Whether you’re new to the world of wine or a seasoned sipper, wine tasting etiquette is something you need to know, but nothing to be worried about. If you follow a few simple rules even the newest of wine tasters among you can look like you know what you’re doing. Here at Bourassa we believe wine tasting should always be about enjoyment and everyone being as comfortable as possible. Whether you’re visiting our beautiful tasting room here in Napa or throwing your own party, by following these three tips you will relax and get the most out your wine tasting.
Tip 1 – Don’t hog the wine
If you are at a tasting where bottles are on the table for you and other tasters to enjoy remember not to hog the wine. If you’ve sipped something really delicious you might be tempted to go back for a second, or even third glass but you should always make sure everyone has had the opportunity to enjoy the wine. If you’re in a group tasting situation and someone doesn’t share, it gets noticed. The best tastings are when everyone shares the wines and all opinions are considered equal.
Tip 2 – Appreciate the wine you taste
Whether you taste a bottle worth $10 or $100, always respect the wine and the care and attention that has gone into making it. Giving wines of all values and varieties respect honors either the winemaker at a tasting room or the guest that brought the wine at a wine tasting party. It’s also not the most attractive sight to see someone ‘chugging’ wine, so take your time giving yourself ample opportunity to appreciate the wine’s characteristics.
Tip 3 – Spit buckets
People attending their first wine tastings are often confused by spit buckets, asking themselves how such a refined and classy activity can involve spitting wine into a bucket. In actual fact spit buckets are a completely accepted part of wine tasting etiquette at tasting rooms and private parties all over the world. You may be surprised to know that in some cellars, winemakers often spit onto the floor when they taste wines from the barrel! Of course one of the reasons spit buckets are used so much is to prevent anyone from feeling the alcoholic effects from tasting and consuming too much wine. You want to keep your senses sharp if you taste several different wines at one tasting. Some people will swallow a sip or two of their wine and then dump the rest of the glass into a bucket. Whatever your reason for using a spit bucket at a tasting do so in the knowledge that it is perfectly acceptable, just be sure to be on target!
The Chronicle reported today that for the first time the United States has passed France as the largest wine-consuming nation in the world. Our larger population and growing interest in 'wine-and-cheese' culture are cited as reasons for this historic achievement.
America's oldest wine consulting firm, Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, report that shipments of wine to the United States rose 2% in 2010 to 329.7 million cases compared with the French figure of 320.6 million.
So are we really drinking more wine than our friends across the pond? The short answer is no. The French are still ahead in per-capita consumption, but the domestic wine industry is growing in a large part due to younger generations being more exposed to wine via social media channels. There is also the fact that our population is 5 times that of France and wine is now becoming a part of everyday life for many more of us than in years past.
So what wines are behind this surge in American appreciation? According to the Neilsen Company Chardonnay was the best selling varietal in 2010, generating $2.3 billion in revenue. Cabernet Sauvignon came second in the consumption stakes bringing in $1.38 billion. The varietals that grew the fastest in popularity last year were 'Sideways' favorite Pinot Noir along with Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, all of which rose more than 9%.
The days are long gone where the 'entry' to wine drinking was the consumption of white Zinfandel. Today the millennial generation are choosing more traditional varietals and going for pricier bottles. Wine is playing a part in many more occasions throughout peoples lives and these numbers clearly show it's gaining a historic prominence in American drinking habits.
(Source: SF Chronicle)
Corks have been an integral part of the wine business for decades, and while it's true that there is a real developing trend towards screw caps, I think we can all agree corks aren't going away just yet.
OK so we admit it, we like corks! They are a part of the tradition, romance and ceremony around opening a much anticipated bottle of wine. When you take your time to get the corkscrew in the cork just right, and pull it out creating that popping noise known the world over, it's truly a moment of joy.
Of course corks come with their own set of challenges (you may have heard the term 'corked' before!) when an unwanted musty smell can spoil a wine. Fortunately this is the exception rather than the rule as cork is composed of suberin, a hydrophobic substance, used because of its impermeability and elasticity. Since the mid 1990s some winemakers have switched to alternatives such as synthetic corks or screw caps but in the study "Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures," commissioned by cork manufacturer Amorim that was released in 2008, it was concluded that cork is the most environmentally responsible stopper, in a one-year life cycle analysis comparison with the plastic stoppers and aluminum screw caps.
