AOH :: WINE-9.FAQ|
Wine Frequently Asked Questions
Copyright: (c) 1995 Bradford S. Brown (see Notices & Disclaimers in pt. 10)
Many people have asked for an on-line compendium of every winery
in existence. This is a task beyond me, at least to start!
Besides, there are plenty of books (see the section on BOOKS,
what else?) which will tell you a lot more, in more current
fashion, than anything that this guide can do.
At this writing there is a listing of "some" wineries available
by WWW (see the INTERNET section). It would appear that a lot of
the web sites are commercial advertisements for the wineries.
While they may be useful, they certainly do not provide a
complete view of any wine area, at least last time I looked. A
book would be better.
My feelings about wineries are contained in the section: A
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, so you can read it there. Wineries are an
excellent place to learn about wine.
*10.9 WINE TASTINGS
Horace Rumpole, aging Old Bailey hack, attending what undoubtedly
was his first wine tasting after many years consuming the less
than stately Chateau Thames Embankment, given a somewhat more
pleasing claret, found that it was a vintage "Cool'd a long age
in the deep-delved earth, tasting of Flora and the country
green." And while he reveled in drinking the "flavour of Dance,
and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth, mixed with a dash of wild
strawberries," he was bedeviled by a fellow taster who demanded:
"can't you spit?" [For a fun time, read Rumpole and the Blind
Tasting, in Rumpole's Last Case, by John Mortimer , Penguin
Books. Or read any Rumpole story! Also a popular TV program.
Also a popular audio series, especially when performed (not just
read) by Leo McKern--doing all the voices. OK, so wine isn't the
only thing I like....]
Poor Rumpole. All he was trying to do was enjoy a decent wine
and he is reproached for failing to use the expectoration area.
Of course the idea is that you don't DRINK the wine, you merely
TASTE it. Among other things, this means that you don't get
drunk. The concept of spittoons, or sandboxes, properly placed,
is real factor in "real" tastings. It should be OK to drink the
wine when there aren't many being served and care is taken. But
if there is a large number of wines to sample, drinking them all
is going to become a problem.
On the other hand, you don't have to be all uppity about tasting
wine. Friends gathering to try out a number of wines (in
moderation) is a good way to learn about wine. "Dumping" the
glass eventually is a good idea just to avoid the drunkenness,
which, among other things, will prevent you from learning
anything at all.
The really serious also get into "blind tastings" where the
participants (often contestants) must identify not only the type
of wine, but the vintage and producer. There are those who can
do that; there are also those who think the only way you CAN do
that is to practice it 3 or 4 times a week. Having never
participated in a blind tasting (and since I have an abysmal
memory, I doubt that I ever will), I cannot attest to how much
fun such a contest is. There are certainly those who take great
pleasure in it. Many people seem to think that you add something
to the wine tasting experience by injecting something like a
contest into it. For many this can be intimidating.
Of course, the best reason for tasting wine under blinded
conditions (meaning where the identity of each wine isn't known
until after the tasting is done) is so that the tasters can judge
the wine on its own merits, uninfluenced by any prejudices or
expectations based on where the wine is from or what year it is.
Blind tastings often yield surprising results, such as when an
obscure wine is strongly preferred by the tasters over the first
growth Bordeaux that was also in the tasting. Most people who
taste blind do so in order to evaluate the wine entirely by its
taste, rather than by its label.
A very knowledgeable wine person tells me: "What can be really
amusing when you have a wine snob (not a knowledgeable
connoisseur, but one of those who likes to put on airs and brag
about how anything except first-growth Bordeaux is junk) over for
dinner is to decant a bottle of something good bug cheap into a
bottle with a posh label on it. Then, after the snob has gushed
rhapsodic over the wine, show him or her the other bottle and
explain what you did." I'm not necessarily a promoter of
deception, but I certainly don't advocate snobbery; do this at
your own risk!
