Archive

Posts Tagged ‘wine profile’

A Guide to Italian Wines

April 8th, 2014 No comments

Italians know their wine. But there are so many varietals from its sunny, breezy climes that sometimes the rest of us forget the difference between a Barbera and a Barbaresco. No fear: this handy guide will keep you straight.

Italian Reds:

  • Amarone: From the Veneto region come Corvina grapes, which are partially dried to make this big, full-bodied wine that has a surprising undertone of sweetness.
  • Barbaresco:  Like Barolo? Try this lighter, more easy-drinking alternative.
  • Barbera: Mainly from the Piedmont region, this medium-bodied, very fruity wine is a crowd-pleaser and a great choice at a restaurant.
  • Barolo: This dry, full-bodied wine is complex, with berry flavors as well as earth, herbs and even tar. Delicious and often priced to match.
  • Brunello di Montalcino: From grapes grown in the Montalcino zone of Tuscany, this wine is dry and tannic.
  • Chianti: That perpetual favorite of homey Italian restaurants, Chianti is dry, moderately tannic, and usually flavored of tart cherries.
  • Lambrusco: A sparkling red wine that is often sweet.
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: Smooth, flavorful, and great with food.
  • Salice Salentino: Dry wine from the Puglia region. Often has aromas of ripe fruit with a rich, chewy texture.
  • Valpolicella: Dry and moderately tannic with intense cherry flavors.
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Like Chianti, but bigger.

Italian Whites:

  • Asti: Sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes, this wine is sweet and fresh.
  • Frascati: Mainly made of Trebbiano grapes, this wine is dry, light, and easy to drink.
  • Gavi: A medium-bodied wine, typically dry with aromas of apples and minerals.
  • Orvieto: A medium-bodied wine, often with flavors of pear and apple.
  • Pinot Grigio: This popular wine is light, dry, and crisp with no oakiness.
  • Soave: Generally dry, crisp, and medium-bodied. From the Soave zone in the Veneto region.
  • Verdicchio: From the Marche region, Verdicchio grapes make this wine dry, crisp, and pleasantly mineral.

 

 

Wine Pronunciation Guide

September 25th, 2012 No comments

Image credit: Dave Morrison Photography

Raise your hand if you’ve ever avoided ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant because you couldn’t pronounce the name. Bookmark our wine pronunciation guide and never fear embarrassing yourself again!

