Archive for the ‘wine tasting’ Category

Wine etiquette for restaurants

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

To BYOB, or not to BYOB? That is one of the questions diners face when considering wine etiquette.

Wine is often credited for having a civilizing influence on the people who drink it. Like many civilizing influences, it has spawned a hoard of customs and protocols. Some are useful, like red wine with meat; some sentimental, like passing the port to the left; some obsolete, like long-stemmed glasses; and some just plain silly, like sniffing corks.

Knowing which are worthwhile and which are a waste of time can be more valuable than knowing the best Bordeaux vintages or being on the Grace Family Vineyards “A” list.

Serving wine Take, for example, the care and treatment of sommeliers. You have just finished a delicious dinner in a good restaurant. The bill is €200, €160 for food and €40 for wine. Not cheap but well worth the cost. You gladly add a 20 percent tip, €40. Then your dinner companion whispers, “Shouldn’t you leave something for the sommelier?”

The wine was the the sommelier’s suggestion, and she did make a point of discussing it as if you knew something about the subject. But wasn’t the wine included in the price of the dinner, and wasn’t the tip based on the total price – presumably €32 for the food and €8 for the wine?

We tend to overlook how much the wine we order adds to the tip, even when we spend more on what we drink than on what we eat, as wine enthusiasts often do. If the wine bill comes to several hundred euros, as it often does these days, should the tip get even bigger?

My feeling is that the 20 percent is adequate, unless the service was very special – for example, if it involved going to considerable effort to locate a particular bottle, or collaborating with the chef to make the evening special.

More restaurants are moving away from the traditional wine service of opening the bottle (without placing it on the table), offering the cork for inspection and pouring a sip of wine to taste. What does one do with the cork anyway? Sniffing is supposed to tell you if the wine is bad.

Rubbing it to see if it’s wet is supposed to show if the bottle was properly stored on its side. But isn’t that what the sommelier is supposed to do? As for that preliminary little taste, unless the wine is truly foul, it isn’t going to do much for you.

Bottle diplomacy

Most people don’t readily recognize corked wine; even experts often don’t detect that moldy smell until the third or fourth taste, and by then the server is gone.

Ary's Warung restaurant, Ubud, Bali, by s.rejekiCalling her back and saying, “I’ve changed my mind; this stuff is corked,” can be embarrassing. If you know the wine person, you can say, “Just pour it.” After all, you’ll know soon enough if there are problems.

Unfortunately, this tends to confuse some enthusiastic young wine stewards who have been taught to take pride in this pre-prandial rigamarole. Happily, some restaurants are bypassing the wine ballet by bringing wine to the table after it has already been opened at the bar. The ultimate decision on the wine is still the client’s; it is just that the whole process has been simplified.

Of course, there will always be a few bad bottles, and one day you may get one of them. Suppose you do feel something is wrong with the wine but, coward that you are, you’re not about to face down the wine person.

Here’s how to do it. Don’t say, “This wine is no good.” Too confrontational. Try, “Taste this and tell me what you think of it.” Now you’re asking for help. Even if the wine maven thinks the stuff is OK, it will now be much easier for you to assert yourself and say, “I don’t like it.”

Actually, these little dust-ups are increasingly rare. Winemaking, and bottling, have vastly improved in recent years. Badly made vinegary wine is practically nonexistent. Yet corked bottles are still a problem.
To some wine fans, bringing one’s own bottle is the solution to all these problems, including that of high restaurant wine prices. One word – no, three: Don’t do it. Unless you are very sure the restaurant welcomes it. A few still do, mostly on the US West Coast. But even there, the picture is changing.

Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California, which once welcomed all wines, now charges a $20 corkage per bottle. Restaurants pride themselves on their wine lists and often have major investments in wine. You wouldn’t expect Sirio Maccioni to admit you to Le Cirque 2000 with your own ham sandwich. Why should he welcome you with your own wine?

How to enjoy Champagne wines

Monday, November 26th, 2012

How should I store Champagne?

Champagne wines should be kept in a cool, dark place away from heat, light, vibrations and severe temperature variations. Unlike the best wines from Bordeaux or California, Champagne wines are ready for consumption when they are shipped to the market. However, some wine lovers also enjoy cellaring their Champagnes for a few extra years.

What is the best way to chill Champagne?

