The Basics Of Malbec Wine

 

malbec wine

What is Malbec Wine? When it comes to finding the perfect red wine to go with your dinner, it might become an overwhelming process.  It is believed there are hundreds of different varieties of red wines available within the marketplace, and wines that have the same name are made differently at each winery.  This makes it nearly impossible to know everything there is to know about wines that are not found among the most common types of red wines.  That is why within this article we’re going to go into depth with one particular red wine you should know more about, which is the Malbec Wine.

What is Malbec Wine?

Malbec wines have a dark and smoky finish and are comparable to the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon red wine.  However, this wine is typically more inexpensive than the Cabernet, which makes it a more attractive option for when you don’t have a lot of discretionary income to spend on wine.

The main grape types within Malbec consist of Black Cherry along with some combination of plum, raspberry, blueberry, pomegranate, and blackberry.  These ingredients help gives this wine its dark red color and is considered one of the darkest colored wines available.  However, due to these ingredients, it is typically known for having one of the highest contents of acid as well, which helps preserve the wine if it is on the shelf for a while but can give a little bit more of a bitter taste as well.

Other aromas you might find within this wine are Black Pepper, Tobacco, Mocha, and Cocoa, to name a few.  Most Malbec within the world is made in Argentina, as they have close to 3/4ths of the land in the world which are dedicated towards Malbec.

How does Malbec Wine Taste?

There are a few distinguishing tells of Malbec wine.

  • As described before, the wine will have a darker red, or even a purplish hue to it, which makes it very distinguishable from other red wines.
  • Because of the different ingredients and types of grapes, there is a more acidic taste to the wine.
  • However, there is not nearly as many Oak taste nodes as you might expect from the wine with the list of ingredients such as this.  Malbec wine is normally only aged for nine months or less, which does not allow the oak flavor to permeate within the wine.
  • There are some wineries that prefer to have a more oak flavor within this wine, so they will store their Malbec barrels for up to two years.  When this occurs, though, the bottle of wine will typically be double the price than what you will normally see for a standard bottle of Malbec

Conclusion of Malbec Wine

With Malbec Wine, it typically pairs best with food that typically has more eclectic tastes, like certain flavors of cheese and mushrooms, as well as thinner meat.  If you are going to serve heavy foods, this more than likely is not the right wine for you; however, the lighter and more diverse the food selection, the greater the probability that Malbec wine will go very nicely with your meal.  We hope you give a bottle of Malbec a chance soon, and when you do, please let us know what you paired it with, and how it tasted!

White And Red Sweet Wine Types For Your Consideration

White And Red Sweet Wine Types For Your Consideration

Which Wines are really Sweet Wines?

Within the wine world, most wines are either classified as dry wines or sweet wines.  Although this can help distinguish which wines you might like better, these terms are too broad to give you a true sense of which wines you might enjoy the most.  There are many different levels of sweetness within wines, no matter if they are red or white.

When thinking through a mental list of sweet wines, most people tend to start with white wines.  This is due to the composition of white grapes compared to red grapes; white grapes tend to naturally be sweeter, which then translates into making a sweet white wine.  A red or darker grape will tend to be bitter, which makes red wines, on average, drier in comparison.

Some of the most common Sweet White wines include:

Ice Wine

Sauternes

Moscato (read about Moscato here)

Riesling

However, there are wines which are between the Riesling and a dry wine, like Pinot Grigio, which could be considered to be a sweet wine.  These wines include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  More times than not, our minds are conditioned to see the name of the wine, and immediately classify it as a dry wine.  When this happens, all of our senses are focused more upon finding the qualities which makes these wines a dry wine, rather than looking for any scent of a sweet wine.

This is truly enhanced because of our nose.  Any time someone tries out a new wine, they invariably swish the wine around the glass a couple of times.  Once they do this, then they bring the glass up so their nose can smell the wine.  This first sense is what gives us our first impression of what the wine is, and our mind tends to automatically associate a particular wine with that smell.  It is very hard for our mind to streamline itself and to pick out the various different flavors and ingredients within a particular glass of wine.

