Monthly Archives: December 2012

Champagne Trivia

How many bubbles in a bottle of Champagne?

It’s that sparkling time of year, once again! How about a little Champagne trivia? Cheers!

What will it be for you this year? Champagne, Cava, Prosecco…?

Answer: According to the house of Bollinger, the answer is 56 million – or thereabouts!

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Grape of the Week: Sauvignon Blanc

Sb_ucd

We’ve been talking a lot about red wine since I kicked off the Grape of the Week theme with Bordeaux varieties. And, reds taste especially good this time of year, don’t they? But, just to break it up a little, how about taking a look at the most famous white variety of Bordeaux?

What to Expect
Fresh! Crisp! Citrusy! Zesty! Herbaceous! And, very reliably, quite refreshing. This is the wine I reach for when I want to flake out on the couch and relax at the end of the workday.

And, when I want to demonstrate acidity in a tasting seminar this is my go-to wine because I know I can also count on it to be tart. The fruitiness tends strongly toward citrus, especially grapefruit. It can also show gooseberry, melon and tropical fruit. Vegetative/Herbaceous character can play a minor or major role and ranges from freshly mown grass, to bell pepper to – hang on – asparagus or celery (folks aren’t usually smiling when they observe these traits.)

When you’re bargain hunting for white wine Sauvignon Blanc is a safer bet than predictably watered-down tasting Pinot Grigio. It’s more flavorful, even when it’s over cropped in the vineyard. One caveat: Cheap New Zealand SB may smell and taste a lot like tart bell-pepper juice – yoiks! Continue reading

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Today’s Wine Word: Angel’s Share

Angel

Photo: Helpman 77 on Flickr

The “angel’s share” got a quick mention in yesterday’s post, the term is actually appropriate to the season in at least two ways. One for obvious reasons and the other to do with actual wine making. 

You might think that after all that hard work during harvest that winemakers take a long vacation. Well, they probably would except that the Controller is breathing down their necks to get the new wine into barrels. The sooner it’s in the barrel the sooner it’s out, and the winery can begin to get some return on its investment! 

However, once the barrels are filled up they don’t stay that way. The wine is constantly evaporating, ever so slowly. Depending upon the humidity in the cellar the loss can be anywhere from 2- 5% or up to 15 bottles annually! And that accounts for all the angels hovering there in the cellar. The Angel’s Share is the tariff they impose to allow the wine to age. Aging is actually a slow oxidation so the winemaker has to build the Angel’s Share into her cost of doing business.

Those darned angels create work, too! It’s not healthy for the wine to have an air space at the top of the barrel – it’s an invitation to bacterial activity and consequent spoilage. And this creates another Wine Word: The cellar crew needs to add more wine to each barrel, periodically, and the procedure is called “topping” or “topping up”. Most will let a little wine spill over the top to make sure the barrel is absolutely full. Continue reading

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A Little Wine Trivia to Share at your Holiday Table

How many bottles of wine per barrel (answer below and in video)?

As you pull the corks on lots and lots of good wine to celebrate the season, I thought a little trivia would help keep the conversation lively:

What’s your favorite bit of wine trivia? Have a lovely holiday!

Answer: Approximately 300 bottles or 25 cases. Doesn’t look like it, does it?

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How to Select Red Wine

Malbec_ucdavis

malbec, UC Davis

Question from Lindsay: Everytime I go to the store to buy wine for a gift or a party, I’m overwhelmed by the choices.  I know there are Merlots, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and a few other types, but I have absolutely no idea what the difference between all of them are.  To me, they are all red. Can you give a brief overview of the general differences. 

Reply: Hi, Lindsay. Thanks for writing! This is another good question that lots of other people have. A few weeks ago I decided to write about a different grape variety every week, so soon there will be fairly detailed info on the most popular varieties available on the blog. Just do a search by variety. In the meantime, a broad-brush stroke for these reds is a great idea and will be this week’s grape(s) of the week 😉

Disclaimer 😉

Characteristics vary, a little or a lot, depending upon where the wine is grown and how it was made.
Here we go:

Cabernet Sauvignon:

Weight: Full bodied – big – substantial. And deeply colored. If you’re not sure what I mean by weight, you might compare it to the way milk feels on your palate: Light bodied = skim milk; Medium bodied = whole milk; Full-bodied = cream.

Flavor profile: Black fruit such as blackberry, black cherry, black currant; it may show earth, cedar, bell pepper, green olive or any number of other descriptors, depending, again, on where it’s grown and how the wine is made. When the winemaker chooses new barrels for aging the wood may add vanilla, spice, smoke, grilled bread, mocha, nutty character or a sense of toastiness.

Pucker factor (Tannin): Very noticeable. Tannin runs around your mouth seeking out protein and then clings to it. That’s what accounts for the drying, gripping sensation. Cab has thick skins and the skins are the source of the color and most of the tannin. 

Merlot:
If you sometimes think you’re drinking Merlot and it turns out to be a Cab – or vice versa – there’s a good reason. These grapes are similar. Take Cabernet back a notch and it begins to look more like Merlot.

Weight: Medium to full bodied

Flavor profile: Merlot often shows red fruit intermingled with black: Currant, black cherry, plum, violet, herb-like, earthy; Oak will add some of the woody characteristics described for the Cab.

Pucker factor: Usually noticeable, but softer than Cab. Merlot can leave a fleshy impression where Cabernet comes off as more structured. Continue reading

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Selecting a Decanter

Nathan wrote in because he wants to get a decanter for his best friend, but he’s not sure what to buy. Here are a few recommendations in under one minute!

And, why would you want one? Two main reasons:

For young wine: To help the wine release it’s aroma

For old wine: To remove it from the sediment.

What do you look for in a decanter?

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Holiday Pairing: Roasted Tenderloin of Beef with Napa Valley Cabernet

Beef_tenderloin

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a holiday recipe and wine pairing from Sherry Page! She has such a great talent for creating delicious flavors without taking all day or getting every pot in the kitchen dirty!

Her recipe for Roasted Tenderloin of Beef is perfect for your Christmas-Day or Chanukah dinner or for an elegant New-Year’s Eve supper. And, so easy to do – even I could do it (I think…). She’s going with a classic for the holidays, pairing the roast with  Cabernet Sauvignon from Round Pond or Redmon. Some cliches exist for a reason! Both are Napa Valley wines, which seems appropriate since Sherry and I are both Napa Valley girls! Enjoy!

Pairing tip: Beef with Cabernet is a classic combination, in part, because the marbling in the meat softens the tannins in the Cab. Try this experiment:

1. Taste the wine and get a sense of the mouthfeel. You’ll feel the grip of the tannins.
2. Take a bite of the meat
3. Taste the wine again. See how much smoother it feels?

About Sherry: My good friend, Sherry Page, has been cooking since age five and has vivid memories of standing on a big, heavy chair at her Grandma’s stove, stirring away! Continue reading

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