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!
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.
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)
Of all the grape varietals, Zinfandel is the one with perhaps the most confusing history and lineage. For years experts have weighed in with their opinions on the origins Zinfandel with many believing it had to have originated in southern Italy's Apulia region, where you can find the genetically related Primitivo (di Goia) variety. Yet other research suggested that there was a possible parent/offspring relationship with the Plavic Mai grape from Croatia.
The current accepted theory is that the roots of Zinfandel are most likely in the Dalmatian province of Croatia where DNA matches have been made with a variety locally known as Crljenak Kasteljanski. Research work completed in both Croatia and UC Davis certainly supports this theory. California's Zinfandel and Italy's Primitivo certainly share a genetic link but their long geographic separation has meant they evolved with quite different vine and wine characteristics.
When you consider the wine style of Zinfandel, or 'Zin' as it's so often known these days, the story is equally engrossing. Zinfandel can show so many different characteristics and can have an almost chameleon like quality. From up front, berry-fruity reds to spicy tannic blockbusters and even tart roses this variety is certainly versatile. The range of soft, simple blushes, unique sparkling wines, desert and fortified wines means you can never really categorize Zinfandel which is perhaps part of it's wide appeal to so many wine enthusiasts.
Here in California Zinfandel has always been a steady favorite even as consumer tastes move from one trend to the next. yes it's true that here in Napa we are well known as home to some majestic Cabernet Sauvignons (we produce one or two ourselves!) but Zinfandel comes pretty close in terms of total acreage and volume of grapes crushed. Today Zinfandel is recognized as one of the stars of Californian wine production planted all over the state in a wide variety of climactic zones. Outside our state you will be able to find Zinfandel planted in Oregon, Mexico and South America but I'm sure you'll forgive us if we still think Californian 'Zin' is the best of the bunch!
Many people find it hard to believe but even a basic wine will taste different depending on the glass it’s served in. Some glasses mute the flavor, some emphasize nuanced scents and some will suppress taste and smell. If you’re lucky you’ll be drinking from a glass that presents the wine perfectly, showcasing all its characteristics.
So how frustrating it can be when a great wine is poured into an ordinary glass, an occurrence that is all too common at some restaurants, tastings and dinner parties. I think we have all had that unfortunate experience when we arrive at someone’s house looking forward to tasting some good wine only to be presented with blue or green stemware!
Being someone that’s concerned about good glassware doesn’t mean you are a wine snob; it’s simple common sense. Whether you’ve paid $10 or $100 for a bottle of wine you want to make sure you enjoy all its flavors and scents. Investing in good quality stemware will ensure you get the very best out of each bottle you pour and it doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune.
If you have shopped in any of the better kitchen supply stores or wine boutiques you will likely know that today you can buy specific glasses made for every major varietal. While these are great the more casual wine enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that you will do just fine with just a few well-chosen glasses that match your wine buying, drinking and entertaining habits.
So when thinking about what glassware you’ll buy consider the quality of wine you’re likely to enjoy on a regular basis as well as the kind of entertaining you like to do. For a picnic where you might be pouring simple wines from current vintages a couple dozen clear glass tumblers might suffice. For better quality wines served at a dinner party or more formal gathering you will want a selection of stemware that lets each guest taste from a flute shaped glass for sparkling wines and champagne, a tapered, ten to twelve ounce glass for white wines and a larger rounder glass for red wines.
Try to avoid colored glass (even if it’s just the stem) as you don’t want anything to interfere with a good look at the color of the wine. If you use a dishwasher, run the glasses through hot water only avoiding the use of detergent. Throw away those small, thick lipped glasses with the rolled rims; use tumblers instead. Oh and remember, size matters! Your glass should be large enough to hold three or four ounces of wine without being more than one third full. This will allow enough airspace to properly show off the wine’s aroma.
So next on your list of good habits when serving wines is temperature. When white and red wines are too cold they will lose all aromas and a good deal of their flavor. Conversely if a wine is served too warm crispness disappears and the alcohol content will appear over-intensified. Of course you will have chilled your desert wines and sparklers but even with these wines if you chill them too much they will lose their valuable characteristics.
Over the course of a dinner party or wine tasting your wines will naturally warm up so starting them out on the cool side is a good idea. Dry white wines, rosés or very light reds can start out at around forty-five degrees. For your big red wines, about 58 to 60 degrees is the best temperature to start from. Sparkling wines and sweet dessert wines can be chilled in the fridge for an hour or more before being served.
When possible try to plan ahead, allowing sufficient time for your wine to arrive at its proper temperature gradually. If you don’t already have one, a wine cooler or fridge with variable temperature controls will serve you well. You and your guests will then enjoy wines showing their best aromas and flavors allowing you to celebrate life in the best way possible!
(Source: Wine Enthusiast)
For centuries the art of wine blending has been perfected by the French in a region known as Bordeaux, France. The Bourassa Napa Valley Wine Blending Kit will teach you the art of blending so you can enhance your own wine knowledge and educate your family and friends.
Vic Bourassa teaches the art of wine blending through sensory evaluation here at Bourassa Vineyards in Napa. Each wine blending session is designed to create a wine to perfectly match your pallet. Each participant gets one tasting mat, a ml pipette and a wine trail blend record sheet.
The wines used for blending will be three or more Napa Valley Bordeaux varietals and you will have the opportunity to be your own winemaker, creating a wine to enjoy based on your flavor preference. These wine blending sessions have been a huge favorite of our customers and take place right here in southern Napa.
If you would like to arrange a wine blending session for a group of your friends, family or co-workers contact us today!
We are delighted to be blogging here at Bourassa Vineyards and would like to take a moment to let you know what you can expect from us in the coming weeks and months here on our blog.
At Bourassa we celebrate life through the wine we make and the people that enjoy it. In this blog you will be able to hear all about what’s going on at our Vineyard throughout the year as we create the wines you know and love. You will also get to go ‘behind the scenes’ with photos, videos, interviews with our staff and of course the man that started it all, Vic Bourassa himself!
The blog will also be a place for you to learn about the process of wine making, how our team creates the blends that go into the bottle, food pairings, wine club offers, tasting notes, wine trends, events happening here in beautiful Napa Valley and more.
We also want to hear from you! You can leave comments and really get involved in the conversation here at Bourassa about our shared love of wine. We encourage you to bookmark this page on your web browser and check back with us soon to hear more.
Cheers and Celebrate Life!
November 20, 2012(1 Comment)
October 3, 2012
October 1, 2012
September 13, 2012
August 30, 2012(39 Comments)
- November 2012 (1)
- October 2012 (2)
- September 2012 (1)
- August 2012 (1)
- July 2012 (1)
- June 2012 (2)
- May 2012 (2)
- April 2012 (2)
- March 2012 (1)
- February 2012 (1)
- January 2012 (1)