Sep 17, 2014

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WP Easy Review

A 5 star review and rating plugin!

WP Easy Review is a refreshing review plugin.

Key features:
Author’s rating
Provision for adding comments below the ratings
Option to include the rating on specific posts and pages only
Displays average rating based upon the ratings from the users

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Mar 19, 2014

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3 Wineries With Interesting Twists

In the world of wine and winemaking, too many wineries sound exactly the same. Sure, they respect the vineyard and the fruit that it produces, after all wine is produced in the vineyard right? They’re also family oriented and happy to pass their winery down to the next generation-but how do you tell a winery apart from its competitors when its marketing message sounds exactly the same?

Here’s a few wineries doing things differently:

Donkey and Goat, Berkeley California: Donkey and Goat is important within the huge California wine industry for one simply reason, an ardent vision to create all natural wine. Of course, many people have realized at this point that in the food world, all natural doesn’t technically mean anything since the FDA doesn’t regulate the term, but for Donkey and Goat it really does mean something. First, the winery doesn’t use sulfur unless in an emergency. They also take a number of other more natural methods to making wine. They don’t use machines to crush grapes, they use their feet. Instead of using commercial yeasts (which can tell a winemaker exactly when fermentation should conclude) they allow yeasts which are naturally present on grape skins to control fermentation, which forces them to monitor their wine much more closely than other wineries. Add it all up and you have one of the most natural wineries anywhere.

2 Shepherds: Winemaker William Allen has had one of the more interesting runs into making wine out of a shared facility in Sonoma. Originally the writer of the outstanding wine blog named Simple Hedonisms, Allen has always been a proponent for Rhone varietals and lower alcohol wines. At 2 Shepherds, he takes those two to their logical extremes. Choosing the coolest climate vineyard sites in Sonoma, these are wines that are critical as well as consumer successes, largely because of the combination of Allen’s force of personality, but also because of how that personality comes through his wine. These achieve the French sense of terroir, while still offering something interesting and unique. I appreciate Allen’s offeirngs because they’re different, wine and have a viewpoint that’s part of a new wave of California wine.

Vin Roc, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley): Vinroc is both the usual story, as well as one whcih is unique. The owner and winemaker made his fortune elsewhere, then started plowing it into his wine venture. The property is an estate winery meaning that the grapes are grown and the wine is made on site, but the owners have developed an extensive cave system to help his outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon get made. Of course, this is an article about things that are different in wine, so here’s what’s different, you might have noticed the location of the winery. Yes, it is in Napa Valley, but the winery sits at 1,500 feet of elevation in a relatively untouched section of Napa known as Atlas Peak. People whom started wineries a generation ago would have always bought land in Rutherford or elsewhere on the valley floor, but that’s changing as land prices have continued to skyrocket and generally become unavailable. Of course, plenty of people prefer the wines made in the mountains anyway (and of course, the views are better).

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By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, a wine club based in San Francisco that does some things differently. Instead of waiting for wine to be delivered to his office to taste, he spends time in wine country, making relationships and developing contacts in order to deliver simply better wine to his customers.

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Feb 21, 2014

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Quick Tips For Wine Tasting Adventures

champagneWine is one of the rare wonders in this world that only gets better with age! As most people know, superior wine can be really expensive. No wonder then, that we associate wine tasting with royalty, riches, aristocracy, culture and romance! Wine is a social drink and many personal, professional and romantic interactions happen over a glass of wine. While many simply love wine for the refreshing and relaxing effect it has, there are others who find it difficult, getting used to the sometimes, bitter, sour, dry or acidic taste, of a variety of white and red wines.

If your first wine tasting experience was not great and you were left wondering, why people love the taste of wine so much…it’s time to give wine tasting, a second chance! Don’t let an initial experience put you off from discovering one of the most exotic drinks in the world. Wine, not just reflects your class and goes excellently with a variety of food items, but today, is also being advocated for its beneficial health effects! Do you want to learn more about wine tasting? Here’s how you can do it!

Pop the Wine Bottle Open

While, studying all about wine tasting can theoretically make you an expert, nothing can substitute practical experience. As observes: “…at some point you are going to have to pop a cork, and start tasting wine to get a better understanding of its complexities.”

Hold Your Glass Right

The next step in wine tasting is again a simple one. Practice holding your glass right! “Start with a clear wine glass. The rim of the glass should bend inwards to help funnel aromas to the nose, and allow you to swirl without spilling…Never hold the glass by its bowl, only by its stem since the heat of your hand will quickly warm the liquid,” Linda Stradley advises beginners on What’s Cooking America:

Swirl It Around

What you do next, is swirl the wine around in your glass! According to a report published in The Telegraph – Scientists have discovered, that doing this allows wine connoisseurs to appreciate the wine’s aroma and enhance its flavor. Researchers, explain that the swirling action generates waves around the inner edge of the glass, which churns the liquid as it travels, thereby drawing oxygen from the air and intensifying the smell of wine in the glass!

Observe the Color

A properly selected glass plays a significant role, when observing the color hues, intensity and the clarity of wine in a glass, declares Coka Winery. “The color of the wine is best expressed against a white background. has some more advice for those keen on wine tasting. “… observe the body of the wine by the way it coats the sides of the glass. If the “legs” trickle down slowly, it has more body. If it falls down in sheets, it has a lighter body,” it states.

Smell the Aroma

The next step of course, is to use your olfactory senses! Once you have given the wine a swirl in your glass, “Take a series of quick, short sniffs, then step away and let the information filter through to your brain… the effort to put words to wine aromas helps you focus on, understand and retain your impressions of different wines,” suggests the Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Taste the Flavors

For the ultimate step in wine tasting, where after a tantalizing wait, your taste buds finally get to satisfy their curiosity regarding how the wine tastes, Linda Stradley offers insights based on experience. “…sip the wine, letting the wine spread across the tongue from front to back and side to side before swallowing. If you feel comfortable doing so, carefully slurp some air through puckered lips. This slurping of air (aerating) will help to release flavor and aromas. Assessing the wine by taste should confirm the conclusions drawn from the appearance assessment and the smell assessment. The tip of the tongue detects sweetness. The inner sides of the tongue detect sourness and/or acidity. The outer sides of the tongue detect saltiness. At this point you can either spit it out (especially if you are tasting several wines) or simply drink it, but be sure to experience the aftertaste (the finish),” she finishes.

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This article was written by Andrea Hart a food critic who happens to be a wine-lover and knowledgeable in all-things wine tasting.

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Feb 20, 2014

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Melbourne Food And Wine Festival

Between 28 February and 16 March 2014, Melbourne will come alive for the annual Food and Wine Festival. Basically, it’s a 17-day-long excuse to try as many beverages and gourmet goodies possible. This year, the focus is on water and all the reasons why we can’t live without rivers, oceans and rainfall. There’ll be extended lunches, wine tastings, master classes, food crawls, talks and more. Here’s the lowdown on the highlights.

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The World’s Longest Lunch

The ‘World’s Longest Lunch’ is the festival’s headline act. 1,500 people will gather around a 530-metre long table in Alexandra Park to spend the afternoon indulging in a three-course culinary spectacular. A trio of famous chefs (namely Jacques Reymond, Adam D’Sylva and Stefano de Pieri) will be designing the menu, using three world-famous rivers as inspiration: the Amazon, the Mekong and the more local Murray-Darling. Seppelt will supply the wine and Five Sense the coffee. Even if a ticket is out of reach, it’ll be worth dropping by, just to check out the table.

Bar Express

For this, you’ll need to get yourself a map. Unless, of course, you already know Melbourne’s many laneways like the back of your hand because you’ve spent ample time drinking in the city’s many hidden bars. 22 establishments have conjured up their very own aquatic-inspired cocktail and the festival wants you to test them out – every single one. A couple of creations on the list includes Campari House’s ‘Devil’s Water’ (Belvedere vodka, Mazzenez violet liqueur, Paraiso lychee liqueur, apple juice, lime juice, sugar syrup) and Trunk’s ‘Riding Johnny Utah’ (Cariel vodka, freshly pressed lime juice, house-made sugar syrup, coconut water, ocean foam, sweet coconut sand, coconut mist). Thirsty, anyone?

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The Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden

If you’re looking for the centre of the action, head to Queensbridge Square (on the banks of the Yarra River), where you’ll stumble across The Immersery. You’ll be able to watch a handpicked selection of Melbourne chefs at work in an open kitchen; wander through rain gardens demonstrating the relationship between water and food production; and sip on innovative cocktails exploring water in three states – liquid, solid and gas. Several of Melbourne’s top mixologists will be onsite, testing the audience reaction to their groundbreaking ideas.

Restaurant Express

Here’s your chance to check out some of Melbourne’s high-end restaurants, without high-end prices. At more than seventy eateries (all listed in the 2014 Good Food Guide), $40 will buy you a two-course lunch, including a glass of Victorian wine and tea or coffee. Some of the participants include Bistro Guillaume, Bottega, The Deck, Maha and Bistro Thierry.

Master Classes

If you’ve always wanted to know more about food and wine, sign up for one of the festival’s five master classes. For the water master class, Sydney chef Peter Gilmore (Quay), Nathan Outlaw and Aaron Turner will join participants on a day trip to the Bellarine Peninsula, where they’ll have a go at fly fishing and smoking fish before indulging in a four-course lunch at Campbell Point House. There’s also a series of international chef and wine dinners, chef master classes, perfect match sessions and the Acqua Panna ‘Global Wine Experience’, which involves tastings under the guidance of national and international experts. Expect some excited debates over what makes the ideal drop.

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Where to stay

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival attracts thousands of visitors each year. So, if you’re hoping to find luxury hotels in Melbourne, you’re definitely advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment. For central accommodation, the Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens is recommended. It’s set in a beautiful old building, which used to serve as the HQ for the Victorian Police Force and faces onto the oldest park in the city. The famous Queen Victoria Market is just next door.

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Victoria loves her food and wine, and loves to review the best dining locations along with her favourite festivals.

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Feb 20, 2014

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The Best Wine Varietals To Warm Up Your Winter

There’s a famous Lewis Black stand up spot where he argues that it’s not “that we shouldn’t have a holiday of love,“ perhaps just not in February. His delivery is superior, (follow the link) but with the passage of this frigid, snowy, blustery winter, celebrating Valentine’s is going to be but one respite among many.

With the right fireplace or a bunch of the right friends – or for quality time with your significant other – a toast to the season with something really full-bodied is the order of the day. Reds are loaded with antioxidants and can raise your levels of Omega3 fatty acids, and the benefits to regular, moderate wine consumption are being updated nearly every day. Rather than listen to wine enthusiasts, check with the healthcare experts before deciding to up your intake.

Just as the temperature hits rock bottom, your appetite for thicker, richer foods is going to peak too. That’s ok. A heartier, bolder wine will make heavier dishes that much heartier too. Here’s a quick list of the bottles you’ll need to carry home to make winter better than just bearable.

1) Chardonnay – Obviously this is a list mostly of red wines, but some Chardonnay not only helps you to burst the bubble of winter stereotypes, For a little party or an impromptu celebration, a winter Chardonnay can actually make you shine. Be a little daring. Perfect for seaside contemplation or truly existential revelry, any of your white cream sauces will thank you, and guests seeing too much red will thank you, too.

2) Barolo – With a nice Italian sounding name like that, you’d think more people would remember it. Barolo is one of those relatively unsung heroes of the Italian winter. Tannic, often very powerful, Barolo goes best with your Italian feast; gamey red meat, heavy tomato-rich pasta and that risotto you’ve been planning but haven’t had an excuse to break out. Heavier cheeses like a Parmigiano Reggiano, Danish blue or Gorgonzola or even an aged cheddar are going to stand up to Barolo. So go strong and you may even come up with a true winter highlight.

3) Cabernet Sauvignon – Let’s make things a little easier. Here you really can’t go wrong. It’s almost difficult to find a Cabernet that won’t liven up February – even March – with some extra ribald cheer. Rich, deep and dark, you don’t have to get medieval either. Cabernets tend to be reassuring, even when complex and they can be just that. Pairing easily with steak, shepherd’s pie and the heaviest dishes on your table, a couple of good bottles will not only test your commitment to moderation, but turn any dinner into a celebration. So throw one.

4) Zinfandel! Wine should really let you imagine the best of any season, dish and turn of fate. Even if you’ve never been, you can probably imagine the Mendocino Valley on a foggy, overcast winter evening. Ripe, fruity Zinfandels, even those low in alcohol and the sky high in raspberry can go with just about anything else you were thinking of serving. Marinara sauce of course can be spectacular, but for a sweeter Zinfandel, you’ll want to pour a little closer to a dessert with cheeses and chocolate.

5) Petit Verdot – If all of the above is still too timid and you’re really hoping to strike a different chord in the heart of winter, consider one of the Petit Verdot blends. Inky, deep, dark and dramatic, a 2011 Carter Cellars Red is probably not quite ready for this year. (Next year it should make for a magnificent winter warmer.) But something like the 2009 Dancing Hares from Mad Hatter Napa Valley is dark red, passing the line into rich black, and there’s all kinds of deep, dark winter taste; tar, smoke and licorice. Too much? Think oak and cherries and some caramel too. It’s based on Merlot but there is enough Petit Verdot in there with a flourish of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to make for an exquisite dinner pairing. “Brooding” is the word that seems to come up. And, let’s not kid ourselves; if you’re not in the Florida Keys, this has been a brooding, nail-biting winter already. There’s no reason not to make the most of it.

This isn’t the most conventional list of winter wines, but that’s in part because a wine lover needs to experiment – especially when conditions are changing quickly and you’re not sure what exactly tomorrow will bring. Throwing all caution to the wind isn’t mandatory, but with the right wine, you’ll be smiling all the way until Daylight Savings time begins.

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This article was written by James T. James is a writer working out of Mexico City who writes for several websites focused on food, wine, and even the occasional SEO company.

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Feb 18, 2014

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Spain’s Unknown Wine Grapes

Spain’s Unknown Wine Grapes

Over the years, the wine industry has increasingly focused on a smaller number of grapes. Traditionally French varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and more have come to dominate the wine landscape. In a few countries though, that trend hasn’t come into focus as of yet and hopefully never will. The wine industries in Italy, Portugal and Spain all boast a significant number of native grapes which are still grown and made into high quality wine.

Here’s a short introduction to the native wine grapes in Spain:


The rest of the world calls it Grenache, but let’s be clear….despite the French and their insistence that they have mastered the grape, it is both native and grown to its best results in Spain. The grape’s genetics are no longer at issue after extensive study at the famed UC Davis school of viticulture and it seems that the grape grew for a millennia in Spain, before being transported to France in the 9th century. The grape, as you will find with most Spanish versions, does like it hot.


