs.  The results, soon to be published in the Journal of International Medicine, were derived by examining numerous variables among thousands of participants.  These included detailed lifestyle and eating habits of individuals living in Italy, Spain, the UK, and other European countries.  Examining the data from this massive selection of people, what was the verdict on alcohol?

The blue circle represents diabetes, and wine may help reduce the risk of diabetes

The blue circle is a universal symbol used to represent diabetes

According to this study, scientists discovered that moderate alcohol use is connected with a 13% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes in men, and a whopping 20% lower risk in women.  (Ladies, raise your glasses!)  Women who drank primarily fortified wine (as opposed to other types of alcoholic beverages) fared even better; their risk factor of developing diabetes was 32% less than the norm.

Another very interesting finding had to do with weight.  Moderate alcohol intake reduced the risk of diabetes in overweight participants much more than participants who were of average build.  Scientists could not explain why this was so, but have theorized that heavier folks may metabolize alcohol quicker.

In short, the study reports that moderate alcohol consumption lessens one’s chances of developing type-2 diabetes.  Wine drinkers, especially, had the highest percentage of protection.  This is welcomed news for the world of wine!

*This blog does not constitute medical advice.  Consult your primary care physician before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.   Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.