This is mostly because we don’t like our taste buds to be surprised.  We want our body to be prepared for what we are about ready to eat and drink, and this is especially true with wine.  Most people have drunk enough wine to know what they like, and what they dislike, and do not like to go outside of their box very often.  This is an unfortunate mistake people make, because there is a wide breadth of wines available are excellent, whether you have a tongue which prefers sweet or dry wines.

Even though red wines are considered drier, this same principle applies to all red wines.  When people see red wines, they tend to automatically think it will be drier than what it may actually be, especially if they sense even a hint of acidity within the wine.  However, there are many sweet red wines.

These include:

Ice Wine

Port

Zinfandel

Merlot

Cabernet Sauvignon

Malbec

There are some very dry red wines, which include Bordeaux and Chianti, but there are some wines which are in between these two extremes.  These varieties of wines include Burgundy, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese, to name a few.

In conclusion, there are many wines which can be made dry, but those same types of wines can also be sweeter than you were expecting.  When you want to enjoy a sweet wine, you do not need to limit yourself to a White Ice Wine; there are plenty of great red and white wine options to choose from.  You just need to train your senses to look deeper, and not go by just the first impression they have.

How Much Alcohol Is In A Glass Of Wine?

How Much Alcohol Is In A Glass Of Wine?

When it comes to determining the amount of alcohol within any drink, some measurements are easier to make compared to others.  For example, when you are dealing with Vodka, you can easily tell how much alcohol is in it by taking the proof number and dividing it by two; if it shows on the label it is 80 proof, then the amount of alcohol within that bottle is 40%.

When it comes to wine, making this assessment is just as easy, but sometimes harder to see, as the writing is typically very small to read along any label.  The average alcohol content of wine within each bottle is between 11.5% and 13.5%, but there are wines within the marketplace where the alcohol percentage in wine can range anywhere from 5% up to 23.5%.

Within this article, we’ll show how the standard way winemakers determine the amount of alcohol within wine, as well as what percentage of alcohol consumers can expect from certain lines of wine.

How to determine Alcohol content of Wine as a Winemaker

If you are fortunate enough to be someone who makes wine as a living, or are thinking about entering into this arena, one of the most important aspects for when you are ready to sell the wine is to know how much alcohol is within the bottle.  Too much alcohol, and the wine is going to come across as too strong and not smooth; too little alcohol, and it’ll be very flat to drink.  Figuring this out after the wine has been made is very detrimental, as you cannot do anything at this point to alter the amount of alcohol within the bottle of wine.

To alter the alcohol content within each batch, it needs to changed during the fermentation portion of the wine making process.  The most common tool used to figure out the amount of alcohol present during the process is called a Wine Hydrometer.  This tool is a cylinder tool, which floats within your liquid batch and is measuring the amount of sugar within the batch.  If the Hydrometer floats very high in the batch, then there is a lot of sugar within the batch; likewise, if it drops more towards the bottom, it means there is not much sugar within the batch.

Sugar is a key element concerning the alcohol content, as sugar is what turns the yeast into alcohol during the fermentation process.  This is the key variable in influencing the amount of alcohol within any batch you produce.  You need to take a reading before the fermentation process begins, and then a second one when the fermentation process is complete.  The first reading will give you a percentage (standard is around 10%-12%), and then the second reading will give you a variance, which you will add to the first amount to give you the expected amount of alcohol within that batch.  Once you have this reading, you can put this reading on the label of the bottle of wine so the consumer knows what to expect.

How to determine Alcohol content of Wine as a Consumer

As a consumer, you do not need to have a fancy tool to determine the alcohol content, as the alcohol content is written right on the label.  However, there is no standard place on the label where winemakers have to put this information.  Some put it on the front label, whereas others put it on a back label.  Sometimes it is along the bottom in a horizontal position, other times it is along the side in a vertical position.  What you can be assured of is that the percentage is on the label somewhere, you just need to hunt for it and find it.

