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Wine Insiders Wine Trivia

How do I spot a quality wine?

At the simplest level, there are two main indicators of quality: balance and length; i.e. the component parts of the wine all complement each other and the flavor of the wine persists once it has been swallowed. Price alone is not an indicator of quality.

What makes a wine “better quality” than another?

The way grapes are grown (viticulture) and how they are subsequently made into wine (vinification) are the two main factors that effect quality in wine.

How do I open Champagne or Sparkling Wine?

Follow these few simple rules:
Chill the wine well and don't shake the bottle - the wine will taste better and more will stay in the bottle. Once the wire cage is removed, keep your thumb over the cork at all times and never point it at anything precious. Twist the bottle and not the cork and remove it slowly so there is a sigh, not a loud pop, as you open the bottle. Finally, to serve with style, put your thumb up the 'punt' (the dimple at the bottom of the bottle) and pour slowly.

Food & Wine

Are there particular wines that go well with ethnic or take out foods?

The more complicated the flavors in the food, the simpler the wine should be.

The acidity in wine heightens the flavors in food.

Sushi and sashimi - Sparkling wine is perfect. Zippy whites like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc are winners, too.

Japanese teriyaki - Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blends.
Spicy Szechwan Chinese dishes.
Kung Pao Chicken or Mu Shu Pork, a Riesling or lighter-bodied red like Beaujolais.
Enchiladas, tamales, burritos - Chardonnay with little oak aging, Zinfandel or a young Chianti Classico.
Beef or chicken fajitas with salsa - Pinot Noir, a red Cotes du Rhone, Cab-Shiraz blend from Australia.
Greek roast lamb - Italian reds, California Zinfandel, a Shiraz.
Pad Thai and piquant Thai dishes - German Riesling, Gewurztraminer or a fruit-packed Sauvignon Blanc. I
ndian curries and chutney. Riesling's a good choice; Semillon-Chardonnay blend.
Middle Eastern - Fruity Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon-Chardonnay blend. Lighter-bodied Chianti, Tempranillo.
Pizza - Works well with many wines. Sangiovese, Chianti, Cabernet

In what order should I serve wines?

Dry before sweet, white before red, light before heavy, lesser before finer, young before old. This gives your tastebuds a chance to get used to the increasing strength or complexity.

When should I decant a wine?

Decanting is usually used as a means of removing sediment from a mature wine. It can also be very effective in softening a firm, young red wine. The younger and tougher the wine, the earlier you should decant. It is the pouring action, bringing the wine into contact with the air, that softens the wines. For mature wines, decant later rather than sooner. Exposure to air accelerates the wine’s development. You can always swirl it around in your glass to bring it out.

Should I leave the wine to breathe? 

Simply drawing the cork and leaving the bottle to stand for an hour or two before drinking it — allowing the wine to breathe' - does virtually nothing towards aerating the wine. Rather, pour the wine into a serving decanter or pitcher, thus exposing the wine to the oxygen.

Does it matter what wine is served with a particular food or dish?

First of all it is important to take into account personal taste. If a particular combination pleases you then it is the right choice for you.The principal reason for food and wine matching is to enhance the overall experience of a dish or meal by pairing it with a wine that will complement it. Think about strawberries and cream, how when combined they are more delicious than when eaten separately, even though they are tasty foods individually.

What should I think about when matching wine with food?

Remember it is a matter of personal taste, so choose combinations you find particularly pleasing. Many wine styles evolved to complement the cuisine of the region, and so this is a good starting point for finding a food and wine combination. Have fun, be brave and experiment. Many excellent combinations have been discovered this way!

How can I choose wines for Thanksgiving?

Choosing wines to enjoy with Thanksgiving dinner should be fun. Why? Because it's hard to make a bad choice these days. Simply picking a few of your favorite wines to share with your guests on this special day will make them thankful. This is the time to serve your wines “family style”, the way you serve your meal--just open your selections and let your guests help themselves to the tastes they like.

You may prefer to serve all whites or all reds, or a few selections of each. You may want to start the evening with a sparkling wine and then serve a white wine followed by a red wine. And, don't forget how delicious rosé wines can be.

Here are a couple of varietals that are wonderful with Thanksgiving fare: Dry Sparkling Wine, Dry Rosé, Off-Dry Riesling, Crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Flavorful Chardonnay, Fruity Syrah, Aromatic Pinot Noir, Versatile Zinfandel.

How many bubbles are there in a bottle of champagne?

According to scientist Bill Lembeck there are approximately 49 million bubbles in a bottle of Champagne.

On a side note, here is an interesting story about the discovery of Champagne.

The 17th century Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, is credited with discovering the cork as a means to seal wine and champagne bottles. He is also credited with discovering the process of making champagne. It is said that upon his first taste of champagne he cried, “Come quickly, I am tasting stars.”

What does the term “Blanc de Noir” refer to?

The term “Blanc de Noir” refers to white wine made from red/black grapes.

Is wine good for you?

There is growing scientific evidence that regular moderate consumption of wine is good for you. Red wine in particular is said to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The cholesterol that blocks arteries is low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LPD). This is cleared from the blood by high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HPD). Both are carried in the blood.

Why is cork used to stop wine bottles?

Cork is used to stop wine bottles because its structure renders it light, elastic, and impermeable to most liquids and gases. Corks are produced using the bark of cork trees grown in the western Mediterranean.

What are sulfites and should I be worried about them?

Sulfite is a term used to describe sulfur dioxide and other sulfur derivatives. Sulfites are found in all wines as they are a natural product of fermentation. Sulfur dioxide is used in wine making to prevent oxidation, kill bacteria and wild yeasts, and encourage quick and clean fermentation. The U.S. government requires wine labels to include “Contains Sulfites” to alert those who may be allergic to sulfites.

Approximately 1% of the population is allergic to sulfites.