Choosing a wine can be a daunting task. Red or White? OK, simple enough. California, France, Italy, Spain, South America, or Australia? OK, still manageable. Now that we have it boiled down to a French red, we are still faced with an infinite amount of choices. HELP!! Not to fear, knowing a little something about the wine label may help. First, be weary of misleading labels. From time to time, words and phrases may appear on some labels that have no technical or legal definition.
Some inferior vineyards may assign verbiage on labels such as “Barrel Select”, “Cellar Selection”, or “Proprietors Reserve.” Should you buy “California Merlot” or “Napa Valley Merlot.” It’s important to decipher what verbiage is important and what is meaningless.
Basically, you are looking for four pieces of critical information when reading a wine label. What country the wine was made and its appellation. (That is, a designated wine region) Secondly, what variety of grapes that were used. This is more predominant in “New World” labels but is rarely shown on French wine labels because the French labels tend to focus on exactly what region those grapes were grown in rather than the types of grapes themselves. The next most important item on the label is the name of the producer; and the year that grapes were harvested.
If we are choosing a domestic wine, we will know the type of grape used. Familiarize oneself with the grower/producer to gage the quality of the wine. Upon choosing a French wine, familiarize with the better regions. All of the major wine growing areas of the world have undertaken some quality classification of wines to guarantee to the consumer that what they buy is what is written on the label. Most classification systems are based on the French system of Appellation Controlee (AC) which specifies the exact origin.
For example, red wines from Bordeaux from one bank of the river will be most likely Merlot grapes, as opposed to the other side of the river having Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. If you’re a history buff, than familiarizing with old world wine regions can be interesting learning of history as well as wine knowledge.
The term “estate bottled” is legally defined in the United States as wine made from grapes owned by the winery or a vineyard totally under the winery’s control. In France the term “mis en bouteille au chateau” means the same thing. The French AC laws have primarily been adopted by most of the other European growers such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Germany and Austria have a different system, however. Australia, South Africa, Chile, and the US have less strict quality laws. The American system is referred to as “American Viticultural Areas” (AVAs) and simply defines geographical areas and slightly refers to different climates and soil types.
The most important information on the wine label is what country the wine was, its appellation, variety of grapes, name of the producer and the year that grapes were harvested. Everything else mostly just PR and BS.
They say ignorance is bliss. So perhaps not knowing the intricacies of the wine label will make your decision less complicated. But as a fictional soldier once said, “Knowing is half the battle.” Or in this case, knowing is half the bottle! Cheers!
A Red Wine Blend of of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah
By Matt Goldstein & Carolynn Chapman
The Cline Cashmere is a very easy drinking and light Red blend of of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah. From the Contra Costa County vineyard in California with 30 year old vines, the Grenache and bulk of the Syrah grapes come from Oakley. Fermented in stainless steel and then aged for 6 months in French Oak Barrels, the Cline Cashmere is a great wine for about $14. Very smooth, light and fruity, any type of wine lover will enjoy the Cline Cashmere. The Cline Cashmere pairs well with grilled salmon, pork roast and duck.
I think we should start this chronicle by answering the most basic questions about wine of who, what, where, when, and how? What is wine? Well, in the most elemental terms, wine is simply fermented grape juice. The five basic types are red, white, rosé, sparkling, and fortified. Anthropologists believe that the first wine was discovered by some knuckle-dragging cave dweller that left some wild grapes in a clay pot. (kind of ironic that wine drinking today is associated with the most elite amongst us, but I digress…) Left out over a week or so in that pot, the natural yeasts on the grape skins fermented and the mash turned into a crude wine. Then they had the first party known to mankind….sweet.
The first wines historians know of were predominant in the Mediterranean area, the Middle East, Egypt, and throughout Europe during the middle ages. The oldest known wine making facility dates back 6000 years in Armenia. The Christopher Columbus contingency brought the first grape vines to the Americas in the 1500’s as we see winemaking expand into what is today known as Mexico, South America, and ultimately into the Southwestern United States and California. Eventually overtime, the vine was also introduced to Australia. Today, “winos” refer to “classic wine” producers as the aforementioned European producers. Wines concocted in the Americas and Australia, are known as the “New World” producers. Now wine is made on every continent except Antarctica. (I wonder if the experts should count the wine that is produced on C-Block at Graterford Prison made from kool-aid fermented in a zip-lock bag under the bottom bunk, but yet again, I digress)
Just like a master chef classically trained in French cuisines, the food that is produced is only as good as the ingredients used to make it. The same applies to wine making. Wine is only as good as the grapes used to ferment it. Therefore, wine makers are extremely concerned with the cultivating of the grapes in their vineyards. They are constantly in the process of testing and experimenting with different soils and what kind of trellis system to use. A trellis system is simply the framework of wood and wire used to support the vine of the grapes as they grow. By keeping the grapes off of the ground, exposed to more sunlight, and better air circulation will ultimately increase the quality of the grape. Also, when the grapes are harvested it is also critical as to the overall quality and taste of the wine. Overtime, winemakers have figured out that a grape vine that struggles to grow actually makes better wine. Just as in life, struggle builds character.
