Tag Archives: sparkling wine

What is Dry Wine?

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I was checking search data on the blog, hoping to find out what it is that you really want to know. The top search over the last several months is on “Moscato.” I’ve got a post on that coming right up.

What came in second? “What is dry wine?”

Okee dokee. That’s a pretty good question because it’s not cut and dried – pun intended 😉 – dryness is relative.

While, in the rest of the world dry is the opposite of wet, in the wine world dry is the opposite of sweet. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who want to appear sophisticated about wine make a point of saying that they don’t drink the sweet stuff. Well, let me tell you, they’re missing out on a whole lot of fun because some of the most exquisite and sought-after wines in the world are sweet wines done right! Continue reading

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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!

Send me your wine question   I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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What is a Vintage Red?

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Question from Lindsay: What is a vintage red?

Reply: Hi, Lindsay. Thanks for writing! I love this kind of question because I know that half of the wine-drinking population probably has the same one.

“A Vintage Wine”: You hear that phrase in the movies, but it’s never been entirely clear to me what is meant. You assume it must be good, right? The speaker might mean that it’s a very good vintage of a fine brand or type. Or, like vintage clothing, it may refer to a fine, older vintage. Maybe both. No wonder everyone’s confused.

In the real world, there are different ways to interpret your question, so let’s start with the most common thing you see when you shop for wine, and that’s the vintage date.

Vintage Date: The vintage date on the label doesn’t mean it’s a good vintage, it’s simply identifying what year the grapes were grown and harvested (harvest is only once a year so it’s a big deal). The wine’s structure and flavor reflects the weather patterns during the growing season, for better or for worse. A warm year produces ripe, fruity flavors and soft acidity (less tartness). A cool growing season makes for a tarter wine that may not be as fruity. The fruitiness is often replaced by herbal, vegetative and/or mineral-like flavors and aromas. So, any wine – a white, red or rosé can have a vintage date. The only way for you to know if it’s a good vintage is to do a search or ask your retailer. Continue reading

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Bargain Bubblies for the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to pop those bubbles. But, Champagne can be so expensive. Let’s take a look at some delicious alternatives:

Do you have a favorite bargain bubbly? If so, please let us in on your secret! Cheers!

Send me your wine question – I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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Can you Make White Wine out of Red Grapes?

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Question from Ericka: Someone told me that they make white wine out of red grapes. Is that true? 

Reply: Hi, Ericka. Thanks for writing! Yup – it’s true. However, the vast majority of white wine is made from “white” (they look green or yellow-green when they’re ripe, like the grapes you get at the grocery) varieties. 

Unfortunately, this is the wrong time of the year for me to show you that the juice of dark wine grapes is clear. All of the grapes are tiny and green right now. They’ll start changing color mid to late July. But, anyway, if you squeeze a dark grape you’ll see that the juice is just as clear as a tear drop almost every time (there’s a handful of dark grapes with red juice – they’re called teinturier varieties – best known is Alicante Bouschet). 

The most famous example of white wine made from red grapes is sparkling wine. Of the three traditional grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, two are dark. The grapes are harvested at a low sugar, compared to grapes for table wine, so there’s little chance that the color will begin to bleed from the skins to the juice. Then, the grape clusters are pressed (squeezed) extremely gently, to separate liquid from solid. Et voilà – very pale white juice ready to be converted to wine! Blanc de Blancs is all Chardonnay. Blanc de Noirs and Rosé are Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.

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Sparkling Wine 101

As promised, a short course on the difference between wine and sparkling wine.

The amazing thing about sparkling wine is that it still exists because in terms of production, it’s a royal pain! Every time I visit a sparkling wine house I come away amazed that the wines don’t cost more than they do! The thing is that the winemaker has to do virtually everything that’s necessary to make still wine and then add on several steps more. Here’s how it goes:

The short course: 

1. Very tart, low alcohol wine is made, blended and bottled.

2. Yeast and sugar are added to the bottle of wine before it’s sealed, which sets off a second fermentation right there in the bottle. Since the carbon dioxide gas can’t escape, it’s absorbed into the wine, later to be released as bubbles.

3. The best bubblies are aged on the spent yeast cells, which impart a toasty, yeasty character that enthusiasts adore. As the wine ages the bubbles become finer and finer.

4. Finally, the yeast is worked up into the neck of the bottle and removed.

5. Removing the yeast leaves a bit of a deficit, so the wine is topped up with more wine, usually mixed with sugar syrup to balance the high acid. The sweetness of the syrup creates the difference between Brut (dry), Extra Dry (off-dry) and so forth.

6. Final corking. Additional aging, especially for vintage dated Champagne is an option.

For those who want the whole story: Continue reading

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Favorite Wine Quotes

I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty. ~ Madame Lilly Bollinger

That about sums it up, eh? 😉

 Write to me with your wine-related question and I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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