When even the most seasoned wine drinker tastes a Mencia, they immediately call it a Cabernet Franc. It’s an entirely different grape, albeit with so many of the same characteristics. Not as big or intense as Cabernet Sauignon, but strongly structured, Mencia offers an interesting look into a grape that should be producing better wine than it is. In many ways, it reminds me of the story of Syrah in America.


In my opinion, the shining star among locally native grown grapes. Tempranillo simply doesn’t do very well elsewhere and even for those whom drink a ton of wine, it can befound. It can be chalky and almost bitter with the taste of earth, even when grown well so wine drinkers often have a hard time pairing it in Europe and the United States. We find that fish dishes actually work quite well with Tempranillo, which responds to a couple of things that make it interesting for new wine regions in America like Arizona and Texas. First, it loves high day time temperatures. Secondly, it seems to grow best at altitude when you see cold night time temperatures and a big swing between day and night temperature.


The easiest way to think of Albarino, is to imagine a Riesling grown in a warm climate that ends up without any sweetness. Albarino, much like Mencia is a grape that vintners across the world have high hopes for. There is a nice balance of fruit and acidity inherent to the grape and the floral notes, when made well can be quite striking. That being said, even Spanish vintners have difficulty getting the grape to behave well in barrel, so memorable versions of Albarino are rare indeed. It is a grape though, that is gaining ground outside of Spain, especially in California which certainly boasts the warm weather and sunshine which are necessary to see it do well.

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By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine owns the Uncorked Ventures Wine Club, which delivers high quality wines to people across the United States from its home in San Francisco. He enjoys learning about wine and the people beind the industry on a daily basis.

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Feb 13, 2014

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Bio Of Influential Wine Critic Robert Parker

Bio Of Influential Wine Critic Robert Parker

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on the 23rd of July 1947, Robert Parker is a legend in the wine industry. Parker received his undergraduate education from the University of Maryland, where he is said to have majored in history, with art history as a minor. However, upon graduation, he took a whole new approach to his academics, and took up law school at the very same university. Herein, he graduated in the year 1973 with a Juris Doctor Degree.

Early Days

Parker initially started off his professional career by taking up law practice. Till the beginning of 1984, he had served a number of roles within the law field including, attorney, senior attorney and even assistant general counsel. He is said to have worked with Farm Credit Banks of Baltimore till the time that he suddenly decided to switch his career, and become a wine critic.

Parker Passion for Wine

Parker had always been fond of wine, but he never really realised so till the year 1967. His love for wine was initiated during the time when he was visiting Patricia, his girlfriend, and later wife, in Alsace, France at the University of Strasbourg. Once that was underway, Parker began working on his personalised consumer’s guide to wine, and launched it in the year 1975. The reason why he came up with a specialised consumer guide to wine is because he believed that there was a genuine lack of information regarding wine quality. Although his friends and family members were totally against the idea, he continued to take up professional writing over wine in 1978. That same year, he published The Baltimore-Washington Wine Advocate, which was later sent out to many different well-known names in the wine industry.

Gaining Industry Attention

Parker’s writings over wine and wine quality suddenly gained immense attention all through the industry. It was then that he decided to take a stand to support the overall wine quality of the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux. Although many critics believed that the wines were extremely ripe and low-acid, he claimed that they were outstanding. This particular debate played a major role in hyping up Parker’s writings, and even though so many years have passed, it still remains as being a point of contention in the industry.

With the passage of time, The Wine Advocate continued to gain popularity, and at the moment, it is said to be amongst the finest premier wine journals in North America. With its readers based in nearly forty countries around the world, it has a subscriber base of more than 40, 000 people. It is said to have a major impact over the consumer wine industry in different countries including Taiwan, North America, England, France, Russia, Singapore, China, Brazil and Mexico etc. It is for reasons such as these, and his devotion to wine critique that Parker has come to be known amongst the most influential wine critics across the world.

We hope that after reading this article, you will have a deeper insight into the influential wine critic Robert Parker.

By Sarah; an article writer interested in topics related to finance exploring the influential people in fine wine investments

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Feb 12, 2014

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Australia’s Unknown Wine Regions

Australia’s influence on the world of wine may seemingly be on the wane, since wine drinkers the world over are choosing lower alcohol wines with increasing frequency, but that is truly a fallacy. Imports of Australian wine are still off their historical highs of 2007, but the number of critically loved Australian wines is growing by the day.

Adelaide Hills:

It has been said that the oldest continuously planted vineyards in the world are in the Barossa Valley, which sits just north of the city of Adelaide. The Adelaide Hills have never received the same level of international attention, simply because the weather is cooler and Australia’s national grape, Shiraz (or Syrah if you’re from America or Europe) has never caught on as a cool climate choice. Things are changing though and cool climate grapes are coming into their own everywhere in the new world from California to Australia. The Adelaide Hills are in an especially nice position in terms of benefiting from this new trend, as well as the rise of Pinot Noir in the global wine drinking sphere of influence. The Adelaide Hills are home to Australia’s coolest vineyards, but also the countries best Pinot Noir producers. This is a region to watch in the next few years.

Limestone Coast:

Sometimes, wine regions are simply named appropriately. In this case, the Limestone Coast is named justly because this is the only region in Australia that boasts Limestone soil. Located on the southern coast of Australia the wines here are among the highest quality in the country. The Semillon is especially interesting, but of course that is a grape that is not a household name among wine drinkers everywhere in the world, certainly not here in America which happens to be Australia’s most important high end market. It’s unfortunate because Semillon offers an interesting and I believe, insightful look into white wine outside of the realm of Chardonnay. Given the move away from Chardonnay by the general public, it is a good sign for the Limestone Coast, that they have chosen over the years to attempt to market Semillon instead of ripping out the vines and planting more Chardonnay.

Mornington Peninsula:

It’s a well known fact within the wine industry that if you want to really, really do well, then finding yourself a vineyard just outside of a big city is a smart way to begin. It’s worked for Champagne in France, Napa Valley in California and here for the Mornington Peninsula. Mornington is located just off the city of Melbourne (Australia’s 2nd largest city with over four million residents) and offers city dwellers the opportunity to venture into nature and enjoy about 200 locally owned vineyards. With farms dotted by signs to pick your own strawberries, the chance to buy organic vegetables from stands along the road and rose gardens dating back over a century, American wine drinkers will open their eyes and think they landed in Sonoma. There is an entire food and wine culture here, one which is really the envy of most of the other Australian wine regions.

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By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine owns the Uncorked Ventures Wine Club which is based in San Francisco and ships some of the highest rated wines in America to its customers across approximately 40 states.

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Feb 11, 2014

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Wine Label Collecting; Much More Fun Than Stamps!

Wine Label Collecting; Much More Fun Than Stamps!

One of the problems of being a keen wine drinker is the tendency to forget, or at least misremember, the wines that we’ve drunk over the years. This is a pity on a number of levels. For one thing, it makes it difficult to go out and buy a few more bottles of a wine which was particularly enjoyable at the time. You’ve got a hazy recollection of what the label looked like, but you can’t be absolutely sure where you bought it from; there are a number of labels on the shelf that bear a passing resemblance to your target, but which one was it? As for the vintage – 1996? Or was it ’03? And wouldn’t it be nice to remember the occasion when a particularly good bottle was cracked – when was it? Who were we with? What were we all doing?

An increasing number of wine buffs are tackling the problem by collecting the labels and keeping them in as a handy reference document, perhaps with tasting notes, price paid, and even a running commentary on the occasion and circumstance in which they enjoyed the bottle – or possibly not!

Chase the label

The design of wine labels has become almost an art form in itself. With many wineries choosing to use in-house digital label printing technology with label printers from specialist suppliers such as QuickLabel Systems, the variety – hence the rarity and, ultimately, the collectability of labels has increased tremendously. For many collectors, the pastime is largely an extension of the pleasure of drinking the wine, with the collection becoming a documentation of the wines themselves. For others, collecting becomes an end in itself, with rarer labels being sought after and changing hands for prices higher than the cost of the bottle of wine to which they were once affixed.

The serious label collector

In general, serious collectors tend to prize older labels, preferably those used before mass production of bottle labelling in the late 19th and early 20th century. In fact, it was illegal to sell wine by the bottle until the 1860s; the “labels” used before this date being ornate silver or enamelled brooches hung from the neck of the wine container to identify the contents, and re-used when the bottle or other receptacle was drained. These, ornamental tags were also known as labels and some now change hands for thousands of pounds each.

Modern wine label collecting

More recently produced labels are much more affordable to collect – even where you’re not simply removing the label from the bottle for free. Individual labels of older and more interesting wines sell on auction sites like E-Bay for £4-£5 while packs of up to a hundred assorted labels are available for under a tenner – a pretty good way to get a collection started. Once the bug bites, it can bite hard. One Canadian collector, Alain Laliberte, is reported on CBC News as shooting for the world record with a collection of over 160,000 labels including several rarities such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild’s famous year-specific designs produced exclusively by world-renowned artists

Of course, not all collectors are as dedicated as Mr Laliberte. For most, it’s about preserving the memory of a particularly enjoyable bottle. As I said, much more enjoyable than collecting stamps. And after all, philately will get you nowhere.

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Pat Burgess is an antique dealer and part-time auctioneer specialising in 20th Century Arts and Crafts glassware and ceramics. He confesses to something of a practical interest in wine which he “collects” with strictly short-term interest in mind.

He is married with a family about to leave home (he hopes) and lives on the Kentish south coast, when not travelling around the country searching for the piece that could make his modest fortune.

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Feb 6, 2014

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Berkeley’s Best Wine Bars

Berkeley’s Best Wine Bars

When most people think of the Bay Area, they think first and foremost about San Francisco. For good reason. The City as locals call it is really the home to most of the culture and activities that the eight million residents here in the Bay Area like to do. Of course, Oakland and San Jose get an occasional mention, but none of these three aforementioned cities are the center of the foodie movement in the United States. That title, without a doubt, belongs to Berkeley.

Berkeley is an interesting place. Yes, it was home to hippy culture in the 1970’s, but there are an entirely different set of dynamics at play in Berkeley that most people simply are not aware of. Berkeley is an incredibly urban city (it’s actually more densely populated than San Francisco) and there is a constant struggle between those living in the flats (cheaper and very transit oriented) and those living in the hills overlooking the city. Berkeley’s still a social justice center though which I think shows in the fact that there is only a single high school for the entire city.

Ok, enough background, here’s Berkeley’s three best wine bars:

Solano Cellars:

Sitting in this most suburban of Berkeley neighborhoods, Solano Cellars has been open well over thirty years. Originally a simple wine store, it now offers a small tasting area on weekends and during busier hours. Where Solano Cellars really shines is its international selection of less expensive wines from Spain, Portugal and South America.

Kermit Lynch:

Ok, so it’s not a wine bar so much as a destination wine store. Of course, one common night out in Berkeley is to buy a couple of bottles of wine at Kermit Lynch and then head across the street to a restaurant or two to sample those wines with friends and family. Kermit Lynch made a name for himself well over a generation ago as the first person to bring smaller, lesser known French wines into America. The guy literally drove the streets of Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy and lesser known areas like the Rhone Valley looking for smaller vintners whom might like to sell some wine to Americans (that’s all of them, btw). Now, he’s the best known importer of French wine in America, although it does not sound like his process has changed much.

Donkey and Goat Winery:

One of the things that makes Berkeley different when it comes to its wine scene, there are a number of world class wineries based in warehouses in northwest Berkeley. Wineries like Donkey and Goat bring in grapes from elsewhere (Napa, Sonoma and the Sierra Foothills mostly) and then make their wines next to America’s biggest wine market (the city of San Francisco). The results in terms of both critical and consumer success have been both immediate and impressive. The interesting aspect of Donkey and Goat is that the winery searches for cooler climate vineyards across California, a practice that was created and is still highlighted by Bonny Doon Vineyards among others.

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By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, a wine club based just outside of Berkeley California. He believes that a number of his competitors do an outstanding job and deserve a mention here.

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Feb 3, 2014

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Wine Quality: How To Know The Good From The Bad And The Downright Ugly

The world has changed – through technology, through wine-making techniques; the quality of wine is greater than it’s ever been. Whereas ten, fifteen years ago it was very easy to find lots of bad wine, it’s kind of hard now. The technology, the science – it’s like, are you kidding? We’re in the golden years of wine! –Gary Vaynerchuk

The topic of wine can be rather difficult to comprehend; even professional sommeliers can have a hard time wrapping their mind around all the history and information available. It’s easy for anyone to become overwhelmed and lost when dealing with the vino. Beyond the various types of wine, there are the numerous regions grapes are grown in and produced, the endless number of brands to choose from, the multiple factors which determine wine quality, and the ever expanding history of wine itself. You quickly begin to realize the vast scope of the subject, and it can easily appear daunting to figure out at first.

So to help guide you on your journey through the wine world and all it offers, we’ve put together this little list to help you determine what a good wine by wine professional standards should actually entail. To be honest, if any wine tastes good to you and is preferable to your palate, then it is a good wine. Though some people might disagree with your opinion, it doesn’t matter because much of wine quality is based on personal preference.

One critic may not like an acidic wine, while another may actually enjoy the bite, or perhaps it is specifically good when paired with something else. The point being, only you can determine the wine which suits you. What this list will provide is the jargon you can use to defend your point, as well as what has historically been understood as the qualities of a good wine.


Aging is often a factor which helps to determine a wine quality. Aging wine allows for its flavors and aroma to develop and mature more fully prior to bottling. If a producer is willing to spend extra time and money on allowing the wine to age, this often highlights the fact that extra care was taken to create a better product. If extra care was taken in the aging process, which is one particular step often skipped or shortened, chances are extra care was taken elsewhere in the production process.


A wine’s aroma can be drastically different from its taste, and rather than the two actually being symbiotic, they are more of a complementary pair. Not necessarily dependent upon one another, a wines aroma is meant to be something special on its own, adding its own quality to the wine separate from flavor or taste. However, not all wines are like this and, often times, if you smell, say oranges or berries, you will taste them as well. This does not necessarily mean the wine is poor, but simply matching the aroma with its taste may have been part of the producer’s plan. Sometimes simple wines, at least in that sense, can be thoroughly enjoyed.


A wine’s balance refers to the overall harmony among the wine’s various components, such as aroma and taste. It also takes into account the wine’s acidity, tannins, alcohol content, fruit, and other flavors. Everything in the end should come together, and their integration should seem flawless with no single component overwhelming the others, and conversely, no single component being underwhelmed either. A wine’s balance is one sure way to determine a great and quality wine. If the flavors and taste seem to dance across your palate, and you are unable to determine any single overriding factor, this is a good sign that great care has been taken to craft the magically elusive flavor.


