Wine FAQs

Wine FAQs

Wine Types

All wine is divided into three kinds: dry, sweet, and sparkling. Each has its own characteristics, the result of special methods of production. Each, moreover, has its distinct purposes. Each kind is made in both red and white varieties. Within each of the three major classifications are many distinct types, resulting from the use of a particular kind of grape, or a secret of manufacture or of blending.

Dry wine is called “natural wine” because it is the fermented juice of the grape, just as nature finishes the job, with nothing added. Dry wines are light wines, used mainly as table wines consumed with meals. The alcoholic content ranges from 9 to 12 percent.

Sweet wine is known as “fortified wine” because its natural alcoholic content is increased by the addition of grape brandy until it ranges from 20 to 22 percent. Fortifying the wine halts the process of fermentation before all the grape sugar is converted into alcohol. Consequently, this wine tastes sweeter. It is heavier and more syrupy in character.

Sweet wines are used as medicinal wines, after-dinner drinks, and for cooking purposes.

Sparkling wines are subjected to a secondary fermentation after they have been bottled so that they develop a natural carbonic gas which causes them to bubble and sparkle for some time after they are poured into the glass. Their alcoholic content is about 12 percent. Because of their liveliness and their ability to cause vivacity, sparkling wines are renowned as festivity beverages. They are likewise recognized as aids to digestion.

Dry, sweet, and sparkling wines are made from both red and white varieties of grapes.

Wine Bottles

Wine Bottles

1. Slope-shouldered, pale green bottle, used in Burgundy, Loire, and the Rhone as well as throughout most of the world for wines such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

2. High-shouldered, dark green glass bottle, the standard for Bordeaux red wines; also generally used around the world for wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Chianti. In clear glass, this shaped bottle is used for Bordeaux white wines, and in other countries for Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon wines.

Wine Tasting Lingo

Aroma: General descriptive term, usually positive, for the smell of a wine (fruity, spicy, earthy, etc.).

Astringent: Gives a puckery, drying sensation in the mouth. Typical of young Cabernets, Zinfandels, and other red wines with high tannin content.

Balanced: Refers to the harmonious balance of a wine’s components (sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, oak, etc.).

Berrylike: Describes a wine with a distinct fruity character, such as blackberry (typical of Zinfandel), cherry (common in Pinot Noir), and black currant (typical of Cabernet Sauvignon).

Body: The density or viscosity of a wine: thin, light, medium, or full-bodied. Body can be seen in how a wine clings to a glass when swirled. 14% full body, 12% medium, 10% light.

Bouquet: Not to be confused with the aroma of a wine, this refers to the scent a wine develops over time.

Complex: Describes a wine that is multidimensional in terms of flavor, aroma, etc.

Crisp: A lively sensation on the palate, similar to tartness, typical of wines high in acidity.

Floral: The aroma of flowers can be found in white wines such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer (carnation, jasmine, orange blossom, rose petals, grapefruits, etc.) and red wines such as Pinot Noir (roses, violets, etc.).

Fruity: Characteristic of a sweetness, richness, and body coming from ripe grapes. Specific fruits (apple, apricot, raspberry, etc.) are often used in the description.

Nose: Total of all the aromas and odors that can be smelled.

Oaky: The aroma derived directly from oak barrel aging and usually described as vanilla-like.

Spicy: Common spice aromas found in wine include cinnamon, cloves, anise, and black pepper, like in Zinfandel and Shiraz.

Red Wines

Cabernet-based wines and Red Bordeaux (Bordeaux): Leg or rack of lamb roast, shoulder or saddle of roast lamb, porterhouse steak, New York steak, rib eye roast, filet mignon, sweetbreads, roast duck or goose.

Merlot (St. Émilion/Pomerol): Beef and lamb roast (as above), venison, grilled top sirloin steak, roast or grilled chicken. Avoid too much garlic or heavy cream sauces.

Pinot Noir (Burgundy): Roast chicken, capon, partridge, hare, roast duck or goose, grilled tuna, salmon, beef Bourguignon.

Syrahs/Shiraz (Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie): Grilled or roast beef, venison, game meat, birds, BBQ, pizza.

Sangiovese (Chianti, Central Italy): Roast pork and chicken, pasta, risotto, grilled vegetables, pizza, Italian sausage.

Zinfandel/Primativo (California): Gourmet hamburgers, marinated spare ribs, pot roast, grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, pizza, BBQ.

Grenache (France, i.e., Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côte du Rhône;Spain; California): Growing in hot and dry climates, the wines are fruity and low in tannins. Grilled meat, poultry and vegetables.

Malbec (Argentina, California): Steak, roast turkey, grilled duck, pasta Bolognese, lasagna, Mexican chicken mole, pizza.

Pink Wines

White Zinfandel/White Merlot (California): Seafood salads, pasta, grilled chicken and vegetables, Mexican food.

Wine Glasses

Wine Glasses

1. Champagne flute
2. Bordeaux red wine glass
3. Burgundy red wine glass
4. White wine glass
5. Sherry glass
6. Port glass

The wine glass is not only a drinking tool–with a proper wine glass, you can enjoy its color, bouquet, and taste while discovering the wine’s complexity, balance, and harmony of individual character. The wine glass should be clear crystal. The stem should not be too long or too short. The top of the wine glass should be slightly narrower around than the bottom, enabling the bouquet to gather at the top. Avoid colored and over-decorated glasses.

The glassware maker RIEDEL (Austrian) makes some of the finest glassware.

Selecting Wine For a Menu

Some Basic Guidelines:
1. White wine is generally served before red.
2. Light-bodied served before full-bodied.
3. Good wine before great.
4. Young before old.
5. Dry before sweet (exceptions: for a first course of foie gras, serve a late harvest Sauterne or Gewürztraminer)
6. Rinse mouth with water to cleanse the palate before drinking a different wine.
7. Light-bodied wine for lighter dish; full-bodied wine for a richer dish.
8. White wine for fish, shellfish, white meat, poultry, and veal.
9. Red wine for dark meat, chicken, rabbit, tuna, and salmon.
10. White wine for a dish made with a cream sauce.
11. Drink the same type of wine as was used in the cooking of a dish.
12. Sparkling wines may be enjoyed at any time during the meal.

Food with Wines – What to eat?
The following suggestions for selecting food for a specific wine are generally based on the custom and culture of the wine regions producing each variety.

White Wines

Chardonnay (Burgundy, Chablis): Whitefish grilled or steamed, sole, flounder, halibut, cod, swordfish, salmon, scallops, lobster, roast veal or chicken, pasta with seafood or chicken.

Chenin Blanc (Loire Valley): Shrimp, prawns, lobster, oysters, sushi or sashimi, shellfish, grilled trout.

Pinot Grigio (Italy): Pasta dishes, grilled chicken, scampi, veal parmigiana or scaloppine.

White Riesling (Rhein), Gewürztraminer (Alsace): Roasted or grilled veal or pork loin, sausage with choucroute, smoked salmon, foie gras, Peking duck, sushi.

Sauvignon Blanc (Bordeaux): Fish, shrimp or prawns, steamed shellfish, sautéed calamari, sushi or sashimi, fresh oysters.

Sparkling Wine (Champagne): Caviar, fresh oysters, lobster, gravlax, sushi.

Don’t Forget The Champagne!

The Wine and Liquor Outlet stocks a full variety of all popular Champagnes… each perfect for toasting in that Special Occasion!