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Some Basic Wine Questions


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#1 Rick Azzarano

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 07:36 PM

So, in honor of our peerless leader's new wine column, I thought that I would start asking some basic questions:

I've read in various places that most wines now are produced for "immediate" drinking. How should I know which wines should be "laid down" for relatively long periods of time?

Are there some basic "structure" guidelines in pairing wine with food. Like, for example, should you use a "high acid" wine in conjunction with "fatty" foods to cut down the fat feeling in the mouth? Should wines "support" the food or "contrast" it?

Thanks.

#2 mdt

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 08:13 AM

So, in honor of our peerless leader's new wine column, I thought that I would start asking some basic questions:

I've read in various places that most wines now are produced for "immediate" drinking.  How should I know which wines should be "laid down" for relatively long periods of time?

Are there some basic "structure" guidelines in pairing wine with food.  Like, for example, should you use a "high acid" wine in conjunction with "fatty" foods to cut down the fat feeling in the mouth?  Should wines "support" the food or "contrast" it?

Thanks.

Here is a link that answers some of your questions. Her book, The Wine Bible does a good job of giving a ton of information and is easy to read.

#3 Joe Riley

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 01:58 PM

So, in honor of our peerless leader's new wine column, I thought that I would start asking some basic questions:

I've read in various places that most wines now are produced for "immediate" drinking.  How should I know which wines should be "laid down" for relatively long periods of time?

Are there some basic "structure" guidelines in pairing wine with food.  Like, for example, should you use a "high acid" wine in conjunction with "fatty" foods to cut down the fat feeling in the mouth?  Should wines "support" the food or "contrast" it?

Thanks.

The only way that you can "know" what wines are for setting aside for future drinking is to ask, or build up enough of a palate that you'll be able to tell for yourself. Basically, if a wine tastes good to you when young, then drink it young. If a particularly hard, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon (for example) promises fruit that will last, then it can be put aside.

The great majority of wine produced in the world is intended to be drunk within the first two years after being released. You will have to do some reading to gain understanding, but there's no substitute for tasting, or finding older wines in the marketplace to try so that you understand what older wines taste like.

Importer Terry Theise once compared the enjoyability of wine at a particular age to the enjoyment of dog ownership. Some people prefer bouncy, fuzzy, energetic puppies with boundless energy and playfullness. Others prefer the maturity of older dogs, who can still fetch a ball, but are more content to lie by your feet and snooze and take gentle walks with you.

The French prefer younger Champagne. The British prefer the older tones of aged vintage Champagne. The French accuse the British of geriatricide, the British accuse the French of infanticide.

As for food and wine pairing (or "pood and fine wareing" as Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon vineyards so playfully put it) there are some basic guidelines and generalizations which will serve you well. To wit:

Younger wines are served before older ones.
Simple wines with complex dishes and vice-versa.
Fruit-forward wines pair well with full-flavored dishes.
For white meat, it's best to use a white wine with higher acidity.
Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon are the classic match with lamb (Zinfandel works well, too).
Red Burgundy and Pinot Noir are the classic match with beef.
Chardonnay pairs best with heavily-sauced dishes, or ones which feature saffron or mustard. Otherwise, they tend to overwhelm (mainly the 'New World" ones).

Obviously, there are countless others which we can add to here, but I hope this gets you curious and interested.

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#4 Rick Azzarano

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 07:21 PM

Thanks for the answers. I have been doing some reading (as well as tasting)(mdt, thanks for the link), but hearing from real people is always better. I had laid off wines for 25+ years, so I'm now starting over.

More study ahead.

#5 dirtymartini

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 07:47 PM

Sorry, skills are learned.....Just wanted to make an amendment to Joe's post, serve your best wines first, it'd be a shame to serve a great wine to a fatiuged palate
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#6 Barbara

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Posted 01 December 2005 - 08:22 PM

I'm glad for this question to be brought up. There is much confusion for us regular folk. I read somewhere that in Italy, one should order the youngest wine available, since it has probably been bottled a couple of weeks before. We discovered on our own that ordering the house wine in Italy was a very good deal. And, the wine was good, too.