Before opening, chill the wine well, but do not freeze it. Champagne is best chilled by placing the bottle in a bucket filled with ice and water for 30-40 minutes or in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for several hours.
Lovers of (French) Champagne always keep a bottle there for inspiration, unexpected guests and homey dinners.

How do I open a bottle of Champagne?

The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is equivalent to that of a tire of a double-decker bus, about ninety pounds per square inch. Slant the bottle at a 45 degree angle away from guests. Put a thumb on the cork, untwist and loosen the wire muzzle. Grasp the cork firmly, twist the bottle slowly and let the pressure help push out the cork. Allow a light and merry pop.

How should I serve Champagne?

Drinking Champagne by the bottleChampagne is best served in tall flute or tulip glasses, at a temperature of 42-47 degrees Fahrenheit. Tiny bubbles will rise in a continuous stream. When serving, pour a small quantity of wine into each glass and allow it to settle. Then fill each glass two-thirds full. Victorian saucer-shaped glasses are best kept for the service of sherbet or ice cream.

How much Champagne will I need?

For a Champagne apéritif at cocktail hour, allow one bottle for every three or four guests. When served at a meal, count on one bottle for every two or three people. And for the traditional Champagne toast to the bride, one bottle can serve six to ten people.

Related articles: the regions that produce Champagne and the red grapes that go into Champagne.

Varietal descriptions and pronunciations of white wines

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Here is how to pronounce the names of white varietals. And what they taste like.

Chardonnay (SHAR-doe-nay): The world’s most popular dry white; it’s medium-to full-bodied, with rich apple and citrus flavors and sometimes a buttery tone from fermentation and aging in oak barrels; a good choice for simply prepared seafood and poultry dishes.

Sauvignon Blanc (SO-vin-yawn BLONK): Generally lighter than Chardonnay, with bright melon and citrus aromas and a herbal character suggesting bell pepper or freshly mown grass; a versatile food wine for shellfish, lighter fish and chicken dishes, pasta with pesto and Caesar salad.

Riesling (REES-ling): A light-bodied wine of German origin with flowery aromas of honeysuckle, apples, and peaches; Rieslings range from slightly to very sweet and can be either table or dessert wines. Drier versions go well with chicken and pork dishes, as well as spicy foods.

Gewürztraminer (Guh-VERTZ-tra-meener): Another aromatic variety of German origin with aromas of rose petals, peaches, grapefruit, lychees, and allspice, and full, fruity, spicy flavors ideal with Asian food, ham, pork and grilled sausages.

Chenin Blanc (SHEN-in Blonk): A relatively light, fruity variety with melon, apple, and peach/apricot aromas and flavors; used to be more popular than it is today; a nice wine by itself or with casual meals (salads, sandwiches, etc.)

Muscat (MUSS-cat): A very flowery dessert-style wine, with floral and peach/apricot aromas and flavors; great with desserts of fresh fruit or fruit/nut tarts.

Other white varieties of note include Semillon (SEM-e-on), Viognier (V- OWN-yay), and Pinot Grigio (PEE-no GREEG-e-o).

This article is based on the reference guide to types of white wine.

47 white wine varietals

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Here is a list of vine varieties with a description of the white wines made from them.