The body of a wine is its perceived weight, sensation, fullness, and density upon the palate. It is usually described one of three ways being light, medium, or full. A wine’s body often determines when the wine is to be consumed. Heavy wines go well with heavy dinners such as pasta and meat. Light wines go well with light dishes and especially appetizers such as cheeses, vegetables, and crackers. Medium wines are your jack-of-alls and are easily able to be paired with anything you’re eating.


A wine’s finish speaks to its overall aftertaste and this does not only refer to the lasting flavor in your mouth, but also the mouthfeel as well. The longer a wine’s finish, the better the wine is typically. A telltale sign of a bad wine is one which after swallowing, has little to no aftertaste, so its finish is weak. The finish is also what plays a big role in food pairings because if there is little to no aftertaste, there would be nothing complementing the food in your mouth as the two are supposed to be enjoyed at the same time.


The mouthfeel sensation after swallowing a sip of wine refers to the texture that lingers upon your palate. Is the wine smooth, velvety, gritty, rough? Typically there is no “right” mouthfeel and a good one is determined by the producer and how they want that to complement the wine’s flavor and aroma. Now, to the consumer, some might prefer it to be smooth and soft, whereas, I myself like a rough and grittier mouthfeel. So a mouthfeel is solely based on preference. However, if you notice there is no mouthfeel, that is typically a sign of a poor wine as most producers will decide on some wanted feeling, unless the time and care isn’t spent to create that.


When you take a sip of wine and it creates a dry mouth-puckering sensation, those are the tannins at work. Tannin is the natural preservative found in a grapes skin, seed, and stem. The amount of tannins included in a wine is based on the aging process where the skins, stems, and seeds are allowed to ferment with the grapes. The more of these that are included, the greater the number of tannins that are found in the wine and the subsequent greater mouth puckering effect it will have. I myself enjoy a wine with heavy tannins, whereas others really don’t care for it. So again, it’s up to personal preference.


A wine’s vintage speaks to the wines age, the year of grape harvest is usually displayed on the bottle. A wine that is considered to be of a good vintage is referring to the conditions the grapes were grown in a specific year. Good conditions, and good vintages, usually means there was an abundant harvest, the quality of the harvest was high, and weather was overall preferable. For instance, the last great vintage of wines produced from California was in the year 2001.

By now you should have a pretty good handle on what the basics are to look for in a quality wine. Again, you should take every wine recommendation and critique with a grain of salt. Other people’s preferences may not entirely match up with your own and, regardless, it doesn’t matter. If you enjoy a wine, even if it is a low quality one by other’s standards, you’re drinking wine as it’s meant to be consumed…. for pleasure. So enjoy to your heart’s content and please simply remember to drink responsibly.

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The author of this article is Damien Wilhelmi and a writer for If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @CustParadigm. When I’m not writing about how to thoroughly enjoy wine, I can typically be found practicing what I preach.

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Jan 30, 2014

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The 5 Best New Jersey Wine Stores

One of the most charming things New Jersey residents all agree on is that New Jersey is one weird place. Combine a battered reputation with perpetual underdog status and sports teams being named as if they’re in other states and you get a slurry of cars heading for the state border. Perhaps they were heading out anyway. A good wine shopping experience, though, is not something you need to go in to Manhattan for.

On the contrary, though it can seem like a whack wine culture, (see Stacie’s Top 10 Frustrations, here) it’s not all bad. Really. Despite a seeming lack of liquor licenses statewide, lists some 122 pretty good wine retailers across the Garden State and some of them, believe it or not, are very, very good. What we’re looking for is a fairly wide variety of varietals, representation of all the major wine regions of the world (and some local wines can’t hurt) plus a passably knowledgeable staff. These are five of the real standouts in New Jersey wine retailing.

1. Total Wine, sorry, that’s “Total Wine & More” with locations in Cherry Hill, River Edge, Union and West Orange, might seem like the cold, corporate box-store of wine shops, but there are some big advantages just to being this big. Bottle selection and pricing range from great to excellent. And though you shouldn’t expect craftsmen and enthusiastic insight into individual bottles, there’s just an awful lot to choose from. There’s plenty of information for novices to old pros and lots of fun gadgets for wine nerds and . If you really do want the relatively impersonal superstore (and lots of people do), Total Wine & More does a good job, offers plenty of odd and hard-to-find beers and spirits and they’re generally clean, easy to navigate stores.

2. But moving well down that impersonal scale, still with multiple locations, Gary’s Wine and Marketplace has set up shop in Wayne, Madison, and in Bernardsville. But even with the success and satellite stores, all that wine hasn’t gone to their heads. With a few (rather sweet) exceptions, in most cases you’re a long way from the vineyards, and staff do a good job knowing the grapes, the regions and the wines. You really can show up with questions and expect to come away that much smarter.

3. If you’re in the south of the state, then Passion Vines Wine & Spirit Company in Somers Point will have the most complete international collections. They specialize in smaller and more traditional wineries and back it all up with plenty of in-store expertise, tastings and recommendations. There’s also a good bottle and case club, regular classes and always someone on hand to tell you more. They’ve grown into the South Jersey wine shop with a strong following and usually something going on in the store or out in the community.

4. If you’re in the north, perhaps you’re even better off. Carlo Russo’s Wine & Spirit World is the total old world experience. Ho-Ho-Kus has been host to this Bergen County institution since 1947, and lucky them, too. Carlo Russo boasts tons of 90+ rated wines (some of the highest rated in the world), but also plenty of under $20 bottles well worthy of a spot on your table. With home wine tastings (and lots in the store too) and a dinner and party planning service, there are usually some very attractive gift baskets ready to go in the store. It’s a luxury package that competes well with the much bigger distributors.

5. Right in the middle of it all, Tewksbury Fine Wine & Spirits serves pretty much the entire middle of the state. With a burgeoning online service – and the entire inventory online – they’ve really grown into one of the leading dealers in artisanal and handcrafted wines along the entire eastern seaboard. Year round in-store events with plenty of cheese and lots of conversation make it the boutique shop for wine enthusiasts and Tewksbury’s excellent staff provide all the back ground you need for your own tasting, party or reception. With a whole range of varietals and the ability to track your purchases (if you wish), they’ve also got a wide selection of spirits that are often unique in the middle of Jersey.

Did we leave out your favorite New Jersey Wine Shop? Please let us know what you’re looking for in a wine store (and who provides it) in the comments section below.

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This article was written by james t. James is a New Jersey native but currently lives in Mexico City because it’s a tad bit cold in New Jersey at the moment. Still, he is looking forward to the 2014 Super Bowl being held in his freezing home state.

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Jan 14, 2014

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Wine Tasting 101: Tips For Your Next Event

Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever. –Aristophanes

Whether you are at a corporate event, a fundraiser, a family get -together, or are simply meeting up with a few friends, at some point you may have the chance to attend a wine tasting event. Wine tastings are popular because they not only allow you to taste a wide variety of wines, but you are able to share that experience with people you either care about or are able to enjoy the company of. Also you can hear the opinion of other wine tasters, perhaps from a few more experienced connoisseurs, which can obviously help to further your knowledge and understanding of vino.

In essence, there are two types of wine tasting events: Varietal tastings and Horizontal tastings. Varietal tastings are those that use wines with the same grape variety but from different regions and vintages. These are useful in helping to distinguish taste, of the same type of wine, from different producers and areas around the world. The same type of wine can be drastically different, and often times is, when produced from different wine makers from different areas. A Horizontal tasting is when a single category of wines are tasted from a single vintage. For instance, a 2001 Colorado Pinot Noirs, 1995 Bordeaux, or a 2010 Malbec. You will quickly notice that the same wine type from the same region as well as vintage will have drastically different tastes across different producers.

If possible, you should try to plan on visiting a wine tasting before lunch or dinner so you can pair your favorite wine with food later. This will also help to ensure that you won’t be drinking on an empty stomach for long. You should also ensure you know who the designated driver is going to be, or in the least know how you intend to get home. Many wine tasters will not become drunk, but it’s far better to be safe than sorry. With our forewarnings given, let’s get into the meat of Wine Tasting 101.

Wine Tasting Etiquette to Be Aware Of

There is certain etiquette to follow when attending a wine tasting event, and a few of those courtesies are more important than others. So let’s go over the most important to be mindful of. And remember, if you become lost or feel out of place… just do as the Romans do. You may not fully understand what or why something is occurring, but there’s little doubt you’ll soon figure out once you begin mimicking.


The first oddity you may encounter, which is something you may also feel to be counter intuitive, is that most wine tasters spit their wine out rather than swallow. This is especially true when there are a lot of wines to go through and taste. The reason for this is simple, if you swallowed every sip you would soon become drunk. This also means that for wines tasted later, your judgment will be impaired and you will not be able to fully appreciate what those wines have to offer.


Now even though many people may well be spitting out their wine, it’s not entirely against “the rules” to swallow it either. You simply have to vigilantly pace yourself, or fully expect to become intoxicated. That said, don’t be “that guy” or “woman” who is half way through the tasting before they become to drunk to stand, or start slurring words stumbling around. Remember it’s a wine “tasting”… not a frat party.


Your sense of smell is critically important when judging wine. As such, when other scents take over, your tasting experience will undoubtedly be hampered. As such, smoking is typically not allowed in the same area as the tasting. And you should be very mindful of any perfumes or colognes worn. For the most part, avoid wearing any scents so as not to ruin another person’s experience.


Now in any other setting, the act of slurping can be annoying, disgusting, and irritating. However, slurping will be ringing like church bells the entire time you are at the event. Tasters don’t slurp to annoy, but rather, they are trying to draw air into their mouth to further aerate the wine. This draws the flavor out and helps the taster to distinguish undertones and small hints of flavor.

Second Tasting

Once you’ve had a taste of all the wines available, or at least those you cared to try, be sure to go back through for a second round. But don’t attempt to try them all again, only the ones you thoroughly enjoyed. Trying your favorite wines a second time helps to give a deeper understanding and wider appreciation. You will notice certain things the second time that you failed to spot the first. This may either further confirm your first judgment or cause you to reevaluate it all together.

Shared Opinions

Don’t share your opinion about a wine until whomever you are speaking with has had a chance to taste it themselves. Your words, however chosen, can often dramatically affect how a wine tastes to a person. You may say a wine tastes like drift wood and that image and idea may not leave a person’s head even after they’ve had a taste themselves. On their own they may say it has an oaky overtone, but the second you say driftwood, that oaky flavor may be less pronounced. Simply put, give people the opportunity to form their own judgment before you share your opinion. However, if all the wines have indeed been tasted, praise and slander away. After all, that’s part of the reason to be at a wine tasting.

How To Properly Taste Wine

In short, there is a 4 step process when tasting wine. Of course any number of odd steps could be included in between based on preference, such as the spitting, slurping or smelling, but in sum the basic 4 steps are looking at the wines appearance, swirling the wine, tasting the wine, and finally savoring the wine.


Before you take your first sip, examine the color of the wine while tilting the glass toward light. You will want to note the deep or light color of the wine, its saturation and any particulate matter than may be present. The study of wine color is immense, and well outside the scope of this article. But if you are interested, there is plenty to read and is worth the time you put into it. For instance you may spot that a white wine which appears oddly dark may be showing signs of oxidation.


Swirling the wine has two purposes. The first is to help fully release the aroma of the wine, upon which you should take a sniff once the wine is settling. The second is to view the “legs” that run down the side of your wine glass. Again, understanding a wines “legs” consistency, thickness, and other factors takes a while to learn. And what each means differs from wine to wine.


After analyzing the appearance and scent of the wine, you will take your first sip. You should take a good sized sip of wine, keep it in your mouth, swish it around allowing it to cover the entirety of your mouth hitting all taste buds, and if you are comfortable enough, draw air into your mouth and slurp the wine gently. This will help to further aerate it one last time before either spitting it out or swallowing.


Finally, after you’ve viewed, taken a sip, swished, and possibly slurped the wine, you may want to gargle it as well. This will ensure that all taste buds have been triggered to give you the fullest flavor possible. Remember that you tongue can only identify 4 basic tastes: Salt, Bitter, Sweet, and Acidic. Any other flavor reaches your brain due to aroma passing through your retro nasal passage at the back end of your throat. This is why you may choose to gargle, rather than swallow.

How To Evaluate Wine Tasted

Only once you’ve given yourself the opportunity to fully taste every flavor and aroma a wine has to offer will you be able to give an honest judgment of it. Your judgment will be based on 4 specific areas: Flavor, Texture, Balance, and Lingering Overtones.


As you are going through wines it may help to jot down notes to help remind yourself later. Be sure to use descriptive words and avoid vagaries… you can leave that to the other guests which will no doubt occur. Try to pick out any earthy, savory, sweet, salty, or acidic tastes. Be on the lookout for anything that tastes vinegary, has mustiness to it, or has a smell of a farm or farm animals. At first targeting and identifying certain flavors may be difficult as there will be many tastes vying for your attention. Though, after tasting enough wines, and if you’ve jotted down notes, you will begin to easily pick apart wines and notice things that you did not before.


The texture of a wine generally has three descriptive characteristics: Crispness, body, and mouth feel. Does the wine taste light and refreshing, is it crisp? Does the wine take over the senses in your mouth and linger for some time, or is it small, quaint, and gone as soon as it arrives? And finally, how does it make your mouth feel? Is it rough, smooth, velvety, sand-papery? All of these are to be determined and make up the overall texture and weight of a wine.


When speaking of a quality wine, there should be nothing outstanding or noticeable compared to other aromas and flavors of the wine. Which is why we say a wine has nice balance, the aroma and flavor is balanced in such a way that nothing dominates, everything supports one another. There are many factors that can contribute to this, new oak barrels used, wine not being aged long enough, or even improper storage can all affect a wines balance. But in the end, a good one hides it flavors while shoving them in your face. It should be difficult to discern specific flavors and smells as that makes a good wine.

Lingering Overtones

Finally, if there is one factor which is indicative of a quality wine, it lies in the length of the aftertaste or the overtone. A good wine will dance across your palate for some time, and if you take a sip of wine and its flavor immediately disappears when you swallow or pit it out, that may mean it was made from concentration or grapes that weren’t fully ripened. A good wines taste will linger on for around 20-40 seconds. Superb wines in contrast can last upwards of a minute, and sometimes even longer.

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The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @CustParadigm. When I’m not writing about Wine Tasting Etiquette, I can be found trying many of the local Colorado wines in my hometown of Denver.