Having said all that, after Craig's mother died in 1993, his father was left with the unfamiliar task of buying birthday and Christmas presents for his bouncing baby boy. He took the easy way out and walked to his local liquor store and bought a case of wine to be delivered to us. (The first time this happened, I was completely caught off guard by the guy at the door with a delivery. And I didn't have a sou to my name to tip the poor guy. :lol: :P :( )

That first case was some sort of St. Emilion. It wasn't exactly wonderful and we put the rest in a wine rack we snagged at Woodie's going out of business sale. Then, a few years down the road, some tenant problem cropped up and I was asked if I had any wine to provide during said discussion of trauma. Yup. All of us partaking of one of the bottles realized we were drinking something far above Two Buck Chuck.

So, we hung onto the last bottle of this waiting for a special occasion. That occasion arrived when Hillvalley organized a special dinner at Colorado Kitchen, back in the Jurassic Era when Rocks was the DC and Delmarva forum host for eGullet, and CK didn't have a liquor license.

Despite having been stored on its side all those years, the cork just crumbled when we tried to open it. Plus, it wasn't so good anymore. I handed the rest of the bottle to Chef Clark after dinner was over and suggested that she could strain the remainder and use it in a sauce or vinagrette or something.

Why does this happen? Outside of paying to store one's wine in a commercial wine cellar, is there anything to be done? Did we find the one bottle that was "corked" at the end? Should those of us without means to properly store wine forego the ones meant to "age" in the bottle and stick to the immediately drinkable stuff? And, how can you tell that such wine WON'T get better with age?

#7 dinwiddie

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 11:22 AM

I'm glad for this question to be brought up.  There is much confusion for us regular folk.  I read somewhere that in Italy, one should order the youngest wine available, since it has probably been bottled a couple of weeks before.  We discovered on our own that ordering the house wine in Italy was a very good deal.  And, the wine was good, too.

Having said all that, after Craig's mother died in 1993, his father was left with the unfamiliar task of buying birthday and Christmas presents for his bouncing baby boy.  He took the easy way out and walked to his local liquor store and bought a case of wine to be delivered to us.  (The first time this happened, I was completely caught off guard by the guy at the door with a delivery.  And I didn't have a sou to my name to tip the poor guy. :lol:   :P   :( )

That first case was some sort of St. Emilion.  It wasn't exactly wonderful and we put the rest in a wine rack we snagged at Woodie's going out of business sale.  Then, a few years down the road, some tenant problem cropped up and I was asked if I had any wine to provide during said discussion of trauma.  Yup.  All of us partaking of one of the bottles realized we were drinking something far above Two Buck Chuck.

So, we hung onto the last bottle of this waiting for a special occasion.  That occasion arrived when Hillvalley organized a special dinner at Colorado Kitchen, back in the Jurassic Era when Rocks was the DC and Delmarva forum host for eGullet, and CK didn't have a liquor license.

Despite having been stored on its side all those years, the cork just crumbled when we tried to open it.  Plus, it wasn't so good anymore.  I handed the rest of the bottle to Chef Clark after dinner was over and suggested that she could strain the remainder and use it in a sauce or vinagrette or something.

Why does this happen?  Outside of paying to store one's wine in a commercial wine cellar, is there anything to be done?  Did we find the one bottle that was "corked" at the end?  Should those of us without means to properly store wine forego the ones meant to "age" in the bottle and stick to the immediately drinkable stuff?  And, how can you tell that such wine WON'T get better with age?

Proper storage of wine to age is a must. Heat is the biggest danger for wine over time. You don't have to go pay for storage, just find a cool dark place, preferably in the basement and store your wine there. You don't want someplace where the temperature varies greatly over the year, best is someplace where it will stay between 55 and 65 degrees all year round.