Whether you're drinking a wine that has a natural or synthetic cork, a good quality corkscrew is absolutely essential. Maybe you've used a poor one in the past, seen how it can tear the middle out of the cork and hurt your hand. A good corkscrew will have a comfortable grip, use counter pressure against the rim of the bottle and the screw will have an open spiral with a clear line of sight up the middle, to grip as much cork as possible. No doubt you will have seen the most common of all corkscrews, the 'waiter's friend', which despite all the fancy expensive alternatives on the market is often the most reliable (hence it's name!).
A good tip when preparing to remove a wine cork is to remove the capsule. When you have invested in a good quality bottle of wine and especially if you're pouring for friends, you don't want the sight of a ragged-edge capsule where the cork has been pulled through. The simple solution here is to use the small knife on your 'waiter's friend' and cut a circle just below the ridge on the neck of the bottle and remove.
For most vineyards here in Napa, California and certainly across the Western U.S., weeds are a reality that every winegrower must either control or manage. The largest group of weeds by species are winter annuals and like most weed species they have an extraordinary capability for growth, survival and competitiveness for space, light, water and nutrients.
In Napa vineyards these winter annual plants germinate in the fall, grow low to the ground through the winter, and then grow and bloom at a rapid pace in the spring. By early summer they are pretty much done growing, set seed and dry up.
Most of these weeds are manageable for vineyards and some growers manage them as a self-reseeding cover crop by mowing whatever happens to grow between their vines. The weeds will grow when vines are dormant and are often actually helpful in preventing soil erosion. Examples of weeds that are not difficult to manage in a vineyard setting would be mustard, filaree and annual broome grass.
But as you might imagine with weeds, problems are never too far away! When they grow at the same time as the crop, difficulties arise due to the weeds competitive nature. Of course vineyards will mow, spray and cultivate weeds to make sure they don’t grow at the same time as the vines and they have to be kept under control to reduce habitat, food and shelter for rodents. The other reason for keeping a clean and cultivated vineyard is because here in Napa we simply like how they look!
Like any other aspect of our lives, technology is having an impact on how winegrowers manage the weeds in their vineyards. There is a growing trend toward environmentally conscious weed and pest control through the use of propane generated heat, with applications of either flame or steam. These two methods are an alternative to chemical application and mechanical cultivation, and are both recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program.
Food and wine have gone together since the dawn of time and as wine lovers I'm sure you've often wondered what you'll be eating when you get your hands on a really exciting bottle of wine. Special occasions are made extra memorable when you get the pairing of the food that you prepared, with the wine poured, just right.
The goal of food pairing is to have the food and wine complement each other but if you choose carefully you can sometimes even enhance the flavors of the dishes and wine you're offering guests.
So let's run down a few guidelines recognizing that we are all different with unique tastes and preferences but if you follow these tips you'll give yourself the best possible chance of a successful food and wine pairing.
You've probably heard of some classic matches such as goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc but where you really start to enjoy yourself is when you experiment with different foods and wines. Keep in mind that flavors in wine originate from certain basic components: acid, sugar, tannin and alcohol. In a similar fashion the flavor components of food, fat, acid, salt, sugar and bitter shine the brightest when they complement the elements, textures and richness of the wine.
One way to experiment is to think of a wine that will be very similar to your food, so you might pour a big buttery Chardonnay with a pasta in a cream sauce. Conversely you can be just as successful taking the opposite path by pairing that rich cream sauce with a dry, unoaked white wine to cut through the creamy fat.
Many of the foods we love have high levels of fat (it's why gyms were invented!) and of course wine doesn't contain fat. So when considering which wine to pour with a fatty food remember that acid and tannins in wine balance out that richness to create a great pairing.
Have you ever noticed how a good cut of steak tastes so good when paired with a quality Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc? The protein and fat in the beef softens the wine's characteristic mouth drying tannins getting you ready to really appreciate the fruit that the winemaker has created for you to savor.
Consider how acid in a wine adds a fresh kick in the same way a lemon might do when served with salmon or over steamed vegetables. If you know the food you're preparing is going to have acidic qualities make sure your wine can stand up to them other wise it will taste bland and lose its characteristics. The tangy dressings on salads offer a challenge to hosts wanting to offer a good matching wine so think about the herbal flavors so often found in Sauvignon Blanc or Semillons.
Of course when you get to the final course of your meal you want a wine that will impress your guests as much as that amazing desert you have just served! The basic rule with desert pairing is to always serve wine that is sweeter than the desert otherwise you risk the dish tasting bitter or tart.
Whatever your choice of food and wine pairing remember that a little preparation and research will go a long way to enhancing any meal and allow you to truly Celebrate Life!
(Source: Wine Enthusiast)
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