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Jan 11, 2014

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What You Should Know About The Wine Industry

Over the past four years I have had both the privilege and the honor of owning my own business, a family funded start up that sells wine clubs and gift baskets. That business has allowed me, an outsider, unparalleled access to the wine industry. Here’s some things that I think the general public should know, but doesn’t:

Bulk Wine and Cheap Wine are Basically the Same:

Have you ever bought that jug of wine at the grocery store? I kind of doubt it, but you’ve bought wine that costs about $5 per bottle, right? We’ve all done that, probably picking it because of some combination of the label and where the fruit was from. Here’s the thing both of the wines you looked at were probably marked simply as “California” grapes, which means the grapes came from one of the warmer inland valley’s known more for oranges than high quality grapes. It also means that those wines are pretty much exactly the same and could have even been made in the same facility, from the same grapes before being put into different bottles. Wine under $10 or so simply cannot be unique it is produced in quantities that are simply too big and for too cheap. As a bonus don’t forget to consider the facts that the cork and bottle cost around $1.50 combined the next time you consider buying a $3 bottle of wine.

Napa Is Important, But:

Napa only makes about 2% of the nation’s wine, despite taking at least 50% of the conversation. While Napa is important in terms of both innovation and a strict adherence to quality, it isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to wine in the United States, let alone internationally. There are plenty of other world class wine regions in America that are capable of producing wine on par with Napa Valley, namely the states of Oregon and Washington along with Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Paso Robles within California. If you buy a Pinot Noir, as an example, from NapaValley you probably paid $20 too much.

Local is Important, even to high end Napa Valley wineries that are not local to where you live:

Local wineries become more important by the day. First, they encourage innovation. Rose is huge in San Francisco, but if I ship it to my wine club customers across the country, generally they get upset. In Texas, Tempranillo already has found a home, but the same grape simply cannot be sold in California. Innovation comes from taking the available grapes and molding them to current consumer tastes and weather (ie growing) conditions. Local wineries do all of that and more. Lastly, we know after generations of research that people who begin drinking $10 locally made wine eventually want to learn more about the wider world of wine and are more likely to spend $50 for a bottle of Pinot Noir on a consistent basis, than someone who grew up drinking beer and didn’t touch a bottle of wine until they were in their 30’s.

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By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club based in Berkeley California focused on delivering the highest quality wine in the industry.

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Jan 10, 2014

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Discovering Food And Wines Of The Dordogne On Your Cycling Holiday In France

France is famous on a global scale for its superb wines, and certainly a cycling tour of the Dordogne wouldn’t be complete without sampling the specialities of the area, and by pairing an excellent wine with an exquisite local dish made from the freshest ingredients.

Certainly, if you enjoy fine food and wine, you won’t be disappointed as this region is a gourmet’s paradise; from the black wines of Cahors to the bustling local markets selling rich and tempting delicacies such as truffles, foie gras, walnuts and cheeses.

If you are taking a cycling holiday in France, here’s some of the superb treats you can expect to find in the Dordogne, and can stock up on some of these luxuries to take back home to friends and family.

The Wines of the Dordogne

The Dordogne, which lies just to the east of the Bordeaux wine region, is known for the spicy ‘black wines of Cahors’ produced in the Lot Valley. Earning its nickname for its rich, dark colour, Cahors wine has been acclaimed by royalty and the nobility for centuries and was a firm favourite of Czar Peter the Great who introduced the wine to Russia in the 18th century.

To claim the appellation AOC Cahors, the Malbec grape variety must make up at least 70 per cent of the blend. It can be paired with stews or grilled red meat, or you can simply round off your meal with a glass of Cahors and some goats’ cheese.

The main wine producing area in the Dordogne Valley itself is to be found around the town of Bergerac. Red, white and rosé wines are all made here, including the sweet white wine of Monbazillac – drink it chilled, or with desserts.

Gourmet Delights in the Dordogne

As a lover of superior food, you’ll be spoiled for choice at one of the superb local markets. If you come across one of these on your cycling tours of France, it is well worth stopping off to soak up the atmosphere and purchase some delicacies.

The bustling markets of the Dordogne are bursting with people, colour and ‘chit chat’. Here you can find the freshest fruit and vegetables on display, and you’ll see the real France as the locals do their weekly shop and catch up on the gossip. You can also test out your language skills at some of the stalls.

The Dordogne has been famed for its truffles for centuries; these delicacies snuffled out by pigs, have earned the nickname ‘black diamonds’ because of their rarity, and they come with a price tag to match! On your travels it is likely you will find markets selling truffles and wild mushrooms, but for a cheaper alternative just head to one of restaurants and opt for a dish with Sauce Périgueux, which is a delicious truffle sauce. Another option is to source some truffle oil, which makes a luxurious addition to a multitude of homemade recipes.

Foie gras is another Dordogne delicacy which you can buy at a market or sample at the restaurants, particularly in Sarlat-la-Canéda which you visit and stay overnight on our tour. However, if this is not to your taste, sweet chestnuts and walnuts are other star attractions. You can also seek out some permanent food museums such as The Walnut Museum “L’Ecomusée de la Noix” in Castelnaud.

For food lovers, no cycle break in the Dordogne could go without sampling some of the local cheeses and there’s plenty to choose from. The region is famous for its goats’ cheeses, including Rocamadour, which takes its name from the village of that name and is a flat, round cheese, made with unpasteurised goat’s milk. Also delicious on bread, and in salads, is Cabécou du Perigord, a soft goat cheese that gains a blue mould crust about ten to fourteen days after maturing.

A snack of bread and cheese is the perfect energy boost at any time of the day on your cycle break in France!

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Andy Patton is the owner of Cycle Breaks, who organise European cycling holidays.

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Jan 10, 2014

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Choosing The Best: Wine Tips And Ideas

You are in front of the wine shelves in a supermarket and you have hundreds of choices. How do you choose the best wine?

It is said that you don’t know the wine unless you taste it. But when you have to choose between more than 8,000 types of wine, maybe it’s more efficient to inform yourself before you buy.

However, if you get in front of the wine shelf with no clue about what you want to buy, check out a few details.

From What to Stay Away

1. Extremely expensive wines
Set a price and don’t over it. An expensive wine does not necessarily guarantee the quality.The price of wine is determined rather by its rarity his or its producer reputation. It’s very possible to find the same quality at half price.

2. Big discounts
Watch out for discounts type “at half price.” Often these wines are sitting in stock a long time and it could because it’s not a very good wine.

3. Poor storage conditions
Pay attention to storage conditions for wine in the store. The wine is affected by exposure to temperature, moisture and too much light. The storage conditions in many supermarkets, are unsatisfactory.For example, the wine kept in the sun, on the cement, when outside its 90 degrees on the asphalt, is compromised.

4. Be very careful to label

The label must be written correctly and legibly, it must be well bonded to the glass, it must contain information about the manufacturer, about bottling and year of production. If the label is wrong, it is possible that the wine is counterfeit or has been stored in unfavorable conditions.

Some Tips And Tricks

In the big cities, there are several supermarkets that have a good selection of wines and a display area with decent temperature conditions, but the supermarket is not the happiest place to buy wine. The bottles are standing and these sit on shelves in light and heat. So, try to buy wine from a specialized shop. In addition to the guarantee of a decent storage, you have the opportunity to benefit from specialized personnel (even passionate) that can help you make an excellent choice.

Beyond the skill of the winemaker, the wine is primarily the expression of the grape variety, soil and climatic conditions from the harvest year. The taste differs from person to person, so it is especially important to taste yourself the wine .Here are the most important factors in choosing wine.


A wine with a strong taste should be associated with food with powerful flavors.

Sweet wines are suitable for desserts and main dishes with sweet flavor, while the more acidic wines, dry wines, match with spicy sauces, salad dressings and salty foods. Also, it is a good idea to make sure that the wine flavor is slightly stronger than the flavor of food. For example, don’t serve a very sweet dessert with a semisweet wine.

Usually, as the amount of alcohol is lower, the wine is more suitable for a meal.Generally it is better to associate a wine with meals with the same characteristics (sweet wines with sweet dishes, bitter wines with salty foods, etc..).This is also valid for food and wine color: combine white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat.

The wine can be an excellent accompaniment for a delicious meal, so it’s good to experiment, until you find the right taste.The tips above do not make you an expert on wines, but these are a starting point regarding how to choose the best wine.

In the end, you have to know that the wine is not an auxiliary of the meal, but an imperative requirement for a successful meal.

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Anthony Robert, the writer, has several interesting articles about food and wine. He has featured good Australian wine such as pinot gris and chardonnay on his blog.

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Jan 6, 2014

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Designing An Engaging Wine Label

A wine label is one of the most complex pieces of packaging you are likely to come across. In just a few square inches an artist needs to convey everything a customer needs to know about the beverage they will soon enjoy. The label should be used to capture the spirit of the wine and the vineyard in a visual form. Key pieces of information, such as the wine type, the year it was bottled, and its place of origin will also have to be included. Given that there are so many elements within a wine label it is no wonder that they can be a challenge to design.

Where do wine label designers go wrong?

Though the informational basics of wine labels are fairly straightforward a wine label should provide more information than just a place of origin and a bottling date. A wine label must evoke an emotion; it must create an appealing image for the buyer. A wine label designer may have included all the necessary information and still failed to create an appealing label. How so?

  • The color combinations may be unappealing
  • The font face is hard to read at a glance
  • Anything distinctive about the wine is left off the label
  • The image used is poorly composed or fails to fulfill basic principles of design (balance, harmony, etc.)
  • The label as a whole looks too much like another company’s label

A look at any amateur’s attempt at designing a wine label will reveal these and many other shortcomings – but that is to be expected. Even professional graphic designers run into problems creating an effective wine label. Sometimes there is no single thing wrong with a wine label. Even though a designer may have done everything right the final result may simply be boring. Failing to engage the viewer is the primary sin of graphic design. So how can you avoid this?

Engaging your viewer

Engaging the viewer is the primary challenge of any graphic design project but a wine label has several constraints not present in other design mediums. The size of the finished wine label in particular is a challenge. Though the relatively small size of the wine label might appear to be an obstacle to viewer engagement you still have a lot of design freedom.

Knowing the place of origin is a main part of wine appreciation. Though certain regions of the world are famous for their wine production, all wine producing regions of the world have something to be proud of. Make the vineyard and its region a central part of the label. Select images that evoke the romance of that particular wine producing region.

Include a flavor profile. This information can do on the back label or the back portion of a wraparound label. Varieties of wine differ in flavor profile; dry, fruity, sweet, and woodsy flavors impact a buyer’s choice. Telling buyers what they can expect inside a certain bottle is helpful. Novice wine buyers can use this information to pair wine with a type of food and more experienced drinkers can seek out the flavors that they most enjoy.

A slogan can help enliven a label that is graphic-intensive. Just a few words can convey the attitude or spirit captured by the vineyard and their wines. The font face used and the visual weight given the letters can further shift the meaning conveyed by the words. Playfulness, elegance, mystery, and modernity are just some of the moods that can be communicated to a reader with the right font selection.

Other label design considerations

A label is more than just the text copy, font, color palette, and graphics used. A label can be cut in a particular shape to add another layer of visual interest. Some label designers choose to make a wraparound label. This leaves space for a few sentences of copy to tell people some interesting facts about the wine and the vineyard. Serving suggestions are helpful for less well-known wine varieties and the extra space provided by a wraparound label is the perfect spot for this information. If a back label is to be used, select design elements that echo the choices made on the main label.

A wine label can be long instead of wide. Do not feel limited by the 3 x 5 square inches or so that most labels consist of. A long label can make for a dramatic presentation. Beautiful long lines can be used on this kind of label; use the dimensions to create a feeling of space and motion.

Wine labels present a particular challenge to commercial designers. The relatively small size of these labels does not leave much room for error. Failing to engage the viewer at a glance is the primary downfall of wine label designers but as you can see, there are many ways to correct this shortcoming.

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Lauren Hill has always had a fascination with graphic design and the science behind consumer buying patterns. She loves sharing her knowledge through her writing for Maverick Label.

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Jan 2, 2014

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What’s Next In Wine?

What’s Next in American Wine?

The wine industry is expanding seemingly by the day. Between consumers increasingly choosing wine over beer for the first time in our nations history to younger, more affluent consumers choosing wine at increasingly younger ages, we are entering what very well might be the golden age of wine in America. While most consumers know that wines from California are good and that NapaValley makes some of the best wine in the world, many have to wonder-what’s next?

Washington State:

While Oregon is typically considered the second best state when it comes to wine production, the state of Washington has surpassed its southern neighbor in terms of overall production, as well as overall quality. I think 2014 is the year when people outside the wine industry start to recognize that the best replacement for your favorite California wines if they get too expensive, doesn’t come from Spain or France, it comes from Washington.

The Rise of Innovation:

France has always dictated exactly what grapes can be planted in certain vineyard regions and even in specific vineyards. California doesn’t have rules, but the high cost consumers are willing to pay for Cabernet Sauvignon tends to lead to ever increasing plantings on high end there. Of course the Languedoc in France and Paso Robles in California are the regions two most successful stories of late, largely because of their high levels of innovation. In 2014 we are bound to see wine regions throughout the world try and convince winemakers, vineyard owners and growing regions to allow a wider set of grapes to be planted, all the while encouraging innovation in terms of winemaking technique and much more.

Rhone Varietals:

In the 1980’s the standard Rhone varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussane and Marsanne) were basically extinct in California as total plantings had stalled out around 1,000 acres of vineyards. Now? They’re the hot thing in California wine, specifically those made in cool climate vineyards. I think we’ll see more and more wine regions across the country look to Rhone varietals when they first start planting their grapes. We’re seeing it in Arizona and New Mexico and I think you’ll see the same thing happen in Nevada, Texas and in other warmer climates that really can’t grow Cabernet or Merlot that’s ever going to compete with NapaValley, or Bordeaux.

Go Local:

We’re seeing more and more regions throughout the country have a local wine industry and more and more people have a local winery that they like. That’s changing and while so many people think that California wine regions are scared by the change, that’s not true by any means at all. Instead California wineries know that when people begin drinking wine regularly, eventually their palates will expand enough that paying $50 or more for a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, makes perfect sense. We’ll continue to see more and more trained winemakers moving home, to craft good wines at really interesting and affordable prices, only a few blocks away from home.

By Mark Aselstine

Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club based in San Francisco. He travels throughout the west coast wine regions searching for small production, affordable high quality wines for his wine club and gift basket customers.

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Dec 29, 2013

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5 Tips For Serving Wine Correctly

If you are holding a dinner party it is important to pay attention to the way you present and serve food and drinks. Wine is one of the best drinks to serve at a dinner party because it is often universally liked.

There are also a lot of great wines out there that compliment different foods in a really nice way. Here are five clever tips to help you serve wine correctly.

1. Use The Right Glasses

The first thing you should keep in mind is to ensure that you have the right wine glasses. You don’t necessarily need to have different glasses for white and red wine.

The key is to have a specific glass for champagne and a different one for wines since champagne really requires a tall and thin glass.

More than anything else, make sure that you serve wine from clean glasses. This isn’t a vanity issue; the taste can change quite dramatically if the glass is greasy or stained.

2. Learn To Open The Bottle

Opening a wine bottle isn’t necessarily easy, especially when you are serving a wine bottle with a wooden cork. The last thing you want is to spoil the taste of the wine by corking it or hitting someone with the cork.

Never point the bottle at a person, especially when opening a bottle of sparkling wine.

Keep the bottle upright and remove the foil to below the lip of the bottle to avoid contamination from the foil. You should then hold the lower end of the bottle and gently rotate the bottle instead of rotating the cork.

3. The Right Pouring Order

It is also important that you pour the wine in the right order. First make sure you know who wanted to drink which wine in the first place. Then start pouring the wine for the guests by serving the ladies first.

If you have an older woman among your guests always start from her. After you have served the ladies proceed around the table clockwise. Remember to have a cloth at hand that you can use to dry the bottleneck after each pouring.

4. Decant Vintage Wines

There are a lot of differing opinions when it comes to decanting the wine. Some people prefer to do it with all wines and some rather not do it with any. As a general rule if you are using vintage wines it is a good idea to decant them according to Vintage Wine Gifts website, for instance.

Naturally decanting your wine is also a great way to present the wine in your lovely decanter or carafe.

5. The Right Temperature

You also need to make sure you serve the wine at the right temperature. The general rule is that white wine should be served chilled and red wine at room temperature.

There are more detailed tips for serving at the right temperature on the website. If you are unsure it is better to serve wine just a little bit cold instead of ending up serving it too warm.

The above tips can help you serve wine the right way at your next dinner party. It will show the guests that you have paid attention to detail and will make the experience a little bit more special.

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Nathan is a huge wine lover and he is always on the lookout for great wines. He also loves to host dinner parties and meet up with his friends over great food. He also loves to spend time reading more about philosophy.

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Sep 30, 2013

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Foods That Complement Different Types Of Chardonnay Wines

The Chardonnay wine is a popular form of white wine in the United States. The beverage is brewed from green grapes. These wines were first manufactured in the burgundy district of France where they’re a common sight today. They can be brewed all over the world, all thanks to the flexibility and greater adaptability of the grape family to different environments and climate types.

Why Is It Special?

Chardonnay wines carry different aroma notes, flavors and shades. Often, several restaurant owners use “buttery” as a prefix to this wine, on their menu cards. Chardonnay derives this title, owning to its smooth texture and silky taste. Some of the finest pieces are brewed in California. They’re fermented for several years, in a wooden barrel and hence, carry a tannic, full-bodied, oak-aged, crispy and rich taste.

The quality of grapes used for manufacturing a wine determines its flavor. Therefore, if you make the wrong choice, you’ll get a totally different taste in the future. Wines made from Chardonnay grapes or Melon de Bourgogne grapes are outstanding choices for fine dining. They’re crisp, aromatic and light-flavored.

Chardonnay & Food Choices

There’s a popular saying that Chardonnay is meant for chavs nevertheless, connoisseurs who have had a taste of this premium wine, know that it’s a spectacular sight to behold on the dinner table. This white burgundy wine complements seafood and most Italian dishes. Are you planning to serve Chardonnay for your Christmas dinner? Read on to learn more about foods that complement different Chardonnay wines.

Mature Barrel Fermented Beverage:

These drinks are barrel-fermented for 3 to 8 years hence they’re mature in taste. They acquire a thick creamy or nutty texture that calls for low-fat, delicate and iodine-rich dishes like roast chicken, roast shellfish, grilled or seared scallops and lobster, guinea fowl, sea bass, hazelnut-crusted chicken, white truffles, wild mushrooms and fennel puree.

Full-Bodied, Barrel Fermented, Oak-Aged Drinks:

These wines are brewed in New Zealand, California or Australia. Being fine and crispy in texture, they’re served within 3 years of purchase. They go well with seasonal salads containing summer vegetables like corn, red peppers, pumpkins or butternut squash, rich non-vegetarian dishes like grilled veal chops, fine fish, turbot, steak béarnaise and egg benedict.

Lightly Oaked, Chardonnays With A Fruity Flavor:

This wine is prepared on moderate to slightly warm temperatures and mixed with peach or melon fruit juices. They’re prime specialties of South Africa, Chile, France and New Zealand. They’re good for digestion and function as amazing companions to Caesar salads, cheese-based salads, chicken salads, pork, chicken, fish cakes, fish pie, buttery sauces, creamy pastas, mild curries, macadamia nuts and fruits like mango or peach.

Unoaked, Young Chardonnay:

This drink is prepared at a cool temperature. It complements the taste of creamy vegetable soups, steamed or grilled dishes, fish, crabs, prawns, fish pates, fish chops, vegetable terrines, grilled chicken, spring vegetables, risotto and pastas.

Say No To:

Seared or smoked fish like tuna or salmon, smoked meats, fresh cheese, goat meat, sheep meat and tomato based dishes. Never serve these dishes with Chardonnay wines.

Expert Insight:

Some of the best choices include– Bernardus Chardonnay (2005), Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay (2004), Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Reserve (2004), Raymond R Chardonnay (2004), La Crema Sonoma Chardonnay (2005) and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars KARIA Chardonnay (2005).

Apart from offering a savory taste, Chardonnay wines have several health benefits, if you take them with the right food. So, consult your nutritionists, look for the best wine collection and arrange a romantic dinner to please your loved ones.

Jonathan Keys is a wine connoisseur for ten years. He writes articles about different wines from different countries and enjoys giving out his tips and ideas. If clients wish to know more about pinot gris, learn the roots of shiraz or simply find an Australian wine , he always share his thoughts and brilliant insights.

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Sep 27, 2013

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The Growing Trend Of Home Brewing

There’s a real trend at the moment for getting back to basics and resisting the relentless march of consumerism when it comes to the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the ways we have fun. That’s why certain pockets of young people are getting so keen on activities like baking and gardening and why they are so drawn by vintage fashion.

Second hand shops are enjoying a bit of a revival under the vintage culture boom and it’s not uncommon to find young people sharing the vintage boutiques, charity shops, record shops and second hand book stores with older counterparts who were ‘there the first time round’ so to speak.

The revival of traditions

In a bid to make their lives more interesting and to exercise a bit more control over what they are eating and drinking, educated young couples, individuals and groups of mates are doing things for themselves – getting more into traditional activities like baking that have a social element as well as satisfying a personal drive to learn new skills and be more proactive in an everyday manner.

Home brewing

The same can be said of home brewing – a hobby that is being taken up by more and more young guys. It’s something they can share with the elder statesmen in their family, but it’s something they can also share with their mates and it acts as the perfect accompaniment for the baking, haberdashery and crafts enjoyed by so many girlfriends, wives and female friends.
The crafty side of the vintage movement probably appeals slightly more to women than men, but plenty of guys are able to find their place in this little subculture. Activities like home brewing are definitely among the favourite hobbies for vintage-styled and foodie blokes, given them a chance to delve into something new and get creative and statistical.

A finished product

It’s great when you’re able to see a finished product after putting a bit of creative effort into a hobby too. Some clever guys manage to do this by working with their hands but others aren’t so technically minded, in which case it’s good to get into the kitchen or the cellar instead to learn more about food and ales.

Launch parties!

Of course, all this takes place against a very sociable backdrop. Food and drink are for sharing – even more so when they are the product of your own hard work. As such, what better excuse is there for throwing a party than celebrating the launch of a brand new home brew, perhaps with some home baking to line the stomach?!

You never know where your interest in home brewing might take you. You might even get so good at it that you are able to sell some of your own concoctions! It has been known in the world of baking for people to end up making a bit of money from something that started out as a hobby that they realised had the potential to be something so much more!

Harry Porter got hold of a beer kit from and he and his mates have since created some great flavours to share around.

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Aug 29, 2013

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3 Wine Regions You Should Know

Every year, we see wine increasingly gaining market share in the United States, as well as around the world. That increase in market has meant that more and more regions around the world are attempting to cash in by growing grapes and producing wine. While almost anyone who has ever opened a bottle of wine can tell you that Napa Valley and Bordeaux produce outstanding wine, can they also tell you where to find less expensive choices that will also provide some outstanding wine? Here’s a list of wine regions to check out if you want something that is both high quality as well as slightly unexpected.

Mendocino County, California:

When it comes to the upper echelon of California wine, most people recognize Napa Valley first and then Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles in some order after that. Mendocino is working hard to join that second tier of wine producers by focusing both on long standing local grapes like Zinfandel and their Coro Zinfandel program (a unique European style collective that brings together a common price point and production method to try and produce a wine that is recognizable with Mendocino County) as well as a range of other wines like the ubiquitous Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mendocino has an added advantage over it’s more famous southern neighbors (Napa Valley and Sonoma) in that visitors can enjoy an element of old, small town California and the beach while tasting their wine.

Languedoc France:

Located on the southern Mederritean coast, Languedco is home to one of the most progressive wine regions in all of France. Unlike other regions in the country, Languedoc does not have a wide number of laws which govern exactly what grapes can be grown and what wines can be produced in the region. The best wines are often produced from Merlot as well as the Rhone varietals of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. The difference in price between a Merlot from Languedco and one from Bordeaux is truly striking, often in the range of fifty dollars for the same quality of wine. The difference between a GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre) blend in Languedoc versus that from the Rhone Valley isn’t as striking, but it can run $20 or more per bottle. If you’re someone trying to enjoy French wine for the first time, finding a range of wines from the Languedoc is an interesting way to enjoy the country’s wine, without breaking the bank.


Ok, so I’m hedging a bit by listing a whole country here instead of a wine region, but I wanted to focus on a Southern American country that is primed to produce some outstanding wine. Part of the reason for the rise in domestic production is the larger world wide move into wine from beer and hard alcohol and some of it is without a doubt local, Brazil is a great tourist destination and frankly a great place to enjoy life. It’s also home to the world’s 10th largest economy and a large enough domestic population to support businesses that don’t export anything. Plus, the country has long been a farming hot spot in South America, while importing a ton of Chilean and Argentinean wine. At some point all of these factors will truly come together and Brazil will take it’s place among the elite wine producers in South America.

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Mark Aselstine is the owner of Uncorked Ventures, an online wine club focused on delivering the highest quality wine in the industry. Based just outside San Francisco, he wishes he had more time to travel to see these incredible new wine regions for himself, especially the beaches of Brazil!

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Jul 1, 2013

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Choosing the Right Wine Glass: White and Sparkling Wines

Wine glasses come in many different shapes to suit the unique qualities of many different kinds of wine. Although wine tumblers have increased in popularity for room temperature wines, chilled white and sparkling wines continue to benefit from the temperature-maintaining properties of stemware.

White and Red Wines

White wines are served in glasses which have smaller bowls and narrower mouths than do red wine glasses. White wine glasses may also be smaller overall. This is because white wines are not improved by aeration, and can deteriorate in the glass, making it desirable to serve a smaller amount at a time, while limiting the surface area of the wine in the glass. In addition, white wines are usually served chilled, and the narrower bowl and reduced surface area help to maintain this temperature. White wine glasses may also have longer stems than do red wine glasses, in order to encourage holding the stem while drinking to minimize the effect of body heat on the temperature of the wine.


Champagne has the distinction of having two completely different glass styles associated with it. While tall, narrow Champagne flutes predominate, you do still sometimes see Gatsby-style Champagne saucers or coupes.

Champagne coupes are those wide, shallow, stemmed glasses that stack so nicely into Champagne towers for festive occasions. These glasses originated in the 17th century, but are associated primarily with the social scene of the Roaring Twenties. Although it is fun to watch an entire pyramid of glasses overflow into each other in a fizzy show of cheer, the coupe has largely fallen out of favor, since the wide, shallow shape allows so much of the characteristic carbonation of Champagne and other sparkling wines to dissipate in the air. However, it may have held more appeal in eras when sparkling wines were sweeter than today, as the coupes wide mouth promotes sipping, which delivers the sweet and tart flavors over the tip and sides of the tongue.

Champagne Flute

The Champagne flute is about as different from the coupe as is possible. The long, narrow glass of a Champagne flute magnifies all of the properties of a standard white wine glass: the small mouth and narrow bowl minimize surface area, and the smaller glass size and long stem preserve the chilled temperature at which sparkling wines are served. Some Champagne flutes are subtly belled in a ‘tulip shape’ that concentrates the bouquet of the Champagne at the mouth, similar to the function served by the belling of a Burgundy glass.

A notable characteristic that sets the Champagne flute apart is the exaggerated height of the bowl. The tall ‘flute’ of a Champagne glass provides room for any ‘head’ that might gather from the fizzy bottles; although it is desirable to pour sparkling wine in a way that minimizes any splash or froth. The height of a Champagne flute requires the drinker to tip back their head and elevate the flute when drinking, which delivers the sparkling wine further back on the tongue, offsetting the dryness of modern sparkling wines while maximizing the drinker’s experience of the signature carbonation.

Whether you choose to stock as many wine glass shapes as you can afford and find room for, or are happy with one or two types of stemware, it is helpful to know why there are so many to choose from and what they are intended for!

Clara Smith is an author of numerous works on food and wine. Her winemaker notes on Taylor Estate Chardonnay are a few of the hundred wine descriptions she did. Smith also specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations.

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May 29, 2013

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De-mystifying The Wine Buying Experience

Foodies and wine aficionados will probably agree that pairing the right wine with a meal is crucial to the overall experience of dining. While there are definitely those people out there who are not terribly interested in what the experts have to say about a particular wine, choosing the right beverage for a particular meal is important, especially the person is looking to impress business associates, guests, or even a date. Although picking out the perfect bottle may seem like an insurmountable task for novices, it actually isn’t really all that difficult to pick the perfect wine if a person understands a few of the basics.

If you don’t know much about wine trying to find the right bottle to bring to a dinner party, or ordering wine on a dinner date, can be stressful, to say the least.  There are so many different factors to consider: winery, region, type, color, and age.  The list could go on, but there are really only four things you need to know in order to pick a good wine for any occasion.

What’s For Dinner?

Even if you don’t know anything about wine, you probably know that different wines go with different types of food.  The main distinction is between light or heavy meals.  Generally speaking, lighter wines go well with lighter food and heavier wines work with heavier foods.  So if you’re eating something like chicken, pork, fish or light, creamy sauces, you would drink white wine.  If you’re having beef, game or tomato sauces you’ll want red wine.  And if spicy foods are what’s for dinner, a sweet wine works well with that.

Where Was Your Wine Born?