An interesting idea in any event is to taste a "first label"
against the "second label" of a vintner. Some wineries will put
out their best wine under their own name, and then use a
different label for wine that they like but don't think is worthy
of their normal production. Tasting between the two can give a
good opportunity to see what the winemaker thinks about similar
*10.10 WINE CRITICS
Robert Parker, is?/was an attorney, who was able to do something
(like some other attorneys, John Mortimer--more accurately a
barrister?--and William Daniels--an actor--come to mind) which
suited his interests and was a whole lot more fun. He got to
become the ultimate wine expert. Lots of people "don't like
Robert Parker." They miss the point. Robert Parker, like all of
us, has his own likes and dislikes. The fact that "Parker" likes
a wine is completely of no consequence; if YOU don't like the
wine (or vice-versa). If you wish to follow Parker because you
know nothing about a wine and want to know where to begin, that's
certainly fine, and not a bad idea. If you like a wine and
Parker doesn't and you change your mind about it because you
believe Parker over your own palate, then I'll wonder about you.
Taste is on the tongue of the beholder.
The only TRUE problem with Parker is that if he REALLY LIKES a
wine, don't wait around long trying to find it. It'll be gone
before you get a chance to buy (or the price will increase out of
your range). Fortunately there are quite a few wines that Parker
doesn't like that many find absolutely wonderful and remain
bargains. Since wine making is an annual event, you get to
figure this out every year.
Mr. Parker can be found on the Prodigy service at EXP42B.
(A NOTE: Posts indicate that Mr. Parker has an investment in a
winery (with his brother-in-law) in Oregon; that he does not re-
view the wine, nor mention the name of the wine in his writings
and reviews. Posts generally liked the Pinot.)
*11. MEDICAL NOTES ABOUT WINE
Alcohol can damage your liver. On the other hand, there has been
much suggestion that the drinking of wine is somehow "good for
you." While it might calm your nerves a bit, what many want to
say is that, for whatever reason, it can protect you from heart
disease, perhaps by lowering cholesterol. Some point to those
parts of the world where people eat high fat diets, drink lots of
wine, and live to a very old age.
Some of the problems here are statistics. A good statistician
can prove black is white, more or less. There may be other
factors that are overlooked.
The bottom line is that, at this stage of knowledge, it probably
isn't a good idea to START drinking to obtain hypothetical
protective effects. Whether it helps you if you are drinking is
controversial. Most people will agree that if you drink "too
much," it is NOT good for you (for a variety of reasons).
*11.1 ALLERGIC REACTIONS TO WINE
The biggest complaint here is that some people develop headaches
from drinking wine. There are several proposed causes. One is
that sulfites added by the producer (or can be naturally present
in lesser amounts) cause the allergic reaction. Furthermore, it
has been suggested that cheaper wines are likely to have more
sulfites as a cheap substitute for careful grape selection and
winemaking Some people say that it is only red wine that causes
them a problem. Sulfites are present in both red and white
wines. Another possible cause is anthocyanin pigments which are
what makes "red" grapes red. These are also present in blue
cheese. If both cause you problems, maybe you've found a reason?
While there are wines that claim to be sulfite free, most people
will tell you that this is not possible, as sulfites exist in
nature on the grape. However, the amount would be less if not
artificially introduced. But since sulfur dioxide is used to
control how the wine is produced (getting rid of unwanted yeasts,
molds and bacteria), some feel that you may not get as good a
wine. U.S. law requires that wine with over 10 parts per million
of sulfites state that the wine "contains" sulfites.
Solutions suggested by some (but not recommended or approved by
me in any way) are: Drink lots of water before drinking the
wine. Take a pain-killer first. The problem with this last one
is that aspirin is known to enhance the alcoholic affect. The
best answer is, if this is a problem, don't drink wine. Some
suggest wines not made from grapes.
Wines claiming to be "sulfite free:"
--Organic Wine Works, Felton, California. Entire line of reds
--Chateau Le Barradis, Monbazillac, France.
*11.2 CALORIES IN WINE
Most of the calories in wine come from alcohol, though some
additional calories come from the "food" that came from the fruit
(proteins, carbohydrates [like sugar], etc.). Since some wines
are more dry than sweet (that is, they have less sugar), those
wines would have a little less calories. Also, wines vary in
alcohol content, which would, of course, also affect the number
of calories from alcohol. The United States Department of
Agriculture says that 100 grams of "table wine" (12.2 percent
alcohol by volume) has 85 calories while 100 grams of "dessert
wine" (18.8 percent alcohol by volume) has 135 calories.