However, different kinds of wines typically have a certain amount of alcohol within them, so you can make a generalization based upon the type of wine you drink without having to look for the alcohol percentage.  Here is a quick breakdown of some of the more popular wines within those categories:

 

Less than 10%

German Riesling

Alsace Blanc

Moscato

Between 10% and 11.5%

Pinot Grigio

Muscadet

Lambrusco

Between 11.5% and 13.5%

American Riesling

Sauvignon Blanc

Champagne

Between 13.5% and 15%

Pinot Noir

Zinfandel

Chardonnay

Over 15%

Marsala

Sherry

Shiraz

Due to the large assortment available within the marketplace, you are sure to find the right wine for you and your taste buds.  And winemakers will continue to tinker with their own formulas to find just the right amount of alcohol to put within each bottle for your tasting enjoyment.  And hopefully you can use this information to quickly determine the right amount of alcohol level you enjoy within your wine, and find some other wines within that range to enjoy.

How To Drink Wine In 4 Easy Steps

How To Drink Wine In 4 Easy Steps

We’ve seen many people ask “Is there a right way or a wrong way to drink and serve wine?”

When it comes to drinking wine, many people would consider there is no wrong way to drink it.  However, there are ways which can help enhance your drinking experience, so that it is as rich and satisfying as it is meant to be.

Here are a few different concepts to consider when it comes to drinking and serving wine.

Why Smell The Wine Cork?

Often times, you will see people who just open a bottle of wine offer up the cork to be smelled by their guests.  Although this may look cool and be part of some traditions, there is no actual value in smelling the cork.  The cork will not give you a sense of how the wine you are about to partake in will taste; it is not like a candle, where you smell the candle before it is lit to see how it will smell.  The only and best way to know how a wine will taste is to actually take a sip of it from a glass.

Which Glass Type Is Best For Each Wine?

If you are looking at your wine collection, and noticing you only have one type of glass, then you are actually doing yourself a dis-service.  There are traditional goblets, which are best for the natural wines.  However, if you are serving up champagne or a dessert wine, then having a flute type of wine glass is the best choice.  The flute will allow you to not swirl the wine, which means the flavors and the bubbles will stay intact.  In addition to this, the design of the glass means the bubbles will stay active longer, giving you a chance to experience the full flavors of the sparkling wine or champagne during the necessary time you have allotted to enjoy this type of wine with any dessert or any after-party activities.

Can You Serve Wine At Room Temperature?

The simple answer to this question is yes; you can serve and drink wine at room temperature.  However, there are certain temperatures which are best for each kind of wine.  For example a red wine is best enjoyed when it is between the temperatures of 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  For White wine, it is recommended to be served between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  For Sparkling and Dessert wines, they are best when they are around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although you can drink wines at different temperatures, and if you happen to drink a red wine which is 55 or 75 degrees, it will not fully deter from the taste; you just won’t enjoy it at its maximum potential.

Where You Hold The Glass Of Wine Has No Effect On The Wine, Right?

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to wine is where to hold the glass (with the biggest misconception with wine is swirling the wine – a couple times is fine, but if you swirl it more than 2-3 times, then you are overdoing it).

With any goblet or flute, you should hold it by the stem as much as possible.  Even if you only have a couple of fingers on the glass where there is wine present, it will alter the temperature of the wine and will warm it up sooner.  The longer you can keep the wine at a cooler temperature, the longer it will hold its flavor.

In conclusion, wine can be enjoyed in a variety of facets and temperatures.  There are a few different things you can do to help enhance your wine tasting and serving experience.  The best thing to do is to experiment with a few different variables, so you can be assured you will find the best combination of factors to help you enjoy each glass of wine to its fullest.

What makes a Great Dessert Wine?

What makes a Great Dessert Wine?