How the grapes taste, which ultimately means how the wine will taste, depends a lot on the soil they were grown in.  That means that wines from different regions will have different tastes.  When deciding on which region’s wine you want to drink, you’ll also want to consider how old the wine industry is there.  France, Germany and Italy have been making wine for centuries so they definitely tend to put out an exceptional product.  But some “newer” wine producing countries like the United States and Australia also make some mighty fine wine.  In the end, it comes down to the grapes and what your particular tastes are.

What Kind Of Grape Is It?

There’s a fancy word in the wine world called varietal, which basically means that a wine was made from a certain variety of grape.  When you see names like Merlot or Chardonnay, that refers to the grape used to make the wine.  It’s not that complicated and which kind you choose will depend on what you like.

Age Doesn’t Always Matter

When you hear people talk about a wine’s vintage all they’re really talking about is the year the wine was produced.  Some years are better than others because of weather conditions, which is why people will often to refer to the quality of a certain year.  As far as how old a wine has to be before you drink it, it’s not what you think. Not every wine improves with age, and even the ones that do, don’t need to be aged for a long time.  Red wines are usually better with some aging while you don’t really need to wait to drink most white and sparkling wines.

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The Community Manager of website, Stephanie Frasco, wrote this post about pairing wine and food.

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Mar 11, 2013

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Sweet Dessert Wines

Sweet Dessert Wines

What is a Dessert Wine?

If you are limiting yourself to only the traditional red and white wines, you are leaving a whole world
of delicious new wine flavors at the door. After you finish up with your dinner or meal, a glass of sweet dessert wine could be the perfect palette cleanser that pleases your taste buds. The subtle sweet flavors are simply delightful for a post-dinner treat. And best of all, dessert wine can be enjoyed by itself or paired with a piece of chocolate cake, pie or any other dessert that you please.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what defines a “dessert wine.” While you may have
heard of them before, chances are you don’t know the true meaning of the term. In the UK, dessert
wines refer to a very broad range of wines that are consumed after a meal. There’s no standard or
regulation stating what rules they must adhere to; therefore, you’ll find hundreds of different dessert wines in the UK with various flavors, textures and aromas. In the US, however, a bottle of wine can only legally be labeled as “desert” if it possesses over 14% alcohol by volume.

Dessert wines tend to have a higher alcohol content, but they are generally much sweeter than your
traditional bottle of red or white wine. During the wines’ production, makers add a greater amount of sugar or honey during the fermentation process. This sugar naturally turns to alcohol, which leads to the higher proof associated with dessert wines. After sipping on a glass of dessert wine, you’ll likely notice a higher sweetness that’s not found in traditional wine.

The Best Sweet Wines

So, what are the best types of dessert wines on the market? There’s no easy answer to this question, as it really depends on your personal preference. With that said, it’s usually best to identify what you are going to be snacking on for dessert and then choosing a wine to compliment the flavors. For instance, a bottle of Rosenblum Cellars Chocolate Dessert Wine would go well with a piece of chocolate cake. On the other hand, a more acidic dessert wine would compliment the flavors of an ice cream dessert. Think about what your plans are for dessert and choose a wine that’s going to work with the ingredients.

If you aren’t sure on what type of dessert wine to enjoy after dinner, don’t be afraid to visit a local
liqueur store in your area and ask one of the attendants for help. Most mom-and-pop liqueur stores will be more than happy to offer guidance on a good bottle of dessert wine. When in doubt, purchase a couple bottles and pour a glass of each. As long as there are a couple other people enjoying dinner with you, these bottles should be drank without much of a problem. Besides, who’s going to turn down free wine?

Hopefully this will give you a better understanding on dessert wine and how to choose. Remember, it’s both sweeter and contains a significantly higher alcohol content, so only drink it in moderation.

Bill Sweat is a passionate wine lover, who one day decided to start writing regularly on wine-related matters. Currently Bill works and writes for Wine Refrigerator Now, a wine blog and wine cooler shop. Bill’s articles can be seen on the onsite blog as well as the company’s Tumblr profile.

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Mar 1, 2013

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How To Make Homemade Wine

Like many things we’ve come to love today, wine was probably first created by accident. But, a good accident at that! In theory, wine making is simple. Yeast meet grape juice in an environment that allows fermentation. And voilà! Over the years, the process of making wine has been refined and the environment controlled to the point of being both a science and an art.

The best and most eloquent wines come from a vineyard out in Napa Valley or near the Finger Lakes. However, this recipe calls for basic wine, which is certainly not for connoisseurs. However, making it is a lot of fun! And it’s much easier than you may think. For the most part, it takes a couple of household products, some serious cleanliness and whole a lot of patience.

Ingredients You Will Need

When it comes to making homemade wine, these are the household products you will need:

  • 3 cans of fruit concentrate (i.e. grape, strawberry, etc.) as long as it doesn’t contain any preservatives, which will inhibit fermentation
  • 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar
  • One gallon container, an empty milk jug will do just fine
  • A couple balloons
  • Water, not distilled, tap water will do just fine
  • A pin to make 3-10 holes in the balloon
  • One packet of champagne yeast

In addition to these items, it would be in your benefit to have a measuring cup, rubber band, a siphoning hose (any piece of thin tube will do) and a funnel.

Sterilize Everything Carefully

Before you begin making wine, you must sterilize everything carefully. This includes your one-gallon container and all your utensils. This will help to keep unwanted bacteria away from your wine ferments. The easiest way to sanitize everything is by putting them in the dishwasher at the highest temperature setting. Or, you can hand wash the container and each utensil with detergent, followed by bleach.

Making Homemade Wine

First, add the room-temperature juice concentrate to a clean, dry one-gallon milk container. However, mix two cans of tap water rather than three like the package indicates. This is because the yeast will eat a lot of the sugar, thus calling for more concentrate than normal juice to make the concoction even remotely sweet. This is where the funnel will come in handy. Next, add ½ cup sugar to the jug and shake vigorously with the cap on.

In a separate bowl, activate the yeast by dissolving one teaspoon of sugar to ¼ cup of lukewarm water. Add yeast and let it sit for ten minutes. Add the yeast to the jug and again, shake vigorously. Once the juice and yeast are properly mixed, you must quickly move on to the next step. Remove the cap from the jug and replace it with a perforated balloon so that CO2 cannot escape. Secure the balloon with a rubber band. During the entire process, it’s important to keep the jug covered in between uses to minimize possible contamination.

Now You Wait

Your homemade wine should start to bubble after a few days. If not, throw it away and start again using more sanitary equipment. If so, wait ten to 14 days when the mixture goes from cloudy to clear. Then transfer into a smaller, more delicate bottle, carefully leaving the sediment on the bottom of the first bottle. Please drink responsibly, and enjoy your homemade wine!!

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Mary Richardson is a freelance writer and professional wine maker. At the vineyard, they use professional equipment, like a RO membrane, to make and sanitize their wine. However, nothing compares to making wine the old-fashioned way!

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Feb 27, 2013

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Fancy A Home Brew?

Fancy A Home Brew?

The last time you went to a pub or restaurant and ordered your favourite bottle of wine or pint of beer, did you have the ‘I could make it at home for much less’ conversation? Of course, when you are drinking socially in these establishments you know they need to make a profit on their products. But it is easy to feel resentful having to pay such high prices. Supermarkets are cheaper because you aren’t sitting in their premises sipping the stuff, but even so, wine or beer lovers can start to feel as though their indulgence is becoming more and more of a luxury.
The concept of home brewing has been around for many years, with canny drinkers realising that making their own is much more cost effective. It can prove something of an enjoyable hobby too. While this industry is by no means new, it has been given a new lease of life by the internet, with websites offering a range of ingredients for wines, beers, lagers, stouts and liqueurs, plus all the equipment you could ever need as well as expert advice.
How to get started
Some people are put off making their own brews and wine, as they think they need lots of complicated equipment and ingredients. But you don’t go out and buy new saucepans every time you cook a meal, do you? In the same way, once you have invested in the right equipment then you are set up to carry on making your own over and over again.
What is it like?
So is it all worth it? Those who make their own home brew know there’s nothing nicer than having a good beer on tap when you fancy a pint. Whether you like real ale, lager or stout, there is a selection of kits out there and you can then move on to doing the whole thing yourself. It’s not as complicated as you might think. For wine drinkers, making your own wine is a good alternative to stocking up on expensive supermarket wines or joining a wine club. You’ll have a full wine rack of delicious, homemade wine that’s packed with handpicked fruits and your visitors will soon be lapping it up.
Many people make their own wine and beer for the financial savings, but the main impulse for doing so is that it is fun. You can experiment and try and make drinks to suit your individual taste.

Clive Davies has been making his own wine and beer for more than 20 years and sources ingredients and equipment from

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Feb 26, 2013

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Driving Around The Yarra Valley Wine Region

Driving Around The Yarra Valley Wine Region

If you are bored and exhausted from the daily grind, take a break and to escape to Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia, a virtual paradise for the tired body, mind and soul. You can enjoy great nature views, bush land adventures, trekking on rolling hills and many more fun activities. The valley is less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne and will take you back in time into a magical old-world era with its mist-cloaked forests, picturesque villages and famous vineyards.

Relax and Let it all Soak In

Start off the rest and recreation by drinking Devonshire tea, perched high up in the Dandenong ranges. Enjoy a full-course meal at a winery restaurant or set up a picnic lunch near the waterfalls. You can then cruise on a steam train as it chugs serenely through the mysterious Sherbrook Forest. Needless to say, you will need more than a weekend to enjoy it all, without rushing anything in this compact, romantic and relaxed region.

View from the Clouds

To get a bird’s eye view of the valley, go high up into the sky on a hot air balloon or helicopter. If your soul mate is with you, then you can try romance, up in the sky, on a themed balloon ride which comes with a bottle of wine. Take a deep breath to soak in the magnificent view and then start clicking mind-boggling photographs of flower farms, wineries and orchards from high up above.

Get Heady on the Wondrous Wine

The valley hosts 40 wineries of all sizes from small ones owned by families to huge estates. Here, you can imbibe and enjoy Australia’s finest sparkling and cool-climate wines. Get tips from a wine-tasting expert on how exactly to enjoy the drinks. Taste the flavors of Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Australian Riesling. You will soon discover why Australia is creating its own niche and brand name among wine lovers.

Food for Thought

Life in Yarra Valley is all about relaxed enjoyment. So for lunch, visit one the famous vineyard restaurants to savor the views, wine, cheese platter and great food. Connoisseurs of fine food and drink will love it here in February during the Yarra Valley Grape Grazing Festival during which top chefs of the area host feasts which is enjoyed with live music. This region is also famous for its scrumptious local produce such as pastas, handmade cheese, organic fruits and vegetables, chestnuts and hazelnuts, ice creams, caviar and trout, and freshwater salmon.

Head for the Heady Dandenong Ranges

I packed my hamper with fresh food from the many markets or the Yarra Valley Regional Food Trail and headed in my Lancer for the Dandenong Ranges which host fairytale forests, flowery gardens and picturesque hilltop villages. At the National Rhododendron Gardens, you can spread your sheet and enjoy a meal next to colorful and bouncy azaleas, rhododendrons and daffodils. The Dandenong Ranges National Park is resplendent with misty ash forests and lush green gullies. Afterwards, you can shop for antique treasures at the Sassafras, Mt Dandenong and Olinda villages.

More Delights to Experience

You can check out the ceramic sculptures of Aboriginal Dreamtime figures at William Ricketts Sanctuary. Wildlife enthusiasts can bask in the flora and fauna of Healesville Sanctuary which hosts more than two hundred species of bush animals. With some luck, you can come across a platypus, eagle, kangaroo, wombat, emu or dingo. The sanctuary also runs a hospital for animals. If chasing wild animals is too hectic for you, just choose to relax and imbibe the therapeutic properties at the day spa in Yarra Glen.

Peek into Aboriginal Culture

Near the wildlife sanctuary is located the Galeena Beek Living Cultural Centre. This is a perfect place for those curious to know about the cultural heritage and life of the native aboriginal people of this area.

Where to Stay

There are many places where you can stay overnight and get ready for the next day’s adventures and delights. You can choose from boutique accommodations, mist-shrouded cottages in the Dandenong Ranges or a charming bed and breakfast place close to the vineyards.

Yarra Valley Cottages

These are luxurious and premium cottages with one to three bedrooms. They are perfect for group travelers and families. Though they offer many specialized facilities, the prices are pretty reasonable. The highlights of these cottages are shady patios, spa baths and spacious living rooms. Some cottages are located in a winery or on a hill-top, thus offering breathtaking views of nature. Some private cottages offer outdoor BBQ facilities, dinner tables and swimming pools.

Yarra Valley Motels

These motels provide good value for money as they are affordable and yet offer a range of amenities that can be compared to resorts and star hotels. You can choose from a wide variety of rooms that cater to the requirements of both business travelers and leisure tourists. Another advantage is many motels are located close to the major tourist attractions thus giving you easy and quick access to them. Some motels offer complimentary meals and breakfast. If you have special food requirements, you can inform the motel management and they certainly will take care of it.

Winery Accommodation

For an authentic experience of Yarra Valley, you can choose to stay in a winery accommodation. These establishments offer luxurious amenities and some even host coffee shops and fine-dine restaurants. There are special wedding suites exclusively reserved for honeymooners. At any winery accommodation, you can enjoy traditional Australian gourmet food and the finest wines. Thus, you can experience the tranquility and serenity of the Yarra Valley wine region by staying at an ultra-modern winery accommodation.

Luxury Accommodation

For the well-heeled tourist, Yarra Valley offers plenty of luxury accommodation units. These places distinguish themselves by offering special amenities like in-room dining choices, massage services and spa centers. Most of them are located near the popular tourist attractions.

Five-Star Accommodation

You can choose from spa heritage hotels, plush cottages, cozy villas and self-contained apartments. The highlights of these units are spa bath, plush furnishings and kitchenette with a fantastic selection of wines from the region. Thus, you are assured of privacy, personalized services and luxury that guarantee a comfortable stay. Some places offer walking tracks, mini-golf courses and amusement centers for children.

Kirsty Hughes loves touring wine regions and has gone on a lot of wine tours in France. She’s now hoping to visit the wine region north of Sydney, Australia.

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Feb 26, 2013

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Maybe You Should Reconsider That Glass Of Wine A Day

Maybe You Should Reconsider That Glass Of Wine A Day

Drinking red wine is good for your heart, right? Maybe it is, but it could, unfortunately, increase your risk of cancer. A recent study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (in the United States) has revealed that as little as one drink a day increases the risk of cancer.

It seems that some cancers are definitely alcohol-related and that in 2009, 3.5% of cancer deaths in the US could be attributed to alcohol consumption. It might not seem like a huge number, not in the grand scheme of things, but Dr. David Nelson, Director of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute, and one of the study authors, believes that the figure is too big to be ignored (cited by the Huffington Post).