Alvarinho: ahl-vah-ree-nyoh

Albariño: al-bah-ree-nyoh

Barbaresco: bar-bah-RES-coe

Barbera: bar-BEH-rah

Barolo: bar-ROW-lo

Beaujolais: boh-zhuh-LAY

Bordeaux: bohr-DOH

Brut: BROOT

Cabernet Franc: KA-behr-nay-FRAHNGH

Cabernet Sauvignon: ka-behr-NAY so vihn-YOHN

Cava: KAH-vah

Chablis: sha-BLEE

Chardonnay: shar-doh-NAY

Châteauneauf-du-Pape: shah-toh-nuhf-doo-PAHP

Chenin Blanc: SHUH-ihn BLAHNGK

Chianti: key-AWN-tee

Colombard: KAHL-hm-bahrd

Cote Rotie: coat-row-TEE

Côtes du Rhone: koht deu ROHN

Cuvée: koo-VAY

Fumé Blanc: FOO-may BLAHNK

Gamay: GAM-may

Gewürztraminer: guh-vurts-TRAH-MEE-NER

Grenache: gruh-NAHSH

Kir: KEER

Languedoc: lawn-geh-dock

Madeira: muh-DEER-uh

Malbec: mahl-behk

Merlot: mehr-LOH

Montepulciano: mawn-teh-pull-CHA-no

Montrachet: mawn-rah-SHAY

Mourvedre: moor-VAY-druh

Muscat: MUHS-kat

Nebbiolo: neh-be-OH-low

Nouveau: NEW-voe

Petite Sirah: peh-TEET sih-RAH

Petit Verdot: puh-TEET-vare-DOE

Pinot Blanc: PEE-noh BLAHN

Pinot Gris: PEE-noh GREE

Pinot Noir: PEE-noh NWAHR

Pouilly-Fuissé: poo-yee fwee-SAY

Pouilly Fume Poo: yee-foo-MAY

Prosecco: praw-SEHK-koh

Riesling: REES-ling

Rioja: ree-oh-hah

Rosé: roh-ZAY

Sancerre: sahn-SEHR

Sangiovese: san-joh-VAY-zeh

Sauternes: soh-TEHRN

Sauvignon Blanc: SOH-vee-nyawn BLAHNGK

Semillon: say-mee-YOHN

Shiraz: she-RAHZ

Spumante: spu-MON-tay

Syrah: see-RAH

Tempranillo: temp-ra-NEEL-yo

Trebbiano: treb-e-AH-no

Verdelho: vehr-DEH-lyoh

Verdicchio: vehr-KEEK-kyoh

Viognier: vee-oh-NYAY

Zinfandel: Zin-fan-DELL

Grüner Veltliner: Your New Favorite White Wine

September 11th, 2012 1 comment

Austria, home of Grüner-Veltliner.

Summer is coming to an end. But it doesn’t go quietly: the most sweltering weeks of the year are now upon us. The dark, heavy reds of winter are the last thing on your mind. So what to drink?

If you haven’t yet tried Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s dominant white wine varietal, it’s time you did. Grüner Veltliners can vary widely from bottle to bottle, but most are medium-bodied dry wines. Most Grüners are high in acidity, making them refreshingly perfect for hot summer nights. They can vary from fruity, with aromas of apple and pear, to very mineral, to spicy, with notes of pepper.

Grüner Veltliner is a great wine to pair food with: its subtle acidity is a good foil for all kinds of dishes. Austrians serve it with everything from Wiener Schnitzel to strong-tasting vegetables such as broccoli and artichoke. Grüner Veltliner also pairs well with spicy foods: try it with your next Thai or Chinese meal.

Some Grüner-Veltliners are meant to be enjoyed soon after bottling, but others have the kind of complexity that aging agrees with.    If you haven’t tried this varietal before, pick up a few bottles: some to save for a rainy winter day, and some to toast the end of a long, beautiful summer.

Introducing Viognier

May 15th, 2012 No comments

While the Viognier grape may be new to most wine drinkers, it’s been grown in France’s northern Rhône region for centuries.  Because its acreage in France is relatively small, so is the French production of Viognier.  Interestingly enough, decent Viognier vineyards have appeared in California since the late 1980s, and Australia is also producing the grape.

Viognier grapes ripening on a vine in Amador county, California.

Viognier grapes ripening on a vine in Amador county, California (Image from Wikipedia)

It’s tough to grow Viognier, since the grapes are sensitive to variable climates.  The vine often requires additional attention and massive pruning, plus it ripens at an odd time.  Though Viognier wine has a high alcohol content (usually more than 14%), it contains luscious flavors of peach, apricot, honeysuckle, hints of vanilla, oak, honey, and additional citrus fruits.  It pairs very nicely with sushi, salmon, shrimp and oysters, as well as duck, chicken, and pork.  It makes a nice accompaniment to cornbread, too, and even butternut squash.  Dishes that are lightly smoked, and recipes that include either apricots or peaches make great candidates for pairing.  Though difficult to grow, rare, and often on the pricier side, it’s definitely worth giving a bottle of Viognier a try.

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!

What to Look for in Ruby Port

March 22nd, 2012 No comments

Of all the varieties of port, ruby port is arguably the smoothest.  Many wine drinkers unfamiliar with the world of port can easily enjoy glasses of this sweet, deep red wine.  Sampling ruby port is a fantastic way for wine drinkers to become familiar with port wine, and though often less complex than their tawny cousins, good ruby wines can also be appreciated by port connoisseurs.drink ruby port shortly after it is bottled

Ruby port (made from the grapes Toriga Francesca, Toriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Barrocca, and Tinto Cao) is a bright, deep red-colored wine.  Rather than being made from a blend of grapes harvested during one given season, ruby port utilizes grapes that come from many vintages.  The blend is then aged in wooden casks for around three years prior to bottling.  A sweet wine, you should expect your glass to be brimming with red cherry and fresh plum flavors.  Its finish should be long, smooth, and very warm; port is the perfect nightcap to a date on a cool, spring night!