Dessert wine can be one of the most hedonistic, amazing, and gloriously lip smacking wines you will ever taste in your life. It can also taste like drinking candy, leaving your mouth in a sticky mess, with you wanting nothing more than a sip of water to wash the sensation away and to move on to something more palatable. The difference between the two is what makes a great dessert wine great, and what makes the bad dessert wine fit only for catching flies.

The first, and most important note when it comes to dessert wine, is that it is not meant to be drunk in the same quantity as the red you had with your steak. Dessert wine is generally served in 2-3 ounce pours, about half of what you would get if you asked for a glass of red wine in a restaurant. No matter how good the dessert wine, the amount of residual sugar left in it can make for a very tired palate after any more than that. So when serving it to guests, try to find smaller tasting glasses to pour dessert wine into, rather than using a standard white or red wine glass.

A second very important note on dessert wine is when it comes to pairing it with food. Most dessert wines can be paired with, not surprisingly, dessert! However, the golden rule when pairing is this: never pair a dessert wine with a dessert that is sweeter than the wine. If you pair a sweet wine with a sweeter dessert, the wine will almost always fall flat, feel flabby, too acidic, not fruity enough, etc. There are some exceptions to this rule, but generally speaking it is a good rule to live by.

Now, onto the 3 characteristics that make a great dessert wine:

1. Acidity: Acidity is the number one most important characteristic of a great dessert wine. The best dessert wines have excellent (meaning high) acidity, which helps to counter and cut through that sweetness and make them palatable without being too overly sugary. Almost every great dessert wine is made from grapes that are screechingly acidic, to the point that non-dessert wines made from the same grapes can be downright undrinkable. Tokai, Eiswein/Ice Wine, Beerenauslese/Trockenbeerenauslese, and Sauternes are all famous dessert wines that also have famously high acidity. Highly acidic grapes also allow for a long hang time to build up sugars without losing too much acidity, which leads to my next characteristic…

2. Sweetness: For a great dessert wine, it needs to be sweet! Most of the grapes that are destined for dessert wine aren’t necessarily the sweetest in the world, and if given the opportunity the juice from these grapes would ferment into dry wine instead. However, the winemaker has a few different techniques to increase the sugar content of these grapes and the juice they make. Botrytized grapes have been attacked by a fungus, Botrytis Cinerea, nicknamed “Noble Rot”, that dehydrate the grapes and thereby increase the sugar content and intensity. Sauternes, Tokai, and some Trockenbeerenauslese wines are made in this way. Eiswein, or Ice Wine, is so called because the grapes are left on long after other grapes have been harvested, until the weather is cold enough to freeze the grapes themselves! This pulls water from the grape, again increasing its sugar content and flavor intensity. Another tactic winemakers employ to craft dessert wine is stopping fermentation part way through, thereby leading to lower alcohol contents and higher residual sugar levels. For some wines at high enough sugar levels, the yeast simply cannot ferment all the sugar in the wine, and therefore fermentation stops at just a few percent. For other wines, the winemaker chills the wine to a low enough point that the yeast all die, and then filters them out (to prevent them from starting fermentation again in the bottle), leading to a low alcohol sweet wine. And for Port and Madeira and other fortified sweet wines, the winemaker adds a neutral grape spirit part way through fermentation which kills the yeast in the wine (yeast cannot survive above 16% alcohol or so). All these techniques have one important affect: to make the wine sweet!

3. Ageability: Some may argue this point, but the 3rd characteristic of a great dessert wine is its ageability. Due to the high amount of both residual sugar and acidity in dessert wines, bacteria is a non-issue for the most part, as they cannot survive the extreme conditions found in the bottle. This leads to a wine with enormous aging potential, and dessert wines have been found in good drinking condition dating back well over 100 years. It is not uncommon to see Ports, Madeira’s, and Trockenbeerenauslese’s that were made 40, 50, or 60 years ago. This leads to incredible sensations of caramel, herbs, spices, nuts, Crème Brule, dried or candied fruit, and honey. While there is nothing wrong with a young dessert wine (and indeed some, such as Moscato d’Asti, are meant to be drunk young) an old dessert wine can offer sensational aromas and flavors that can be seldom found in other wines.