Tobacco is the big killer

Tobacco gets a lot of attention as one of the biggest causes of cancer globally. Billions of dollars have been spent on awareness campaigns to make people realise the danger in each and every cigarette they smoke. As far as education goes, these campaigns have been successful. You’ll have to look hard to find someone who doesn’t know about the smoking-cancer link. It doesn’t necessarily make them want to stop smoking, but at least they’re making informed decisions.

By comparison, alcohol-cancer awareness programmes are virtually non-existent.

Like tobacco, alcohol doesn’t discriminate when it comes to cancer; men and women are equally affected. The difference is that alcohol is more likely to lead to breast cancer in women and more likely to lead to oral-type cancers in men. Tellingly, in 2009, alcohol was linked to 15% of all breast cancer deaths – something which should make women think twice about their evening tipple.

It’s not just alcohol

While one drink a day increases the risk of cancer, it’s when drinks go up to three a day that the danger really increases.

While the link between alcohol and cancer is nigh undeniable, other contributing factors can’t be ignored. People who drink excessively tend to be unhealthy in general. Dr. Nelson says that they tend to eat badly, smoke and probably lead sedentary lives. Put all three together and you have a cancer time bomb.

Don’t reach for the bottle opener yet

The Huffington Post article cites a number of other cancer specialists, including Dr. David H. Jernigan from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore. Dr. Jernigan says that women increase their risk of breast cancer the minute they pick up a drink.

Dr. Freya Schnable, New York University Cancer Center, says that women should know their family history of breast cancer before picking up a drink. If cancer runs in your family, you should consider replacing your glass of wine with grape juice and your beer with ginger beer.

But, if heart disease runs in your family, then it might make sense to have a glass of red wine five days out of seven.

As usual, you need to educate yourself about the risks and dangers before you make any serious decisions. You also need to follow the age-old advice of eating healthily and getting regular exercise. Good diet and exercise might not prevent cancer, but they can reduce the risk.

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Sandy Cosser writes for Skilled Migrant Jobs, a job board that helps immigrants find sponsorship jobs, such as those in healthcare, in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

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Dec 6, 2012

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Sip or store: How to decide if you should drink wine now or cellar it for later

Sip or store: How to decide if you should drink wine now or cellar it for later

Much like humans, not every wine will age gracefully, which is why it’s important to know how to decide whether to drink that prized bottle now or save it for later. If you’re looking for tips on what to keep in your wine cellar for a special day or what to take straight to the dinner table to accompany tonight’s dish, read on.

Check the little details before storage

There are certain elements that make some wines better for long-term cellaring than others. If these elements are unbalanced, faults may worsen with time, leaving you with undrinkable wine. Make note of the following before you put aside a bottle for storage:

  • Acid: Acidity is needed for any wine’s ageing process, but it shouldn’t be too overpowering at the start.
  • Alcohol: An obvious component, but check it doesn’t taste too much of alcohol, or else the wine may age badly.
  • Oak: Too much oak can have the potential to overpower any wine, especially after a long period of ageing.
  • Tannin: Strong tannin is overbearing and can outlast the fruit in a wine if it’s too strong from the start.

If any of these elements are off-balance, it’s best to drink the wine now before it has the chance to get any worse.

Know your varietals

It’s difficult to predict how a wine will age with exact precision, but there are some general tips when it comes to popular varietals and categories:


Merlot is known as one of the noble grape varieties and isn’t always soft and simple. It’s always best to drink less expensive Merlots quite quickly after you buy them, although a good quality Merlot has the potential to age between five and 25 years in storage.

Worth cellaring: Cullen `Mangan` Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon

Here’s a wine that was designed for ageing, but it all depends on the quality of the bottle you buy. Cabaret Sauvignons from Napa Valley in California and Bordeaux in France can improve drastically over decades, whereas an easy-drinking Cabaret Sauvignon will develop to its best potential over two or three years.

Worth cellaring: Grosset `Gaia` Cabernet Blend 2009


If you have a classic Hermitage in your grasp, don’t let it go – this beautiful wine can age up to 40 years, remaining intense and tannic. Syrah/Shiraz, either in blends or as a varietal on its own, has good maturing potential. Look for Côte Rôtie, which can age in your cellar for over 10 years.

Worth cellaring: De Bortoli `Reserve Release` Syrah 2010

Pinot Noir

Being a fickle grape, Pinots, particularly from California and New Zealand, tend to reach their peak at around seven to 10 years, although fine quality and expensive Burgundies can evolve beautifully over several decades.

Worth cellaring: Stonier `Reserve` Pinot Noir 2010


Riesling is the longest lived of all white wines and the best German Rieslings can age for decades and still taste great. Even young Rieslings can benefit from cellaring and are usually best drunk between two and 10 years, depending on where it’s from.

Worth cellaring: Grosset `Springvale` Watervale Riesling 2012


Chardonnays can outlast most other white wines in your cellar and you can usually tell how it will age by its price. It’s best to drink the cheaper Chardonnays soon after purchase and save the more expensive ones for storage.

Worth cellaring: Yeringberg Chardonnay 2008

Dessert Wines

Dessert wines with their high alcohol content are good for cellaring. Their good acidity and tannins mean they can easily outlive you (more than a 100 years), if you keep them long enough. But then who can resist a good dessert wine that long?

Worth cellaring: De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2009

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to drink wines under $30 straight away and cellar anything over that for a few years or more, depending on the individual elements. When you’re buying wine online, you’re often going to be presented with discounts, which don’t always mean the wine isn’t top quality. Keep your eyes peeled for a good online wine discount then check for tips on when it was bottled and how to store it. Visit GraysOnline to stock your cellar today.

GraysOnline is an Australian online retail and auction company, offering a huge range of consumer, industrial and commercial goods, direct from manufacturers and distributors.
For the discerning wine collector, take a look at our wide selection of vintage and non-vintage labels.

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Nov 27, 2012

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Romanian Wine: Emerging Once Again in 2013

Romanian Wine: Emerging Once Again in 2013

I’ve kindly been accepted to write here and as a British born, English raised child that has now lived in Romania for the last 14 years, I feel the need to spread the word about what are two of the best things about my adopted home; the unspoilt Romanian culture and the Romanian wine!

Romania: The Country

Firstly let me tell you a little about this remote European country, which is rarely visited by the Europeans let alone the Americans or Asians. Romania isn’t a tropical country, however it certainly enjoys more sunny fine days than rainy England. Sure, Romania has its problems and both economic & political issues are common knowledge. The level of corruption that exists in this country is a major problem, however this is the case for many of the Balkan countries in this region. These issues certainly hold the country back, ironically though this is partly the reason that Romania has managed to hold onto its charm and one of the reasons that the wine has remained fairly anonymous to the global wine community.

Romania reminds me of Scotland and this is a big compliment. Anyone who has visited this northern neighbour of England will know what I am talking about when I tell you that endless unspoilt peaks and valleys that change with the seasons spread as far as the eye can see. Unlike England, Romania hasn’t been farmed to the point where all it’s natural beauty has been lost, instead amongst many of the higher reaching mountains some of the only signs of life are small hamlets and the odd castle that holds tales of vampires and ghouls.

Romanian Wine

Along with rolling countryside the Romanian people produce one product that is more commonly synonymous with wealthier states like France. Romanian wine is a hidden gem that is still not widely accepted as a quality product. The fact that there are so few exporters within this poverty stricken nation means that most of the product is actually consumed within the country itself. As I write this in 2012 Romania is beginning to return to prominence and some of the wines that were starting to become known in the 1980’s before communism destroyed a lot of the country. The indigenous grapes of Romania are really starting to make a come back. Red Feteasca Neagra and White Tamaioasa Romaneasca are two Romanian grapes that are increasingly been grown by the local farmers in place of non-vitis vinifera grapes that were introduced during communist days. This return to what is indigenous to the country is having the right effect on quality and 2012 really has been a good year for the Romanian wine growers with exports expected to reach an all time high in 2013. 

Debbie has been writing on behalf of Romanian Wine producers for the past few months. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the country of Romania and also her passion for wine.

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Nov 24, 2012

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4 Factors to Consider for Wine Storage

4 Factors to Consider for Wine Storage

Becoming a wine enthusiast is a fun habit. You learn about taste, tannins and aroma. Where the wine falls on your palate will give you something to spend hours pondering. From the day the grape is born to the day you pour a glass, wine is ever evolving.

If wine is your new habit you may find the bottles accumulating on your kitchen counter. Trips to the local wine shop are becoming more frequent and you are spending more money there. You can only drink so much wine at once. Learning to store the wine is a valuable lesson for the wine enthusiast.  Check out this article to read more about how to start a wine collection.

Here are four factors to consider for long term storage of wine.

Keep Your Wine at the Right Temperature

When storing wine you need to be sure that you are controlling the temperature. The kitchen is probably the worst place that you can store your wine. The fluctuating temperature can damage the wine. You want to keep the wine at a constant temperature of 55 degrees. A cool, dark closet is perfect. The wine can rest without the liquid expanding from heat or contracting from cold.

Keep the Lights Off

When storing wine, keep it in a location where you are not turning the light on and off frequently. You do not want to place wine in a closet or basement with a window. The sun can cause wine to age before it’s time. Choose incandescent bulbs over fluorescent lighting due to the heat that fluorescent lights tend to give off.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Do not sweat the wine. There is a delicate balance that you need to establish between humid and dry. A storage space that is too humid will promote mold, which destroys the wine. A storage space that is too dry will cause the cork to dry out and can let air into the bottle or cause the wine to leak. A climate controlled space is your best choice. Keeping the wine comfortable and keeping the cork moist is one of the main reasons that people store their wine on its side for long term storage.

Choose the Right Wine for Storage

There is a huge difference between Yellowtail and Veuve Clicquot. Both taste great, in the right circumstance. However, there is no denying that Veuve Clicquot is much higher quality. When you are choosing wine for long term storage you want to be sure that it is high quality. The type of wine is a great starting point for consideration for storage. Wines good for storage include:

  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling
  • Cabernet
  • Champagne

How to Choose the Right Storage Space

Knowing these four facts, you now need to determine where to store your wine. If you have an extra closet in your basement, that could be perfect for long term storage of wine. Adding a climate control system is imperative to keep the wine at the right temperature and reduce changes in humidity. If you are only going to be storing a few bottles then you may want to invest in a wine fridge to keep in the dining room.

If you are a true wine enthusiast, but you do not have a lot of space, you should look into renting a self-storage unit. You will be able to control the factors that affect wine storage and you will be able to expand your collection. Start out with a few shelves and add to the collection weekly or monthly. Once you get started collecting and learning about wine; it may be hard to stop.

Enjoy your new passion for wine.

Image by tribp and licensed through Creative Commons. 

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Paul Benjamin works for EZ Storage, a company providing Philadelphia self storage for both commercial and residential needs. 

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Nov 17, 2012

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The Wines of Argentina

The Wines of Argentina

The Rise of Argentine Wines

Many Argentina wineries are making the scene throughout the world today, as modernization and world influence mold and perfect this century old art in the high altitudes of this country. One such winery producing “high wines in high country” are those of Dona Paula.

Dona Paula Winery located in Ugarteche, Lujan de Cuyo, in Mendoza, Argentina produces estate wines from vineyards in the region. Mendoza has a climate favorable to wine grape production, with temperatures hot in the summers and cold during winter months, for optimum climate for the vineyards.

Vineyards contributing to the Dona Paula wines consist of Finca El Alto in Ugarteche, Villa Alluvia in Gualtallary, Villa the Cherry, Tupungato and Finca Los Indios in Altamira. Finca El Alto brings to the table the vineyards “Mother Vines”, and is considered the main base for this vineyard, with vines well over 40 years old. Soils from this vineyard produce the round and concentrated sweet tannins in the malbecs produced in these vineyards. Villa Alluvia was recently planted and is located at the highest altitude and chosen for its soil content, producing excellent minerality, firm tannins and complex aromas for their Malbec grapes.

The Villa the Cherry Vineyards, located close to the Andes, brings the vines the coldest temperatures, ideal for their Sauvignon Blanc. Soils here are what bring the crisp acidity and floral notes to the wines. Lastly, the Finca Los Indios vineyards were specifically chosen for production of Malbec grapes. Located at over 3000 ft. above sea level, with deep sands soil, the Malbecs produced from these grapes are complex, with firm tannins, producing wines that age well over many years.

Here are some of the excellent wines from this winery and region.

Dona Paula Estate Malbec

This Malbec is produced from grapes hand harvested the first week of April, followed by cold maceration, then fermented at low temperature, followed by ageing in French oak for ten months. You will immediately perceive the fresh violet, spice and black fruits on the nose, with a fresh balance of fruit, soft tannins and a long finish on the palate.

Dona Paula Estate Chardonnay

The Chardonnay grapes for this wine are produced on the Alluvia farm in Gualtallary, where warm days and cold nights produce grapes that will reward your palate with fresh, crisp, balanced acidity. They are harvested during the first week of March, pressed and cold fermented in stainless steel, then French oak for six to eight months. The color is a golden yellow, and you will be greeted by pleasant citrus on the nose followed by tropical fruits and spice on your palate.

Dona Paula Estate Torrontes

The Torrontes grapes created for this wine were grown in the Cafayate Valley in Salta, Northern Argentina at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Very hot days and cold chilly nights produce perfect climate for the growth and development of this fruit. A special process is needed to produce this wine, starting with the harvests, which are done at three different times a year. In February grapes harvested produce freshness and acidity. March brings its floral notes, and April the tropical aroma. The harvested grapes are gently de-stemmed, and the juice is separated without pressing. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks at lower temperatures produces a fine wine of deep golden yellow, with aromas of orange blossom, tropical fruit and Muscat, with mild acidity and well balanced.

Dona Paula Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The grapes for this fine Cabernet Sauvignon were grown in Finca El Alto in Ugarteche with its fine clay soils, warm days and cool evenings. They were hand harvested the first week of April, de-stemmed gently with the juice cold macerated to give longevity to the primary aromas. For twelve months, ageing is done in French barrels. The results are found in the glass, with its intense red ruby color, picking up aromas of spice, black fruits, pepper and graphite. On your palate you get
the concentration of fruit, good strong tannin and a lengthy finish.

Gary Peterson is a passionate wine lover and wine author, and writes many articles for blogs and various other publications. This includes Wine Refrigerator Now, an online fridge unit store and active blog. Gary also enjoys spending his time visiting wineries and winemakers around the world.

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Nov 16, 2012

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A 6-Point Guide To Serving Wine

A 6-Point Guide To Serving Wine

For most things in this world there are correct and incorrect ways to do things. Wine is certainly no exception in this regard, and there are some definite things you want to ensure doing when serving wine to make the experience and taste as great as it can possibly be.