In any event, a pretty good rule of thumb is that table wine has
approximately 25 calories per ounce. When cooking with wine, you
can end up boiling out the alcohol. The result is that the
calorie impact from the wine is drastically reduced.
*11.3 PREGNANCY AND WINE;
Heavy alcohol use in pregnancy can lead to birth defects. Some
doctors feel that the safest course is not to drink any alcohol
at all during pregnancy. Others feel that light, occasional
drinking has not been shown to be harmful. Check with your
*11.4 WINE AS A SLEEPING AID
The general consensus is that alcohol might help you fall asleep
immediately but that you'll be up in the middle of the night. A
warm glass of milk seems to be a better idea.
*11.5 LEAD IN WINE
Some people are concerned about high levels of lead in wine. A
possible reason is that the high acidity levels in wine help to
cause lead to leach out of things that it touches. Lead
"capsules" (the foil at the top of the bottle) have all but
disappeared from new bottles of wine for this reason. You can
wipe the top of a bottle with a damp cloth before pouring if you
have an older bottle with a lead capsule. There is some reason
to believe that lead can be leached out of lead crystal glasses.
Whether this occurs in significant numbers in the short run I do
not at this time know, but I have read some material that
indicates it is not a good idea to store an alcoholic beverage in
crystal decanters for long periods of time.
CALIFORNIA WINE LINE. 1-800-946-3546. Free taped reports about
all wine growing regions in the state, along with interviews,
vineyard views and "what's going on in working wineries."
Provides switchboard access to wineries and wine associations.
Wine notes from Michael O'Shea. I don't know who exactly puts
this together, but it includes a wine buying club and club
discounts, so it is probably a commercial enterprise. Caveat
Sonoma County Wine & Visitor's Center. 1-800-939-7666.
*12.2.1 NIAGARA PENINSULA
You may wish to tour the wineries of the Niagara Peninsula in
southern Ontario. After visiting the famous Falls, the Wine
Route can provide an interesting summer afternoon drive. One end
is on the Niagara Parkway, between Queenston Heights and Niagara-
on-the-Lake, and it wanders through the vineyards and orchards to
the Niagara Bench area and the town of Grimsby. It passes near
about 25 wineries. The route, not counting stops, takes 2-3
hours to drive. Coach tours are available.
Most of the wineries provide free tastings. However, if you want
to try Ontario's famous Eiswein (icewine) you will probably have
to pay a little - it's too expensive to give away.
A railway trip follows the "wine route" through the Moselle
valley, with impressive views of the area.
[I know, there's lots more, but I've never been to France.]
*13.1 KOSHER WINE
When I think of Kosher wine, I think of Mogan David. Most of
those wines are sweetened and some use artificial flavors.
Posts have spoken of other producers:
--Baron Herzog (California)
--Gan Eden (California)
--Golan Heights (Golan Heights)
--Royal Kedem (Israel)
--Yarden (Golan Heights)
--INTO THE U.S.
I've not checked the following information. Check with Customs!
You are allowed to bring into the U.S. some amount of liquor duty
free. After that, 10% flat rate for the first $1000 above the
$400 duty free limit (for most other items) allowed. You must
carry the wine with you. Mailing/shipping it back requires an
importer, and some say it will disappear in any event.
*13.3 PAN-GALACTIC GARGLE BLASTER
While I wouldn't bet that there is any wine in a Pan-Galactic
Gargle Blaster, who knows? Check with Zaphod Beeblebrox.
If you ARE shipping wine, take note that many wineries will hold
off shipment to accommodate either your schedule or the weather.
You probably don't want your wine sitting around a very hot
loading dock in the middle of summer.
Check the formatted World Wide Web Sites (Appendix A) for some
URL's discussing legal aspects of wine and the shipping of wine.
*13.5 REMOVING LABELS FROM BOTTLES
Several suggestions here, but I haven't seen and/or done any of
them. Once the label is off, store in whatever fashion you like.
One correspondent likes to rubber cement the label into spiral
Also, rather than going through the trouble of trying to get
labels off, you may be able to get (at least) current labels
directly from the winery just for the asking.
--There is mention of a plastic laminate that is stuck onto a
bottle. In peeling it off, you get a plastic preserved label,
all in one step. They say to check for ads in the Wine
Spectator. One correspondent remarks that it does work but is
expensive and the label is plastic covered, something you may not
--Heat with a hair dryer, then peel off the label.
--Use an espresso machine to steam off the label (sounds like you
could try a teapot as well?) [I don't recommend either as it
--For bottles that do not have labels, but are etched, you can do
a "gravestone rubbing." Place a piece of paper (you can
experiment with different types) over the bottle then take a
pencil, crayon, or other appropriate instrument and "rub" across
the paper until it is covered. The etched image will appear on
--The most talked about method (with variations) is to place the
bottle in a large container and soak it in hot water (and/or
various concoctions). Soaking times given (depending on what it
is you are using) run from 10 minutes to overnight to several
days. The reason that it is hard to be specific is that there
are different types of glues that are used in the process, each
reacting in a different way. If the label doesn't peel right
off, try carefully using a single-edged razor at "exactly the
right angle" to help slice it off the bottle (careful not to
slice yourself or the label). Sometimes the peeling can be done
under the (no longer hot) water.
Once the label is off, pat it dry then place between paper
towels. Sometimes it will help to cover the adhesive size with a
single tissue as well. Press by placing under a stack of books
(careful not to let the liquid destroy the books!) or between
clamped pieces of wood. Change the paper towels once or twice a
day until the labels are dry which may take two to four day.
Put a few drops of dishwashing detergent in the hot water.
For labels with a hot-melt glue (look for bands of adhesive on
the back), try putting the bottle in a large container filled
with boiling hot water, soak for a few minutes, then take the
razor blade to it.
Soak in water with some ammonia added--and some have said all
ammonia, but I'll bet they really meant just a mixture (and I
assume you don't heat it?). The ammonia is said to disolve the
glue, but then evaporate from the label, leaving no residue. Be
careful with glossy labels as the ammonia may dissolve the ink.
For glue which is soluble in gasoline, soak in gasoline for 10
to 30 minutes and they will fall off. Definitely don't heat it.
Furthermore, I DO NOT suggest this technique, since it is much
too dangerous. DON'T DO IT!
If water won't penetrate metal or foil labels, try soaking
overnight in a wetting agent such as a concentrated wall-paper
remover solution. Work with the razor blade technique, but you
may only be able to go a little way in at a time before peeling
becomes impossible. At this point, put the bottle back to
soaking overnight. Repeat until the label is removed. May also
work on non-foil labels.
*13.6 MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER DOESN'T LIKE RED WINE
It seems that the natural progression when learning about and
drinking wine is to move from light fruity white wine to light
fruity red wine, then to the more hearty and more aged red wines.
A constant question turns out to be (paraphrased) "what red wine
do I give my significant other who doesn't like red wine?"
The answer is: "None. Water would be nice." Why drink wine if
you don't want to? Why drink something you don't want?
But, for those who want an answer, here's a sampling (not all
tried my me, and already I have letters that the list is
Bardolino. Beaujolais. Bergerac. Cotes du
Dolcetto. Gamay. Grenache Rose. Lighter Pinot Noirs.
Gran Reserva. Rose. Valpolicella
*13.7.1 Wine Coolers
(I've never made this....)
Two bottles red wine (don't spend a lot!).
1 container frozen orange juice concentrate.
Several cinnamon sticks
several whole cloves
Chill and serve in a punch bowl with strawberries on top.
Add soda water for a weaker concoction.
*13.8 MAKING YOUR OWN WINE
Definitely something that can be done, but far afield from my
experience. There are a great number of cyberspace resources in
this area, including a FAQ on winemaking and a FAQ on winemaking
A quick summary of resources:
Don Buchan's Wine Guide Page with links to his FAQs on
making wine and internet wine-making resources, as well
as information on wine-making kits, recipes, etc.
e-mail: Don Buchan is at email@example.com.
FTP: rtfm.mit.edu (all FAQs)
GOPHER: gopher.physics.utoronto.ca (all FAQ's via rtfm.mit.edu)
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