Tag Archives: white wine

Today’s Wine Word: Whole-Cluster Pressing


Since white varieties are the main thing being harvested at this early point in the annual crush, it’s a good time to talk about whole-cluster pressing. You’ll see references to it in the wine maker notes for high-end white wines. 

In white wine production, to keep the flavors delicate and free of astringency only the juice is fermented. So, standard procedure is to run the freshly-picked clusters through a machine that quickly pulls off the stems and breaks the grape skins open – a stemmer-crusher. 

Then the crushed grapes are sent to the press, which is like a giant strainer. A whole lot of juice runs off into a drip pan on its own. When the flow begins to let up, pressure is applied to increase the yield. And, away the juice goes to a tank or barrel to be fermented. 

That’s good. 

But, high-quality whites often forgo the stemmer-crusher to be pressed immediately. I know it sounds like you save time, by skipping a step, but it actually slows the whole thing down significantly a bit. From a cellar worker’s perspective, it’s a pain. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cold White Wine for a Hot Day


Photo courtesy of tomylees, Flickr Creative Commons

I was half watching the Today Show this morning, while getting ready for an appointment, and Chef Jose Andres (love that guy – so funny!) was on showing how to make different kinds of fruit popsicles. These pops sounded really great, by the way – some included alcohol and some didn’t – but very refreshing in any case. As he tossed the ingredients into the bowl he emphasized that it’s important to add some salt because cold suppresses the flavor. YES! THANK YOU!

I know you think we wine educators are really bossy telling you the “correct” serving temperature, what kind of glass to use, telling you to swirl the wine… Well, Chef Andres vindicated us – at least on the subject of serving temperatures.  

It’s going to be about 100 degrees F. here today so it’s very tempting to down a glass of ice-cold white wine. Fair enough. But, what I’d suggest, if you want it that cold, is that the wine shouldn’t be one of your best. In fact, it should be in the “value” category. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc?


Question from Pete: I heard that Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc are the same grape. Is that true? What’s the difference?

Reply: This comes up all the time. The grape variety is called Sauvignon Blanc. The name Fumé Blanc was dreamed up by Robert Mondavi to help him sell Sauvignon Blanc at a time when it was unpopular.

You have to go back to the 1960s, the when the groundwork was being laid for the second wine boom in California – the first was in the 1880s. In the sixties, very little Sauvignon Blanc was made. And what there was, was usually sweet and mediocre at best.

Robert Mondavi spent significant time in Bordeaux, Burgundy and other famous winegrowing regions in France to observe growing and winemaking techniques. While there, he was quite taken by the dry Sauvignon Blanc wines made in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. He was sure he could sell a similar style at home if he wasn’t encumbered by the unpopular name, Sauvignon Blanc, and all the negative baggage that went with it.

In the Loire Valley, dry Sauvignon Blanc is sold under a variety of names such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and Blanc Fumé. So, he took the name Blanc Fumé and flipped it around to come up with Fumé Blanc.

Sales took off. Never underestimate the power of marketing! He didn’t trademark the name and a number of other wineries adopted it. It’s not as commonly used these days, but you can still buy wine called Fumé Blanc from Grgich Hills, Chateau St. Jean, Ferrari-Carrano, Dry Creek, Hogue Cellars and others.

As it happens, most wineries that have adopted the name oak age their Fumé Blanc, just as Robert Mondavi Winery does. But there’s no regulation in that regard. The best thing to do if you’re shopping is to ask whether the wine is oaked or not so you know what you’re getting.

So, while Fumé Blanc isn’t a grape, it certainly is a wine – and a delicious one!

For a free email subscription go to home page, right column





Filed under Uncategorized

How to Taste: Color and Clarity

I always place aroma and flavor waaay ahead of appearance as a priority, but the color can communicate quite a lot to you the second the wine goes into the glass.

The first thing to know is that wine isn’t like a bottle of Scotch. It continues to change in the bottle and the color is a good indicator of where it is in its evolution. Some wines improve with bottle age, but most don’t. It’s always smart to ask questions when you buy wine because each wine ages at its own rate.

To get a good look at what’s going on it helps to have a white background like a white tablecloth or a white piece of paper (I use legal-sized copy paper for place mats when I host a tasting at home).

Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle against the white background and take a look. The wine should be brilliantly clear, and free of UFOs (unidentified floating objects – a little cork won’t hurt you!). Ideally, the wine should be physically beautiful! If it’s cloudy, it’s possible that the wine is past its prime or spoiled, but never let this put you off of tasting it to make sure. If it’s spoiled it can’t hurt you – just offend you! So, if it tastes okay, it is okay, and down the hatch! But, clarity is the ideal. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Wine is such a deliciously confusing beverage. Maybe you’re not sure what we mean by “dry” vs. “sweet.”  Are you wondering which wine goes the best with your favorite curry? Is rosé a red wine or a white? We’ll have some fun things, too, like really good, do-able recipes with wine pairings, of course! And, why not a little wine trivia from time to time?
So, here’s our first question from an A Million Cooks listener:
Question: Hi! I’ve always preferred white wine, but I’d like to start shifting into reds. What’s a good place to start?

Reply: Hopefully this reply will open up a whole, new and delicious world of wine! If you’re accustomed to drinking California or New-world wines, I’d say reach for the Pinot Noir! The French Pinot Noir is called red Burgundy.

Because it’s a thin-skinned grape the wine’s not too dark, heavy, bitter or tannic – a perfect transitional red! If you’re not familiar with tannin, many people who don’t like red wine eventually discover that they don’t like tannin. It’s the thing that dries out your mouth and makes your teeth feel furry. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized