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Wine

The right wine glass can make the difference between a decent wine and a great wine. That's because wine glasses are specially shaped to enhance the aromas and flavors of different types of wines, bringing out the subtleties you might miss if you try to enjoy wine from the wrong type of glass.Sparkling, red, and white wines each have their own style of glassware. For sparkling wines, you'll want to use a deep, narrow glass that encourages tiny bubbles to rise to the top. If you're drinking red wine, a glass with a large bowl that has plenty of room at the top for the bouquet is desirable. White wines also benefit from extra room at the top of the glass, though you'll want your nose a little closer to the wine if you're hoping to pick up on the subtleties.Within these three categories, there are a wide variety of specialized glasses designed to enhance particular varietals. If you tend to drink one type of one, it's a good idea to buy glassware that's ideal for that varietal. No matter what type of wine you enjoy, you'll want to look for glassware that's well-made, easy to clean, and perfectly clear.
February 01, 2016
  • If the only rose you've ever tried is White Zinfandel, you're missing out on a world full of excellent wines. There's a lot of variation when it comes to rose wine, so no matter what your tastes, you're sure to find something that's up your alley. Rose can be sweet or dry, one-note or complex, flat or bubbly. In fact, some of the best Champagnes are roses made from Pinot Noir grapes. Rose can be made in a number of different ways, but the vast majority of rose is made from 100% red wine grapes. Rose wine is sometimes made by fermenting the wine on the skins for anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks to get its color. Once the correct color is achieved, it’s taken off the skins so that it doesn't turn into red wine. Alternatively, rose can be "bled" from red wines by siphoning off the lighter wine at the top of the fermentation vat. Finally, rose can be produced by blending white and red wines, though this method isn't commonly used and produces inferior quality wine. Though California White Zinfandel is the most popular style of rose in the New World, rose is also commonly enjoyed in France. French roses are usually dry and floral and are very popular in the summer months. Of course, rose is made wherever winemakers put down roots from Spain to South Africa to New Zealand. With so many different rose wines to try, this is one style that definitely worth trying.
    February 03, 2016
  • One of the most popular grapes in the world, Shiraz, which is also spelled Syrah (and is always pronounced "sir-rah") is a full-bodied grape that's used to make fruit-forward wines that typically have bold, jammy flavors. In Australia, where Shiraz is one of the most popular varietals, the warmer climate leads to wines with big fruit flavors, subtle notes of spice and earthy flavors, and plenty of tannins to stand up to decades in the wine cellar. In Rhone, France, and other cooler wine-growing regions, Shiraz tends to have softer flavors, and slightly less body, though these wines still have enough tannins that they age very well.A good Shiraz should always have enough body to support the variety of flavors in these dark-purple grapes. Light-bodied Shiraz with simple red fruit flavors shows a flaw in the wine and unfortunately, many inexpensive Shiraz wines fall flat because of poor growing conditions or overly watery grapes. When looking for a good Shiraz, you'll want to choose a wine with a complex flavor profile that packs a huge punch of fresh fruit, whether it's fresh blackberry in a cool-climate wine or dark fruit jam in a warm-climate wine. The tannin should be big and bold in a young wine, though markedly softer in a wine that's been given time to age.
    February 03, 2016
  • One of the most popular red varietals around the world, Pinot Noir is a delicate grape that's difficult to grow. Native to Burgundy, France, there are only a handful of other appellations that are known for producing excellent Pinot Noir. Cooler regions of Northern California, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Yarra Valley in Australia, and a few cool regions of New Zealand rival Burgundy for making the world's best Pinot Noirs. This grape gets its name from the French word for "pinecone," because Pinot Noir grapes grow in tightly-packed clusters. The grapes are light-colored, producing wines that are medium-bodied and often strawberry or cherry red. Though there aren't a lot of tannins in these wines, they can be aged successfully, though it's often difficult to predict how an older Pinot will taste, or whether a particular wine will hold up to a few years in the cellar. Young Pinots are fruit forward, medium bodied wines with extremely soft tannins and bright fruit aromas.
    February 03, 2016
  • Riesling is made from an incredibly aromatic grape that is commonly grown in Germany, France, and the New World. The grape itself has a higher sugar content than many other wine grapes, and many wine makers chose to honor this quality by crafting their Rieslings to exhibit this sweetness. Alternatively, Riesling can be made in the dry style, with very little residual sugar left in the wine after fermentation. These wines can often seem sweet at first sip, where the aromas of bright fruit overwhelm the minerality, but finish crisp and dry as the actual flavor of the wine overpowers the aroma towards the end of a sip.In Germany, where Riesling is one of the most common varietals, the cool, northern latitude climate gives these grapes a lower sugar content and a higher acidity. Because of this, traditional German Rieslings are usually on the dry side. Riesling grown in warmer climates, on the other hand, often have more sugar and flavors of peach and lime. These grapes lend themselves to the sweeter style of Riesling and can even be left on the vines late into the season until they dry out slightly, increasing the sugar content and creating a wine that is sweet enough to be a dessert.
    February 03, 2016
  • The third-most planted wine grape in the world, Merlot is popular both as a stand-alone varietal and as a blending grape. This grape is endemic to Bordeaux, France, but has been grown throughout warmer European appellations for around 200 years. Now, Merlot has made its way all over the world and is popular in the Americas, Southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. A relatively subtle grape with less tannin than the closely related Cabernet Sauvignon, wine made solely from Merlot grapes tends to be fruity and smooth and usually won't hold up to many years of cellaring, reaching its peak after 5 to 15 years. Of course, there are some exceptional Merlots that continue to mature for many decades.There are two main styles of Merlot, the Old World style that makes use of earlier harvests in order to emphasize soft fruit flavors. These wines are lower in alcohol than New World style Merlots. In the New World, Merlot grapes are often left on the vines a little longer, giving them a chance to develop a more concentrated flavor and an increased sugar content. The extra sugar in the grapes does not lead to a sweet wine, but is instead metabolized by the yeast in order to make a wine with a higher alcohol content preferred by many New World drinkers. These wines have jammier flavors with an emphasis on plum and blackberry, and more soft tannins that give them more body than their Old World counterparts.
    February 03, 2016
  • Pinot Grigio, which is a classic Italian grape, is commonly grown in France, Italy, and the New World.  In France and the New World, it can also go by the name Pinot Gris. These grapes are genetically similar to Pinot Noir grapes, and are believed to be a genetic mutation. Though it wasn't a particularly popular wine a few years ago, over the last decade it has gained considerable popularity and is a great alternative to overly acidic Sauvignon Blanc or rich Chardonnay.Typically, Pinot Grigios are delicate wines that can be clean and dry or fruit-forward. Dry, crisp Pinot Grigios are produced by harvesting the grapes early, before the sugars are able to fully develop, while off-dry, fruity Pinots are produced by leaving the grapes on the vines for a little extra time. This varietal is known for complex aromatics that often include tropical fruit and white flowers, and a delicate taste with notes of fresh fruit. The acidity is usually fairly high, though less pronounced in sweeter wines, especially on the finish.
    February 03, 2016
  • Historically used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, France, Malbec has gained popularity in recent years as its own varietal. Since not much Malbec is grown in France or other Old World countries, it's relatively rare to find 100 percent Malbec, or even a primarily Malbec blend coming from this part of the world. New World wine growers, especially those in Argentina, have taken it upon themselves to make world class wines that allow the bold flavor of this grape to shine.Malbec requires warm, dry conditions to thrive. It's susceptible to frost and mildew and tends to develop problems when grown in cool, moist climates. Because of this, production is limited to hot, sunny hillsides in some of the world's warmer appellations.Though many winemakers in Northern California and Australia now produce Malbec, these wines are not the most popular and distribution is largely limited to local wine shops. Major wine distributors, including online stores and large retail chains, primarily carry Argentinian Malbec.
    February 03, 2016
  • Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular white wine varietals around the world. It's a green-skinned grape that can produce a light straw-colored wine that has a slight green tint. The flavors in this wine can also run on the green side, with notes of grass and herbs predominating in this crisp, acidic wine. This dry, crisp quality makes it a favorite to pair with fish and shellfish dishes.There are two main styles of Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes grown in cooler climates will produce less sugar, leading to a more acidic wine that features grassy flavors and bitter citrus peel on the nose. In warmer climates, these grapes are much sweeter, leading to wines with strong flavors of tropical fruit and sometimes candy. In general, the first style is preferred, since the crispness of this wine is what made it popular in the first place. That said, there are plenty of people who love the off-dry quality of a warm-weather Sauvignon Blanc, which is often referred to as Fume Blanc, especially in Northern California.A relatively light-bodied wine, Sauvignon Blanc is quick to mature in the bottle and is usually best within a few years of harvest. This quick turn-around has made it a popular varietal with winemakers who are just starting out.
    February 03, 2016
  • Back when it was first invented, Vermouth was used as patent medicine, a harmless cure-all with a medicinal flavor that made many people believe it had the power to heal anything from frazzled nerves to bouts of consumption. Though there really is no medicinal benefit to drinking Vermouth, this herbal, bitter fortified wine has remained a popular ingredient in mixed drinks and is still enjoyed as a once-a-day preventative in some parts of France and Italy.Vermouth is made by adding a mixture of herbs and spices to white wine during the fermentation process. Each Vermouth maker uses their own unique blend and these recipes are all closely guarded secrets. This means that the aromas and flavors found in Vermouth can vary considerably from one label to another. After the yeast has fermented out all the sugars, Vermouth is then fortified with a distilled grape liquor and then sweetened with sugar as needed for the particular style.There are a variety of different styles of Vermouth, including Dry Vermouth, which is a common ingredient in the Martini, and Sweet Vermouth, which is usually red in color thanks to the addition of certain herbs and caramelized sugars. In France and Italy, both Sweet and Dry Vermouth are often enjoyed on their own as an aperitif or a digestif and though you wouldn't want to drink a glass of every type of Vermouth, there are some mild ones that are delicious neat or poured over ice.
    February 03, 2016
  • A Croatian grape that's been cultivated for hundreds, if not thousands of years, nobody's certain where Zinfandel got its name. What is certain is that this is a robust wine with two distinct faces. Zin grown in cool climates will develop more light berry flavors and an off dry character, while Zin from warmer climates will develop into a bold wine that has darker flavors of blackberry, anise, and pepper.Originally thought to be a native grape to California, the first Zinfandel was produced in this state in the 1800s. Though genetic testing later revealed this to be false - showing instead that California Zinfandel was genetically identical to Italian Primitivo - California is still the premier vintner of this varietal. Australian and Italian winemakers who make this type of wine usually label it Primitivo, and though the qualities of the wine are similar, there's nothing quite like a good California Zin.It's important to note that Zinfandel shouldn't be confused with White Zinfandel, which is stylistically an entirely different wine. White Zin, which is in fact made from the Zinfandel grape, is an off-dry to semi-sweet rose wine that gets its deep pink color from spending a little time on the dark skins of the grape during the fermentation process. While White Zinfandel is often looked down upon by self-styled serious wine drinkers, lovers of old vine Zin have this sweet pink wine to thank for their 80 to 100 year old vines. The popularity of white Zin throughout the 1900s led to many viticulturists planting extra Zinfandel vines, vines that they maintained through the decades until the dawn of the Old Vine Zin revolution towards the end of the 20th century.
    February 03, 2016
  • Made from a flavorful green grape that packs a punch, Chardonnay is one of the world's favorite white wines. Chardonnay grapes are grown all over the world, though they were first cultivated in the Burgundy region of France. Though they reached the peak of their popularity at the end of the 20th century, there are still more acres devoted to this Chardonnay than any other white wine grape. Though its popularity has made it unchic in some circles, there are so many ways to style Chardonnay that most people who claim to dislike it would probably appreciate at least one of its incarnations.Since it's a relatively hardy varietal, Chardonnay can be grown in many different regions. Depending on the weather and the quality of the soil, wine made from these grapes can show flavors of apple, pineapple, ripe fruit, or vanilla. There are a number of ways to style Chardonnay wines. These wines can be aged in oak and finished with a malolactic fermentation, resulting in the big oak and butter flavors frequently seen in California chardonnays. Alternatively, they can be aged in steel, a fermentation technique that allows the green apple tartness of the grapes to shine through. In Champagne, France, Chardonnay grapes are also the only grape that can be used to make blanc de blanc Champagnes.
    February 03, 2016
  • Port is a style of fortified wine that hails from the Douro Valley in north Portugal. Though many New World countries now make Port-styled drinks, just as with Champagne, in order to be called Port with a capital P it technically needs to be produced in this tiny corner of the world.Made from red or white wine grapes, port starts out its life like any late-harvest wine. It's mashed and fermented in neutral steel or tangy oak until most of the sugars have been metabolized into alcohol. It's here that port journeys in a different direction however, because at some point in the middle of the fermentation process, it's fortified with hard liquor until it reaches an alcohol content that reaches between 19 and 23 percent. The addition of extra alcohol, which is usually a distilled grape spirit, stops the fermentation, keeping sugar content high and giving port its characteristically sweet taste. Since port has a higher alcohol content than wine, it will keep for around a month after you open a bottle.There are a number of different styles of port to choose from. Portos fortified wines that have not been barrel aged at all. Portos that that come from a single harvest will carry the vintage year and usually need to be aged for decades before they are ready to drink. Portos that are Non-Vintage are blended in such a way that they are ready to drink right away. There are also ruby ports, which have been aged in barrels for 1 to 3 years. Then there are the tawnies, which get their name from the tawny, or amber color that they fade to after 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years of aging. Both ruby and tawny ports are made to be enjoyed right away, since all the aging was done at the winery.