The first step in making wine is crushing the grapes. The purpose of this process is to break the skins away from the grape itself and to release the juices. Many of you have seen the picture of the nice Portuguese fellow dancing on a pile of grapes in a festive fashion thinking to yourself, “did he wash his feet first?” Well, many old school wine makers believe that there is nothing like the human foot to break the grapes because they won’t break any seeds which release harsh tannins into the juice. (Perhaps different toe cheeses and foot fungi account for some more quality vintages…but once again sorry, I digress.)
White grapes are pressed to separate the skins before fermenting as opposed to red grapes being fermented with the skins in the mash and eventually pressed later which give the wine its red color. Both the juices from red and/or white grapes are clear. Therefore, white wine can be made from red or white grapes. Next, the wine matures in oak or steel barrels before it is eventually bottled. Red wine is fermented at a higher temperature than white wine which contributes to the coloring and tannin extraction. In some cases, the wine is moved from barrel to barrel to remove sediment known as lees. This process is known as “racking”.
As far as some of the other styles are concerned, Rosé for example is processed similar to red wines, but the grapes are only fermented with the skins for a shorter amount of time giving it a slightly less “red” color that appears pink or rose colored if you will. The cheaper/easier rosé is made by merely blending the red wine fermented juices with the white wine juice. It’s kind of like cheating. Fortified wines are wines that have had some sort of spirit such as brandy added after the fermentation process. These are your port and sherry wines. (I like some Sherry in my Snapper Turtle soup…oh sorry, digression) Lastly, sparkling wines are wines that have additional sugars and yeast added during the fermenting process which give the wine the carbonation. Champagne is the example that comes to mind here.
Speaking for myself at an adolescent age, I was introduced to alcohol by reluctantly forcing-down Natural Light cans of beer for what I thought was a decent buzz. Today, I like to consider myself a connoisseur of beer. But, as my taste buds matured, I was fortunate enough early on (like 19 years old with a fake ID) to be introduced to some Belgian Ales, American IPA’s, Stouts, etc. and found a new appreciation and respect for quality beverages. For me, this also applies to wines. I think with some understanding of how the process works, the differences, and the nuances of wine, a new door can be opened to the world of wine for anyone. Plus, if you need to impress a girl, boss, or anybody at a restaurant, stay tuned for more from Whiskey Goldmine and the Wine Chronicles to get your understanding and appreciation of wine-on. Cheers!
The United States Drinks More Wine that Any Other Country in the World
By Matt Goldstein
Americans have now become the leading consumers of wine throughout the world. Per capita, France is still miles ahead but the U.S. has caught up in the amount of wine sold. Not only has the United States increased in wine sold and per capita over the last few years, France has fallen. Wine sales in the United States have actually increased during the recession and have had 17 straight years of growth. U.S. sales grew to about 12.2 gallons of wine per capita sold in 2010 with a total estimated value of about $30 billion and wines from California have accounted for 61% of total sales. Congratulations to the United States and all of our wine drinkers. Cheers!
Punto Final Malbec Scored 90 Points from Wine Advocate & Wine Enthusiast
By Matt Goldstein
Our featured wine of the week is the Punto Final Clasico Malbec by Renacer wineries. This easy drinking malbec has received numerous awards and accolades all over the wine world and costs about $12 per bottle. Scoring 90 points from Wine Advocate for the 2008 Vintage, 89 points from Wine & Spirits for the 2007 vintage, 90 points from Wine Enthusiast for the 2007 & 2006 vintage and a gold medal for the 2008 vintage, it’s clear that this wine is easily worth the $12. At the Renacer vineyards, the malbec grape is harvested by hand, macerated for five days and then aged in French oak barrels. The taste is a bit tart and dry with a medium body. Slightly bitter and vaguely sweet, the Punto Final Malbec is light with a beautiful complex aftertaste. With notes of oak, fruit and berry, this is a great easy drinking style. Pick up a bottle today…
Cubanarama Radio discusses Whiskey Goldmine in depth with CEO & Publisher Matt Goldstein. We discuss the origins of the website, tasting wines, whiskeys, the American craft beer movement and more. We also discuss how to find the best wines and whiskeys for a lesser price. Check it out! Cubanarama radio with Marta and Matt Goldstein.