There are generally 6 areas or points that make up the overall experience of drinking and serving wine. These of course are outside the creation of the wine itself, and focus on the consumption and enjoyment of wine. Those points being storage, serving temperature, glasses to use, decanting, pouring, and tasting. 

There are no doubt other points that could be discussed, such as how to open a wine bottle, or store an opened bottle of wine, but these mean little when it comes to serving and the enjoyment of the wine. Obviously storage is important for later enjoyment, but not initially. So without further ado, lets discuss the finer points to serving and enjoying wine.

Storing Wine: There are only a few rules of thumb to follow when it comes to storing wine. Wine must be stored in a cool place, preferably an area that has a little moisture as well. Moisture is important for storing wine if the wine is corked with real cork. The reason being the moisture in the air keeps the cork from drying out, and allowing the wine to breathe prematurely. Wine bottles should also be stored on their side to help keep the corks moist.

The most important point however, and one that relates to the ones above mentioned, you must keep wine out of direct sunlight. Not only does that heat the wine up, but also it dries the cork, and can turn a delicious bottle into a sour mess.

Temperature To Serve Wine: The temperature that wine is served has a definite affect upon the taste. If you serve a wine either too cold or warm, the quality and experience will definitely be lessened.

A general rule to follow is that red wine should be served at room temperature while white win is generally served chilled. Though to be more specific, there are an agreed upon set of temperatures for various types of wines. 

-       Sparkling Wine is served at 48° F.

-       Rose Wine is served at 51° F.

-       White Wine is served at 53° F.

-       Red Wine is served at 62° F.

Another good rule to remember for serving at the correct temperature is that a bottle of wine will cool 4° F every 10 minutes it sits in the refrigerator. It will also warm up at about the same rate when removed from the refrigerator.

Type Of Wine Glass To Use: The wine to be served dictates the type of glass to serve in. Wine glasses are designed to allow for an appreciation of the wines color, aroma, and consistency. For these reasons, wine glasses are generally plain and transparent. There are generally three different types of glasses, one for reds, whites, and sparkling wines.

Red wine glasses are typically larger than the other two, having wider bowls. The reason for this is that red wine needs to interact with oxygen to bring out its full potential, so this process is made easier with a larger cup.

Sparkling wine glasses are specially designed so allow for proper development and show of the bubbles created. Thus, these glasses are tall and thin and take on a flute shape. This design also helps keep the wine cooler longer, which is needed for sparkling wines.

White wine glasses are tulip shaped, and generally smaller in size than the other two glass types. The general idea behind these glasses is that the less surface area the wine comes into contact with on the glass, the less warmth that will be transferred to the actual wine. This is because white wine is supposed to be served chilled, which adds to its flavor.

Decanting Wine: Decanting wine is the gradual pouring of liquid from one container to another, especially without disturbing the sediment found within. In regards to wine, the decanting process enhances the characteristics of the wine, regardless of its quality.

Decanting specifically serves two purposes. One is that it allows older wines to have its sediment separated from the wine itself. This ensures that the sediment, which would bring about a bitter, sour, or astringent flavor, if mixed in, would not molest the wine. The second purpose is that it allows the wine to slowly be exposed to the oxygen in the air. By allowing this, it develops the full flavor and aroma to come about which would have not been noticed had it not aerated. 

Pouring Wine: Pouring wine has but a single rule that should not be broken, which is to pour slowly. Generally you want to pour the contents toward the middle of the glass, and to only fill the glass 1/3 the way through. This ensures the wine can still be swirled around to aerate and watch the legs run. The legs refer to the streaks left behind by the wine after swirling. As you finish pouring, you want to turn the bottle as you lean it back. This will keep the wine from dripping at the end, which is the main culprit for ruining tablecloths and clothes.

Tasting Wine: There is a step-by-step process that should be taken when tasting wine to determine its quality. The first thing to do is inspect the cork after its removal. The cork ought to be fully intact, and only stained from the wine on the bottom. If any other part of the cork is stained, it is likely the wine is no longer in good condition and may be ruined due to excessive breathing and exposure. The same can be said if the cork is dry and hard. If the cork was not air tight, the wine is probably going to be ruined. You also want to smell the cork to ensure you don’t pick up a fragrance of mold, which can occur in cracked corks.

After inspecting the cork, if everything seems right as rain, the next step is to pour a little wine into the glass. You want to swirl the wine around and allow it to aerate. This will bring out its full flavor quickest. You then slowly pour the rest into the glass until it is 2/3 full. After swirling this amount as well, you want to give it a good sniff. This will give you the full bouquet of the wine.

If you want to fully bring out the flavor while tasting, you stake a small sip after swirling and smelling, and you slurp the contents in your mouth on the cusp of your lip. It should make a bubbling sound, and if done right, you will immediately aerate the wine fully. Then you immediately swish it around your mouth before swallowing. This ensures the wine covers all the taste buds that are needed to fully appreciate the range of flavors the wine has to offer.

Hopefully this will have shown a few people how to properly serve and enjoy wine. After all, it is the nectar of the gods, and an apothecaries delight. So enjoy, and enjoy responsibly! 

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The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on twitter @COSportsZealot. If you live in Colorado, and are interested in Boulder Wine Delivery, there is no better place to shop than 

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Nov 16, 2012

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Whining about your Wine’s Fizzling Fizz

Whining about your Wine’s Fizzling Fizz

There is nothing more frustrating than opening a bottle of wine, only to have it go bad in a few days. Although flat wines can last a couple of days to maybe a week, I personally limit wine to three days before I go ahead with the toss or conversion over to becoming strictly, a cooking wine. That is for regular or flat, because sparkling wines barely make it a day. I am sure those of you who enjoy sparkling drinks face the same dilemma and may have wondered about methods for keeping your drinks fresh and bubbly. If so, know that you are not alone on this one. For years, people have been trying to figure this one out.

The old wives’ tale

I vaguely remember my grandmother placing spoons in her wine and champagne bottles because it was once believed that it helped keep the wine fresh and of course, fizzy. This has since been proven as, not true. I mean if it were, we would have already seen devices and bottles on the market for consumers to purchase for keeping their wine fizzed. Plus, back in 2004 this theory was busted by the Mythbusters, who conduct scientific procedures to either prove or disprove myths formulated over the years. The trial and error process is documented by video and edited into a thirty minute television show that airs on the Discover channel.

Good News

Although there is no definite solution to this problem meaning, there is no solution that can solve the problem of sparkling wines and beers losing their fizziness. There is some good news because there are steps you can take to prolong some of the sparkle. So, even though your beverage will never be as bubbly as when first opened, there are actions to conserve what you can.

Cork it

For instance, they do make rubber- topped stoppers (marketed mostly for champagne) that you can stuff in the bottle after making your first pours. In placing a rubber cork back in bottle of wine or beer, you will be clogging up the charge, which will help maintain some fizz for at least a day or two. This does not have magical effects but it provides some help.

Portion Control

When asked this question, which is actually, quite often. I always suggest that people try and find their drink of choice in smaller bottles. Fortunately, for those looking for only a single serving of wine, many companies now make 187 ml bottles, which are referred to as splits. These are a great choice for those looking to have only one glass or use the alcohol for cooking.

Storage Suggestions

Also, when storing sparkling beverages in the refrigerator, store them upright because the carbon dioxide will float to the top and create a barrier that will hold the bubbles in a bit longer than if you were to store it on its side.

Another thought…

If unable to finish off a bottle or find the type of wine you enjoy in splits, you can always stop in to a restaurant, bar, Gastropub, pub or lounge and order yourself a single glass. You can meet a friend, spouse or simply, fly solo to enjoy some time to yourself. If this gets repetitive, you can always try new places or invite new people.

Author Sarah Smith partners up with restaurant bartenders to offer advice for keeping liquor fresh while also, providing recommendations for finding wonderful drink specials. For the best happy hour Stamford restaurant, Butterfield 8 Stamford is the place.

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Nov 12, 2012

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Matching Wine Glasses with Wines

Matching Wine Glasses with Wines

The style of wine glass used for serving wine can have a remarkable impact on the quality, aroma and flavour of the wine. There are numerous factors associated with wine glass types, which might add or deduct to the wine’s overall flavour, quality and appearance.

If you are one of those home wine-connoisseurs, you might need to take your wine glass selection a little more seriously, but for those folks who appreciate a variety of different wines – may need to select all-purpose wine glasses. All-purpose wine glasses are tulip shaped and hold approximately 250ml to 350ml and are suitable for most varieties of wine. Then again – there are particular types of glasses you can buy if you enjoy a certain type of wine on frequently.

So, what is the distinction between red and white wine glasses? There are quite a few variances and each effect the taste and smell of the wine, in addition to maintaining an ideal drinking temperature for the wine. Needless to say, red wines are best served from glasses intended for red wines and the same goes for white wine.

White wine glass varieties have a narrow opening /mouth, which allow the white wine to preserve a cool temperature. The decreased surface area of a white wine glass doesn’t allow air to infiltrate the wine to the extent it does in a broad mouthed, red wine glass. The smaller ball of the glass also indicates that there is less contact with the warmth of the hand, which also warms the wine considerably.

Glasses for Chardonnay have a narrow rim of glass, which directs the wine to the centre of the palate so as to spread the acidity and fruit flavours. The taller bowl of this type of glass keeps the wine cool and retains the aroma/ bouquet of the wine. These types of wine glasses works best for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and White Burgundies & Bordeaux wines.

A Riesling wine glass features an even thinner rim and smaller bowl. The glass’ bowl is smaller due to the fact that these wines are generally consumed in smaller quantities. The lengthened bowl also allows the wine to stay cool. These glasses are fantastic for wines that are rather sweet and drunk in smaller quantities.

Red wine glasses, on the other hand, are typically distinguished by having a much larger bowl and wide opening/mouth. Furthermore, Bordeaux wine glasses are specifically designed for Bordeaux red wines. They have a big and rounded bowl – which allows the wine to aerate, so as to extract all the distinctive aromas that the wine has on offer. Burgundy wine glasses are also an appropriate choice for red and fuller-bodied wines. They have an even bigger bowl than the Bordeaux glass, which focuses the wine at the tip of the tongue.

When buying wine glasses, you need to look for clear and clean glasses. This will assist you to scrutinise the wine by checking its clarity and colour. Happy wine drinking!

Attached Images:

This article was provided by Scribe ZA for Cape Town based international wine merchant, who only sells the best wines around.

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Nov 11, 2012

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What To Consider When Buying Wine Online

What To Consider When Buying Wine Online

Many wine enthusiasts are aware of the best places to find and purchase wine around the physical world; however, they may not be aware of what the online world can offer. How should a person attempt to find and purchase wine on a website? The information below may help a person make smart choices and find the perfect drink.

Consider the Reputation of an Online Store

It is necessary for a wine enthusiast to think about the reputation of a store. Some people simply choose a store because it has a certain type or brand of wine; this is a poor mistake. A consumer may receive wine that tastes strange, or the bottle may arrive with significant damage. If this is not the case, the business may refuse refunds or take a long time to deliver an item. There are several websites that deal with wine, and a person may find a new outlet if one store does not satisfy.

Inspect Vintages and Bottle Sizes Carefully

When a person wishes to find something on the Internet, it is not always possible to inspect an item thoroughly. A person may be unable to get close to an item and read warnings or instructions. In the case of wine, a person may find it difficult to check the vintage of a wine. Many people consider vintage to be important, and if a store fails to note a vintage, a person may run into issues. A shopper should also think about the size of the bottle.

Understand Shipping Costs and Choose a Good Option

It may be difficult to discover the price of shipping; however, it is vital for a person to know costs before going through the process of purchasing a bottle of wine. Some online stores may charge an exuberant and unreasonable amount of money; if a person is dealing with a tight budget, he or she should not find this unwanted expense when it is too late to make a change. A person should also choose a smart shipping option. The expensive shipping option is not necessarily the best, and the bottle may suffer damage during the transfer.

Establish a Relationship with the Online Store

If a person is dealing with a tight budget, it is a terrific idea to establish a relationship with an online wine store. This is also beneficial to wine enthusiasts who do not live with such constraints. If a business realizes that a specific customer is weighty and likely to provide sales, the business may be willing to provide benefits. A person may learn about an upcoming discount or other sale. If this is not the case, the customer may be allowed to select distinctive wines before the wine becomes available to the public.

It is not unusual for a person to believe that wine is an art; tasting wine or purchasing wine may be a distinct process. Some people are unfamiliar with the idea of finding and purchasing wine on the Internet and the information above may prove to be useful.

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Rita Pirkl is your friendly neighborhood wino from Village Vino - where the wine tips are free and the food and wine pairings are delightful!

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Oct 31, 2012

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Simple Rules For Choosing The Right Wine

Simple Rules For Choosing The Right Wine

There was a time when wine was the subject of much snobbish debate. If you went into a high street wine merchant you always felt the staff were somehow looking down their noses at your choice. Fortunately the rise of the online wine merchants has meant that you now have a much wider choice than ever before and you can select your wines from the comfort of your own home.

So how do you go about selecting just the right wine? There are some simple rules that will help you choose. The first is to think about what you’re going to be eating and pair lighter wines with lighter foods. Usually this has been simplified to white wines with fish and chicken and reds with heavier foods like beef and game. This is a good rule of thumb for the beginner and also helps you spot Bond villains. If you’re going to be eating spicy food then offset it with a sweeter wine.

Next think about the region. Some of the best wines in the world come from France’s Burgundy and Bordeaux regions. The finest Italian wines come from Tuscany. Don’t dismiss the ‘new world’ producers though as you won’t go far wrong with wines from Australia, South Africa or the USA.

The main thing that influences a wine is the type of grape used to produce it and this is where a little knowledge is useful. Here are the main types you’ll encounter:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon – a rich red that goes very well with foods such as red meat and game
  • Pinot Noir – softer than Cabernets but exhibiting similar characteristics
  • Merlot – a lighter red
  • Zinfandel – a strong red and a speciality of California
  • Syrah – a dark, powerful red, the best come from France and Australia
  • Chardonnay – a sophisticated white that works well with chicken and creamy pasta dishes
  • Sauvignon Blanc – a crisp white, good with fish or for serving outdoors on summer days
  • Riesling – a sweeter white, best from Germany or California

You’ll sometimes encounter blends such as a Cabernet-Merlot for example but the characteristics of the individual grape varieties above still hold true and will guide you in your choice. Don’t worry too much about the vintages of wines unless you really know your stuff. Most reds are aged for a couple of years before they go on sale anyway and white and sparkling wines don’t need to be aged. Some wines don’t benefit from the process anyway.

Follow these simple rules and buy from good online wine merchants and you won’t go far wrong in your choice.

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