    February 03, 2016
  • Whether you're celebrating a special occasion or simply looking for an intriguing wine to go with a seafood dish, a sparkling wine is a great choice. Sparkling wines are made all over the world, including Australia, South Africa, the United States, Italy, Spain, and France. There are a number of different types of sparkling wine. Prosecco is an Italian wine made from Glera grapes. This wine is carbonated in large steel vats and designed to be enjoyed soon after bottling. Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, is made from any number of classic Spanish grapes. This wine is bottle fermented and can be aged in the cellar for a number of years. Finally, there are Champagne-style sparkling wines. These commonly made around the world and make use of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, the three grape varietals that grow in Champagne, France. These wines are also bottle fermented and most are aged for at least a few years before they're ready to enjoy.The techniques of bottle fermenting were perfected in Champagne, France, which is why many people call any sparkling wine a "champagne." Technically, only wines that come from this region are allowed to use the name Champagne, though the vast majority of sparkling wines are made in the Champagne-style. Since there is live yeast in the bottle, these wines have a toasty aroma.When shopping for a sparkling wine, you may notice that these wines are organized by the level of residual sugar. Dry, extra-dry, and brut are the three most common sugar levels, with dry being the sweetest, and Brut being the driest. Less commonly, you may find wines labeled extra brut and brut nature, which are extremely dry, and demi-sec and doux, which signify sweeter wines.Finally, sparkling wines will be labeled with either the year harvested or the letters NV, which stands for Non-Vintage. Non-Vintage wines are blended from wines from a number of different harvests taken over a number of different years. They tend to be less expensive and more consistent than vintage wines though they are rarely as complex as a good vintage wine. When selecting a vintage wine, you'll want to make sure that the year was a good one for the grapes. Vintage wines are usually more expensive but are excellent when made in good years.
    February 03, 2016
  • Champagne is the undisputed king of the sparkling wines. Vintners in Champagne, France have been perfecting the art of bottle fermentation for hundreds of years and though similarly styled wines are made all over the world, there isn't any sparkling wine that tops a really good Champagne.France has stringent regulations about what kind of grapes can be grown in what regions. In Champagne, there are three types of grapes that can be grown, Chardonnay, a white wine grape, and Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which are both red wine grapes. Blanc de Blanc Champagnes are always made from Chardonnay, while Blanc de Noirs are usually made from a majority of Pinot Noir that can be blended with the other two types of grapes.Once the grapes have been pressed and the wine fermented, it is bottled with some of the yeast. The yeast finishes turning sugar into alcohol while sealed in the bottle, releasing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Since there's nowhere for the carbon dioxide to escape to from a sealed bottle, over time, the wine becomes carbonated.You'll notice the terms dry, extra-dry, or brut appear on each bottle of Champagne. These terms describe the amount of residual sugar in wine, with dry having the most sugar and brut the least. Occasionally, Champagnes may also be labeled extra brut and brut nature, which are drier than brut. Champagnes also have a year or the letters NV, printed on the bottle. NV stands for Non-Vintage, which means that the wine is blended from grapes harvested over a number of different years. While many NV Champagnes are very well made, NV Champagnes are not considered to be the highest quality. This means you can buy them for less than you'd spend on a vintage wine. If you're set on getting the best Champagne out there, make sure you buy a wine from a year when the harvest was excellent. 2004 was the best recent vintage in France.
    February 03, 2016
  • An Anglicization of the Spanish town Jerez, Sherry is a fortified Spanish wine that's usually made from white Palomino grapes. It can be dry or sweet, crisp or nutty, and though it is usually used as a cooking wine in the New World, in Spain it's usually enjoyed instead of wine, either before or after dinner, or even paired with certain fish and poultry dishes.There are a number of different types of Sherry, though they are often categorized as dry or sweet, or dry or cream. Dry Sherries, which include Fino, Manzanilla, and sometimes Amontillado have a crisp aftertaste and a lower sugar content than their sweet counterparts. Cream Sherries, which are some of the sweetest are also incredibly viscous and are known for having a creamy mouthfeel, which is how they get their name.Unlike with port, liquor is added to Sherry to increase the alcohol content to around 20% after fermentation is complete. In a dry Sherry, sugar is not added after this, resulting in a strong Sherry that's not particularly sweet. In a sweet Sherry, sugars are added after fortification to create a beverage that can be intensely sweet.
    March 04, 2014
  • A relatively new grape varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon was first made in Bordeaux, France in the 1600s, after Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc cross pollinated to make this new type of grape. It quickly gained popularity and, since it's hardy and resistant to diseases, it's often one of the first types of grapes grown in new vineyards.Cabernet Sauvignon is grown all over the world and it's not hard to find excellent examples of this wine made in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in France, Italy, and Spain. Since it's often used as a blending grape, however, some of these regions, notably France, don't often make wines primarily out of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 50/50 blends with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah are very common.Structurally, Cabernet Sauvignon is well-known for its intense tannins. Cabernet can be cellared for many years, and there are quite a few excellent Cabernets that are over 100 years old, though they come with outrageously high price tags. Young Cabernets are often too tight to drink for at least a few years. If you're hoping to build a wine collection, however, focusing on recent vintages and then storing them on your own will save you a great deal of money.
    February 24, 2014