Aligoté French Poor man’s Burgundy. Pale, light, crisp wine. Not for ageing.
Alvarinho Portugal Produces Vinho Verde, very crisp, light with a slight prickle.
Auxerrois French Acidic, very dry and full-bodies, Chablisesque.
Bacchus German Silvaner, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau cross. Flowery, light Moscato bouquet, low acidity. Used mainly for blending.
Bual Madeira Sweet full-bodies fortified wine, burnt amber colour, fig-like bouquet.
Chardonnay French Ranges from crisp, apple-like flavours in cool climates to caramel, pineapple
and tropical tones in warm areas. Buttery, toasty or clove-like finish.
Ages well, usually in oak.
Chasselas E.
Light, crisp wine with delicate bouquet in Switzerland. Rather insipid elsewhere.
French Honeyed, high-acid wines in the Loire. Lots of fruit. Ages many years. California
model is much softer and fruitier.
Colombard French (French Colombard) Originally a cognac grape, now grown in California for soft,
flowery wines.
California High-yielding Muscadelle, Riesling cross. Aromatic, soft, fruity.
Californian name for Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon/Sémillon blend. Fruitier and
less grass than Loire model.
French Once a major grape in Cognac. High acid, not much character.
Furmint Hungary Principal grape of Tokay. Can be dry, off-dry or sweet. Apple or apricot and toffee bouquet, depending on style.
Gewürztraminer Italy (Traminer)
Spicy, exotic, rose petal and lychee bouquet. Can be dry (Alsace) or sweet (Germany, California).
Grüner Veltliner Austria Fresh, lively, fruity, dry wine for drinking young as in the “new” wine, Heurige.
Hárslevelü Hungary Spicy, full-bodied, aromatic. Good for sweet wines.
Jacquère French Light, very dry and brisk wine from Savoie.
Kerner German Red
Trollinger, Riesling cross. Spicy, fruity wines with good acidity.
Malvasia Greek Produces lusciously sweet dessert wines in warm climates and crisp dry ones in northern areas. The grape of the sweet Madeira, Malmsey.
Marsanne French Deep-coloured, high-alcohol wines blended with the more delicate Roussanne in the Rhône.
Morio-Muscat German Silvaner, Pinot Blanc cross. Full-bodied, fruity with spicy bouquet.
Müller-Thurgau German Riesling, Silvaner cross (or two clones of Riesling). Less acidic than Riesling,
soft and fruity. Lacks ageing potential.
Muscadelle French Perfumey grape used to add bouquet to some white Bordeaux (Sauvignon and Sémillon).
Muscadet French (Melon de Bourgogne) Light, pale, racy wines with lively acidity from the Loire.
Moscato Greek Perfumed, raisiny bouquet with a characteristic spiciness in dessert wines. Can also be made dry as in Alsace and Australia.
Palomino Spanish The grape of sherry. Neutral wine, low acidity.
Pedro Ximenez Spanish A very sweet white wine used in sherry, thought to be Riesling.
Picolit Italian Dessert wine grape of Friuli. Deep coloured, rich, slightly bitter.
Pinot Blanc French (Pinot Bianco/Weissburgunder) Relative of Chardonnay but with less character and ageing potential. Best from Alsace.
Pinot Gris E. Europe (Pinot Grigio, Ruländer) Full-flavoured, elegant wines capable
of ageing.
Riesling German (Johannisberg Riesling, Rhine or White Riesling)
Finest German variety, capable of making a range of wines from steely dry to toffee-sweetness. Floral nose, keen acidity.
Rkatsiteli E. Europe All-purpose grape producing ordinary table wines, dessert wines and fortified wines.
Sacy French The name suggests it all. Frisky, tart wine from Chablis region.
Savagnin French Makes Sherry-style vin jaune in the Jura region.
Sauvignon Blanc French Makes grassy, gooseberry, smoky wines in the Loire and accompanies Sémillon
in dry and sweet wines of Bordeaux. California model is rounder and fruitier and fig-like.
Scheurebe German Silvaner, Riesling cross. Aromatic, fruity with pronounced acidity. Best in dessert style.
Sémillon French Honey and apricot bouquet when affected by Botrytis (see page 22). Blended with Sauvignon Blanc for dry Bordeaux. Lacks acidity.
Sercial Portugal Produces the driest, lightest style of Madeira. Good acidity. Ages well.
Seyval Blanc French Hybrid.
Makes dry wines with a grassy, green plum flavour. Does not age well.
Silvaner Austrian Mild, neutral wine with good body. Useful for blending.
Trebbiano Italian (Ugni Blanc, St. Emilion) Pale colour, high acid, medium-body, shy bouquet.
Verdelho Spain Produces off-dry Madeira and soft, nutty table wines.
Verdicchio Italian Crisp, dry wines with a hint of bitterness.
Vidal French Hybrid.
Good fruit and acidity. Can range in styles from tart Sauvignon Blanc to Late Harvest and Icewine.
Viognier French Rich, elegant, full-bodied, floral-peachy wine especially in the Rhône.
Capable of ageing.
Viura Spanish (Macabeo)
Fruity aromatic wines with high acidity capable of wood ageing.
Welschriesling French (Riesling Italico, Laskiriesling, Olaszriesling)
Floral, zesty, versatile but not as elegant as Johannisberg (White or Rhine) Riesling.

On this website here is a list of red wine varietals.