Unlike most other wines, ruby port needs to be enjoyed shortly after it is has been bottled.  (Remember, it already spent nearly three years maturing in a wooden cask.)  Because of this, when looking for bottles of ruby port in your local wine shop, be wary of older bottles; they will almost always be disappointing.  If you’re unsure about which bottle of ruby port to take home, attend a tasting and try a few glasses of different rubies before making your selection.  If your area wine shop doesn’t offer many opportunities to taste port, consider ordering a glass of ruby with your dessert the next time you go out for dinner.  Bring a pad of paper, and take a few notes.  If you’re out with others, convince everyone in your party to order a different ruby port so you can sample and compare them.  (Now, that’s fun!)  Though less expensive than other port wines, ruby port serves as an excellent introduction to the world of port.  When you do find a bottle that suits your fancy, remember to enjoy it with appropriate glassware such as Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses. Cheers!

Stay tuned for our next post–we’ll tell you what to look for in Tawny Port as well!

A Little Bit About Prosecco

February 2nd, 2012 No comments

Prosecco bottles

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine that is often made Dry or Extra Dry.  Unlike sweeter sparkling wines, today’s Prosecco is intended to be on the drier side.  Though Prosecco is often used as a Champagne (or other sparkling wine) substitute, it has its own distinctive taste.  While Champagne and other sparklers are sought after for their complexity, Prosecco is manufactured to be lighter, fresher, and much more on the plain side; it works very well as a pleasant palate-cleanser between courses, and even between wines during select wine tastings.  Enjoyed chilled, like Champagne, Prosecco works as an aperitif on its own; however, it is frequently paired with hors d’oeuvres like bruschetta, canape, crostini, soft cheeses, stuffed mushrooms or shrimp, and even olives.

Vintage Series Legacy Wine Credenza (3-door model)

Vintage Series Legacy Wine Credenza (3-door model)

Unlike Champagne (whose second fermentation process occurs in the bottle), Prosecco’s second fermentation process occurs in stainless steel tanks.  This is one of the main reasons why it’s often less expensive than Champagne; it’s less expensive to produce.  Unlike other sparkling wines that do ferment in their bottles, Prosecco is meant to be consumed within three years, lest it become stale.  (Some higher quality bottles of Prosecco may be kept up to seven years, but if you’re in doubt, drink it while it’s young!)

To keep your Prosecco at the proper serving temperature, consider using a stylish wine cabinet like the Vintage Series Legacy Wine Credenza, or the Le Cache Wine Vault 3100.  Always remember to drink your Prosecco while it’s still young!

Happy February, wine lovers! Stay tuned for some fun, yummy Valentine’s day content coming up soon!

Good Wine for Auld Lang Syne

December 29th, 2011 No comments
Champagne glasses on New Year's

Photo by Mike Gifford

Sung to celebrate the stroke of midnight which begins each New Year, Robert Burns’ poem is a New Year’s staple, and so is the tradition of toasting to the hour with Champagne, or other sparkling wines.  Are you hosting a New Year’s Eve party?  If so, what do you plan to toast with?  Here’s some basic info to help you out!

Champagne and sparkling wines are categorized (and, thus, labeled) according to their sugar levels.  “Brut” is probably the most popular seller.  It’s dry, crisp, and pairs well with lots of finger foods.  “Extra Brut” is especially dry.  If your wine is labeled “Extra Dry” it’s actually (oddly enough) a bit sweeter than the common “Brut” which makes it a terrific aperitif.  This might be a wine to consider toasting with, especially if it’s being served on its own.  “Demi-sec” wine is very sweet, and often benefits from being served with fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and desserts.

The Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS

The wine you choose will probably also be labeled as “vintage” or “non-vintage” (often abbreviated as “NV” on the label.)  Sparkling vintage wines come from a single year, while non-vintage ones are blends from many different years.  While vintage Champagne is usually pricier, the majority of sparkling wines are NV.

Always remember that sparkling wines are meant to be served chilled (i.e. usually between 42°F to 50°F), so don’t let your bottles sit out at room temperature before you pop their corks!  To achieve just the right serving temperature, a wine storage cabinet like the Le Cache Mission 1400 wine cabinet, or the Vinotheque Alegria 240 NS cabinet, is far more precise than putting bottles of Champagne in your fridge. Cheers to your successful party!

 

And  very happy new year to all our blog readers, customers and fans!

Champagne: a Holy Toast

December 27th, 2011 No comments
A Stained Glass Window of a Monk Examining Champagne

The important history of monks and Champagne is captured in a stained-glass window.