If your father in law bought the wine in 1993, it was probably a 1991 (maybe a 1990) 1991 was a horrendous year for Right Bank wines (St. Emilion is from the Right bank) and they did not age well. Of course it depends on the maker but in general the 1991s did not age well at all. On the other hand, the 1990s were excellent. Different years age differently due to many factors. The St. Emilions from 94, 96, 98, and 2000 are still youthful and will age well for many more years. On the other hand, the 95s are drinking wonderfully right now. In general most wines are indeed made to drink early, and Bordeaux produces a lake of wine, much of it meant to drink early. Many of the better Bordeauxs (the classified growths) are will age well for many years, and some Châteauneuf du Papes (from the Southern Rhone) can age well for 20 years. If you read some of the wine publications or go to some of the wine boards, you can often learn how specific vintages are doing and whether they will age well or should be consumed early.

The cork can crumble for many reasons, but a 12 yo cork is often soft. That is why many ardent collectors have their wines recorked by the winery. You also should know that a certain percentage of wine will be "corked", i.e., have a very bad wet cardboard smell, for a variety of reasons, and when you buy a case, you may very well get a corked bottle, especially if it is left alone for a long time.

#8 Barbara

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 12:27 PM

Thanks for the info, Dinwiddie. Yes the wine was 1991 (the year my nephew was born--I thought about putting a bottle away until his 21st birthday). My poor brother had a couple of bottles of something or other he was saving to age properly and drink for a special occasion. When he finally opened them earlier this year, they were both ruined. :lol:

#9 dinwiddie

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Posted 02 December 2005 - 02:08 PM

Thanks for the info, Dinwiddie.  Yes the wine was 1991 (the year my nephew was born--I thought about putting a bottle away until his 21st birthday).  My poor brother had a couple of bottles of something or other he was saving to age properly and drink for a special occasion.  When he finally opened them earlier this year, they were both ruined. :lol:

If you really want something for his 21st birthday, I'd recommend going to a good wine shop and buying a 1991 vintage port. Vintage Port (not a late bottled vintage or a ruby) will age well (in fact it is a crime to drink it early) and 1991 was a declared year. See if you can find a Croft, Fonseca or Taylor-Glagate. I have several bottles from 1985 (the year I got married) that we are just starting to drink and they are wonderful. Italy and France had bad years in 1991, and California Cabernet does not normally last that long.

#10 cjsadler

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Posted 07 December 2005 - 10:06 AM

Can someone explain to me what "extracted" and "over-extracted" mean exactly?

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#11 Pete

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 03:41 PM

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(Possibly) stupid question here. I understand that wines are stored on their side so that the cork doesn't dry out. However, do wines that have Stelvin closures, or wines with synthetic corks, need to stored on their side? I am mostly talking about white wines, and the occasional red, that will be consumed within 2 years.

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#12 Mark Slater

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 06:01 PM

do wines that have Stelvin closures, or wines with synthetic corks, need to be stored on their side?


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#13 goodeats

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:16 AM

Possibly silly question: what can one do with wine that has been refermented in the bottle? I know you can no longer drink it.

Can you cook with it or is it just a "dump down the sink" solution only? Thanks!

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#14 DonRocks

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:37 PM

Possibly silly question: what can one do with wine that has been refermented in the bottle? I know you can no longer drink it.

Can you cook with it or is it just a "dump down the sink" solution only? Thanks!


I was waiting for someone to chime in, but since no one has yet, I'll offer an old, trite piece of advice that I've found to be true: Never cook with a wine that you wouldn't drink.

People will argue this until the end of time. "Nonsense, Don! Cooking completely changes the nature of ..., etc. etc. etc." Nevertheless, that's my two cents, and incidentally, I have a friend who will not make Boeuf Bourguignon without using a bottle of Charmes-Chambertin. Honest! That's so snobby that it's almost cool!

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#15 Joe H

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 07:42 PM

I'll do a fifteen hour beef stock reduction that starts with 15 or 16 quarts and ends up with 2. From the cost of the beef marrow bones to the labor (and the cost of buying a stock pot big enough!) it would be criminal not to use a good red.

#16 ChiantiandFava

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 07:52 AM

Make some vinegar. Takes a few weeks to do it properly but if there are enough different wines it'll be nice and mild--you can also steep something in it like say prunes.

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