It seems like popular wine questions are an endless resource! Though the truth is that shouldn't be a surprise. Wine is about as complex as you want to make it. There are so many wines, so many issues and so much detail that is available to learn, that it is very much an endless topic, generating endless questions.
I'm tackling another five today, with more to come. So, if you have a wine question -- and trust me, there are no stupid wine questions -- feel free to ask away in the comments. Just as an aside, there are stupid wine answers, and I've been collecting several. It's amazing what some wine "experts" have to say -- almost as bad as those dreadful "predictions for 2011" that annoyed me more than a little last week!
This is one of the most common questions ever! It usually comes after an entirely unsatisfactory reply to the question, "Do you have one of those instant wine chillers?" Chilling a bottle of wine is actually a pretty simple and easy process. Here's what you do to get it chilled quickly: Grab a bucket and plant your bottle in the center, add a layer of ice around the base of the bottle and cover the ice with a few tablespoons of salt; keep repeating, alternating layers of ice and salt until the bucket is full. Now fill the bucket with cold water. The salt will drop the temperature of the water well below freezing, providing you with the rapid cooling you need. Give the bottle a few gentle spins every few minutes to help even out the cooling effects. Your wine should be ready to pop in 15 minutes.
A question with no answer. The best wines come from the places where your favorite wines come from. Chicken? Egg? Bueller? In all seriousness, most winemaking regions today make wines that are qualitatively similar. The playing field has been drastically leveled over the past two decades or so as winemakers the world over have been given access to, and the resources for, the same state-of-the-art winemaking equipment. In fact, many winemakers now consult for tens of wineries, frequently on different continents, so it's not surprising to find, say, Argentinian, Californian, and Italian wines that are virtually indistinguishable from one another. On the other hand, there are many producers that continue to produce wine using tried and true methods and techniques that virtually any poor winemaker has access to. So, where does that leave us? Having to trust our own palates. The fact of the matter is that only you can answer this question and your answer is only true for you!
See the previous question, sort of. There are regions that produce great values and then there are great values from regions that produce great wines. That's a bit unfair but the gist is true. For example, in my book, Portugal is the greatest source of value wines in the world today. For my old-world palate, the comparable values from places like Chile, Argentina, and Australia don't compare because the wines, while qualitatively similar, are stylistically different. Portugal has produced some true benchmark wines, but in general they lag behind several other regions in that regard. On the other hand, Bordeaux or Barolo produce some of the world's greatest wines, yet you can still find great values. For example, an off-vintage of Bordeaux (though off-vintages are frequently my favorite since "off" has assumed the meaning of lighter in alcohol, balanced and fresh in this usage!), or the entry-level Nebbiolo from a great Barolo producer, both tend to be great values. Of course, if you don't like these wines, their value as values kind of sucks -- so please refer to the previous question after all!
Swirling the glass is a tried and true technique that helps one analyze a wine. By spreading a thin coating of wine on the inside of the glass you greatly increase the surface area of the wine. This allows many more volatile compounds, the smells of a wine, to evaporate all at once than if you just let the glass sit there. By concentration of these compounds you can get a clear picture of a wine's aromas much more quickly. The swirling also has the potentially beneficial side effect of introducing oxygen into the wine, and marginally increasing the temperature of the wine. Both will help speed up the evolution of a wine. In the case of a young or tight wine, this can be a very good thing. With an old fragile wine, this can be enough to push it to collapse.
Yes, you can substitute raspberries, mint, dirt, leather -- you name it. People sometime read wine reviews a bit too literally. If a reviewer is using certain descriptors, like leather, or tar, or chocolate, it's because the wine smelled of these things, not because the wine contains these things. A glass of wine is very complex business. The aromatic compounds can number in the hundreds and the myriad blends that they produce can elicit many reactions, some based in our nostalgic memories, others more concretely based on science. For example, if you smell vanilla in a wine, it was in fact added to the wine at some point, through the use of oak ageing. Oak staves contain vanillin, the distinguishing aromatic compound of, you guessed it, vanilla.
Do you have any wine questions you'd like to see answered? Share in the comments...Related Articles:
- 5 More Frequently Asked Wine Questions
- 10 Common Wine Questions
- Top Wine Trends of 2011 (Part 1)
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