Named after the Champagne region of France, Champagne was first bottled by French monks.  But where do the bubbles come from?  The process of making the bubbles needed for this sparkling wine was invented by two Benedictine monks and cellarmasters: Frère Jean Oudart (1654–1742) from the abbey of Saint-Pierre aux Monts de Châlons, and Dom Pierre Pérignon (1639–1715) from the abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers.  Since the Champagne region has a very cold and short growing season, Champagne grapes must be harvested very late in the year.  Because of this they have less time to ferment, and cold winter temperatures often halted the fermenting process.  To counter this, the monks introduced a second fermentation procedure that takes place in the bottle during the spring.  It’s this second fermentation that creates the much-loved bubbles that are Champagne’s calling card.  Thank you, Brothers Oudart and Pérignon!  For more information about the process and actual chemistry of aging wine, check out the Vintage Cellars Science of Aging Wine page.  Cheers!

The Allure of Tokaji Wine

December 8th, 2011 No comments
A portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

A portrait of Beethoven holding the "Missa Solemnis" by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Children are often amused to learn that, years before Kraft Foods, Ludwig van Beethoven’s favorite dish was macaroni and cheese!  For adults–even those of us who still enjoy mac and cheese–it may be more interesting to note that one of Beethoven’s favorite wines was a white dessert wine from Hungary’s Tokaj region.  Situated northeast of Budapest, the Tokaj region is nestled in the Zemplen Mountains.  The region’s soil consists mostly of clay, with an underlying volcanic layer.  Sun filled summers and dry autumns help to nurture the precious Aszú grapes used in this wine.  (These grapes possess an unusually high concentration of sugar, and are picked and painstakingly sorted by hand at harvest time, which is rather late.)  In fact, the Tokaj region was Europe’s first ever classified wine region.  Today, some distilleries exist where select Single Malt Scotches are put into former Tokaji wine casks for a few years, imbuing the whisky with a hint of the delightful aromas (and a hint of the characteristic sweetness) of Tokaji wine, itself.

Considered a prized wine of nobility, Tokaji wine was also adored by Franz Joseph Haydn, Beethoven’s one-time instructor with whom he had a falling out.  Franz Schubert, an early Romantic composer who idolized Beethoven, also had a preference for Tokaji wine.  Schubert set numerous poems by Goethe, Heine, and Schiller to music, and each of these famous authors, incidentally, had a passion for Tokaji.  After his early death at age 31, Schubert’s music was championed by several prominent pianists, including Franz Liszt, and Liszt–a descendent of the pedagogical lineage of Beethoven–also happened to like Tokaji wine.  (We do not know if he also liked mac and cheese!)  Liszt’s personal philosophy regarding the contemporary music of his time also contains a reference to wine: “new wine requires new bottles.”  In short, this motto can translate as follows: new music will require new forms.  Liszt’s quotation is also a nod to Luke 5:37: “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.  If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.”

Painting of Louis XV

Louis XV, by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1748

Exploring the history of this much-loved wine outside the musical community, we learn that Louis XV of France once presented a glass of Tokaji as follows: Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum.  (Wine of Kings, and King of Wines.)  Louis XV’s father, Louis XIV, probably introduced Tokaji wine to his son after receiving several bottles as a gift from Francis Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania.  Since then, this beverage became a staple in the Court of Versailles.  American connoisseur Thomas Jefferson had several bottles imported for his presidential feasts in the early 1800’s, while yearly on her birthday, Queen Victoria received numerous bottles of this very wine from Austrian Emperor (and Apostolic King of Hungary) Franz Josef.  Even Napoleon Bonaparte purchased barrels of Tokaji for his Court on a yearly basis, and King Gustav III of Sweden would not drink any other wine!

Given its rich history, why is this wine so little-known, today?  In short, several prominent Hungarian vineyards were ravished by phylloxera in the late 1800’s and did not recover quickly.  Couple this with the onslaught of WWI, the deterioration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the advent of WWII, followed by the ascent of Communism, and you have a recipe for run-down vineyards!  Only recently has the wine enjoyed by Beethoven, Goethe, Louis XV, and Thomas Jefferson been reproduced after a long period of hibernation.  Will it regain its former glory and win over the artisans and world leaders of our day?  Only time will tell.  For more information about wine and history, check out Vintage Cellar’s Wine Storage Education Center r check out our “Wine History” category here on the blog.  Cheers!