Our featured wine of the week is an easy drinking light red blended with 60% Sangiovese and 40% Syrah. Sasyr, by Rocca delle Macie wineries, is made with grapes from the Maremma vineyards in which the controlled fermentation techniques considerably contribute to the color and aroma. About 15% of the Sangiovese grapes are aged in small French Oak barrels for about six months.
The Sasyr color is a deep ruby red, the scent is a perfectly light red and a little tart. The flavor is slightly dry and smooth with notes of tangy fruit, and light blackberry. The sweet notes dry on the finish but this blends character is smooth and easy drinking. Sasyr scored an 87 from Wine Spectator, 87 points from I Vini di Veronelli, and an 89 from Annuario dei Migliori Vini Italiani di Luca Maroni. Rocca delle Macie recommends this wine to be paired with meats, cheeses, Beef fillet with pink and green pepper, Pasta with cherry tomatoes, tuna and feta cheese.
Pairing Wines with Chocolate: Award Winning, Critically Acclaimed Reds and Champagnes for Valentine’s Day
By Lisa Gana, Matt Goldstein & Sommelier Tom Pittakas
For this Valentine’s Day, the Whiskey Goldmine has compiled the perfect wines to pair with all types of chocolates and share with the love of your life. We’ve paired award winning and critically acclaimed wines with dark chocolates, milk chocolates, semi-sweet chocolates and even chocolate covered strawberries. For under $15, any of the wines we’ve listed will make this Valentine’s Day wonderful for you and yours.
Calcu Colchagua Valley Bordeaux, California, Scored an 87 in Wine Advocate.
Alto Cedro Malbec Ano Cedro Mendoza, Argentina, Scored a 92 in Wine Spectator.
Kay’s Brother’s Amery Shiraz, McLaren Vale South Australia, Scored a 93 in Wine Advocate.
Hennessy Black, Cognac France (Brandy).
Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Roaring Meg, New Zealand, Scored a 90 in Wine Spectator.
Novelty Hill Merlot,Washington, Scored a 90 in Wine Spectator .
Coniglio Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, Scored a 90 in Wine Enthusiast.
Cline Cellars California Zinfandel, one of our favorites!
Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon, one of our favorites!
Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon, one of our favorites!
Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Cal Zin, don’t let the name fool you, Coppola makes some great reds!
Novelty Hill Merlot, Washington, Scored a 90 in Wine Spectator.
Perry Creek Zinman Zinfandel El Dorado, A German Red that Scored 88 by Wine Enthusiast.
Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Roaring Meg, New Zealand, Scored a 90 in Wine Spectator.
Mirassou Pinot Noir, this wine maker can’t seem to do any wrong.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries:
Villa Sandi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut Spumante
An excavation team of archeologists from UCLA have uncovered the oldest known wine making facility in a cave in south Caucasus country in Armenia. The team of researchers found pressed grapes, grape seeds, grape vines and a vat used to crush the grapes. Positioned next to the vat was a shallow basin that drained directly into the vat. Researchers believe the basin was used to stomp grapes. There is already known evidence of wine making that predates the Armenian site but nothing that suggests wine making on a large scale. The large scale wine production also suggests that the Eurasian grape had already been domesticated. The grape discovered, Vitis vinifera vinifera, is still used in wine making today.
Prosecco’s, Cava’s, Champagne’s and Sparkling Wines
By Matt Goldstein
Prosecco is a type is sparkling wine from Italy’s Veneto region just North of Venice. Prosecco sparkling wine is usually cultivated and blended with native grapes such Verdisio, Bianchetta, Perera and non native grapes Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. The Vila Sandi uses a bottle type called the “Claxa” which keeps the wine cooler and at ideal temperatures. Each bottle of Vila Sandi Prosecco is aged for at least 36 months and some bottles up to 6 years. While the Villa Sandi wine is refined in French Oak Barrels, each Prosecco vine is aged from 7 to 45 years. Founded in 1975 by the Moretti Polegato Family, the Villa Sandi brings produces some wines that are an absolute must.
Our featured wine of the week is the Villa Sandi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut Spumante and the scent is of ripe fruit and apple. The flavor is fresh, sweet, slightly dry, and bitter with a tangy aftertaste and excellent finish. This is a beautiful Prosecco especially for about $13.00. Villa Sandi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene is a great buy for the Champagne lover.