Monthly Archives: October 2012

Today’s Wine Word: Ullage


This rather unattractive word belongs to the world in general – not just to wine. The Free Dictionary:

1. The amount of liquid within a container that is lost, as by leakage, during shipment or storage.
2. The amount by which a container, such as a bottle, cask, or tank, falls short of being full.

So, the ullage is the space between the cork and the wine in the bottle. It can also describe the space between the wine in a barrel and the stopper, which is called a  bung.

Why do you care? When you see a low fill at the wine shop, it doesn’t mean you just get less wine. It means that the wine could be somewhat oxidized or even spoiled. Oxidation shows up as lost fruit (dullness), brownish color. Wine that has spoiled, outright, is brown and can have many sensory manifestations including a sharp vinegar character or insalubrious fingernail polish remover-like aroma. Continue reading

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Today’s Wine Word: Horizontal Tasting

What’s a horizontal wine tasting?

Don’t worry – you don’t have to lie down. Unless you want to 😉

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Busting the Biggest Wine Myth of All


And, the winner is… “The older the better.” This myth crops up over and over, all the time, and it’s not a good thing because for the vast majority of wines made, world wide, the opposite is true.

When in doubt, down the hatch!

Forget about aging value wines. I know someone is going to write me back citing their favorite value red that’s always nicer with age, but let’s go with the big picture here. Generally speaking, these wines are made for immediate consumption and won’t hold up for more that two to four years. Especially whites and rosé wines. In most cases, the younger the better. 

This means, when you see white wine in the sale bin, it may not be such a bargain. Not if you end up dumping it down the drain instead of drinking it. 

And, in the world of fine wine, there are still more wines that don’t improve with age than those that do.

So, which wines to age? Continue reading


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White Wine Food, When You Feel Like Red


photo from dharmabumx on Flickr

Does that ever happen to you? Happens to me all the time. My protein of choice seems to call for white, but I really want a glass of deep, satisfying red wine. Well, most often I say “The heck with it.” and have what I want. As I’ve said, ad nauseum, most wines and foods taste pretty good together and it’s silly to worry about pairing.

But, the fact is, if you haven’t actually cooked the protein yet, there are bridge builders you can use to make a better match.

You could use a pork chop as an example – or chicken breast – or even a piece of sword fish or halibut.

My favorite bridge builders?  

Grill it! Those blackened, crusty grill marks can pull the dish into the red wine column. The grilled flavor loves tannin and makes the oak pop. Still not quite right? Add salt and lemon juice (thank you Tim Hanni.) Continue reading

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Are You a Super Taster?

Super tasters, or hyper-sensitive tasters as they’re now called, make up about one quarter of the population and are likely to be women. How do you fit in?

Given a choice, I’d rather be a tolerant taster. How about you?

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Today’s Wine Word: Cold Soak


Lots of that going on in the wine world right now. If you’re picturing yourself in a bathtub full of cold water, you’re not too far off. The term is literal, but there’s no water involved.

The cold soak is a technique that delays the onset of fermentation by keeping the must (crushed grapes) cool (yeast likes it warm).

If the grapes come in at night or on a very chilly morning, it’s just a matter of keeping it that way and with stainless steel tanks, it’s very easily done.

When the grapes come in warm, the most common way to chill the must down is to blanket it with dry ice (the solid form of carbon-dioxide).

The cold soak usually applies to red wine. It’s a good way to get some color, flavor and tannin from the grape skins without extracting bitter seed tannin. There’s no avoiding seed tannin entirely because alcohol is a solvent, so as per a recent post, it’s important that the seeds are mature – not too bitter – before they’re harvested. Continue reading

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Today’s Wine Word: Seed Maturity


Seed maturity?

I think I’ve talked a lot about the importance of getting samples from the vineyard to track the sugar, acid, pH and flavor maturity but seed maturity is important, too.

Why? Because if the seeds are still green and spongy they’ll impart nasty, bitter flavors to the wine. The tannins that come from the grape skins are the nice, supple good guys.

So, how do they know the seeds are mature? Elementary, as they say…

When they bring grape samples into the lab they juice the grapes to check the sugar, etc. Then, they spread out the skins and seeds to get a look. Mature seeds are brown and crunchy, like Grape-Nuts cereal. There’s no avoiding extracting seed tannin during the fermentation, but at least it’s mature seed tannin and isn’t quite so harsh. Continue reading

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