I can remember exactly where I was the first time I had Heidi Schrock’s Ausbruch “On The Wings Of Dawn”, a botrytized wine made on the shores of the Neusiedlersee from local grapes Welschriesling and Furmint. It quite literally felt for a second like I had been lifted onto the wings of an angel. That was my “holy shit” moment when it came to dessert wine, and I was hooked from that point on. Never before had I had a wine so intensely flavored, so electric in my mouth, making me want to go back again and again to taste it. By the end of the tasting, I’m sure I had tried it 5 times. That is the power of a great dessert wine: you will want to go back to it, over and over, for years and years, to just have a sip, just a taste, to feel that electricity in your mouth, that complex flavor running over your tongue, that silky mouthfeel. The experience can offer the same hedonistic, mind numbingly beautiful qualities that the best red and white wines in the world can offer, and you’ll get hooked on dessert wine too.

3 Tips On How To Store Red Wine

3 Tips On How To Store Red Wine

There is a saying that we can all agree on, which is that Life is too short to drink bad wine.  This is why you should always make sure that you keep your wine as fresh as possible, especially after you open a bottle of red wine.  A good bottle of wine doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it can cost more when compared to other drinks.  For example, a 2-Liter of Pop can last for a few days after being open, but you only pay around $1 for this, and if you have to pour it out, it is easily replaceable.  A bottle of wine, though, could cost $10, $20 or even $50; if you waste any of this wine, it’s heartbreaking.  There are ways to help prolong the life of your wine once you have opened it.

The main reason that wine typically goes bad and tastes flat after a couple of days after being opened is due to the oxidation that takes place.  Because the wine has been bottled up for so long, when it is exposed to oxygen within the air, there is a chemical reaction which occurs.  This reaction starts turning the wine into a vinegar substance, which is what gives it a sour and foul smelling characteristic.

The first step you need to take after you open up a glass of wine is to always put the cork back into it.  Even if you plan on having another glass later on in the evening, as soon as you open a bottle of wine you must put the cork back in.  This will limit the amount of oxygen which will get into the bottle, and help prolong the life of the wine.

The next step you need to take is to put the bottle of wine in the refrigerator.  The lower temperatures of the refrigerator will help slow the chemical process down as well.  However, when you are storing an opened bottle in the refrigerator, you need to store the wine upright.  The reason for this is the only wine that would be exposed to the oxygen is the top of the surface level of the wine within the bottle.  When the bottle is upright, there is not much surface.  However, when the bottle is on its side, there is more wine exposed to the open air within the bottle, which will cause more of your wine to turn bad sooner.

Lastly, one of the best kinds of wines you can enjoy are older wines.  Typically, the older the wine is, the better the sensations of the ingredients are on your palate.  And even though the wine does typically taste better, it also spoils faster.  Different people have reported that wines which are 10 or more years old can become flat within 24 hours, no matter what measures they take in helping to slow the process down.  So be mindful of how old your wine is, and just know the older the wine, the sooner you need to finish it before it goes bad.

Overall, the idea is that you want to expose your wine to as little oxygen as possible.  You also want the wine to stay cold for as long as possible, and the newer the wine, the longer you have to enjoy your wine.  If you have any other tips or tricks, feel free to write us and let us know what you do to help keep your wines, and specifically your red wines, from becoming flat and tasteless for as long as possible.

Different Types of Wine Glasses Make The World A Better Place

Different Types of Wine Glasses Make The World A Better Place

Choosing the Right Wine Glass Can Make Your Wine Taste Better!

When wine becomes a habitual pleasure in life, one is bound to confront a thought that is either a mix of sardonic curiosity or very genuine curiosity.  At some point, you ask yourself, is there something to pairing a wine with a so called proper glass?

Whether our experience has been fine dining, or casually perusing the floor of a favorite wine retailer, we are all bound to see displays of different styles of wine glassware at some point, along with decanters – which initially may appear to be little more than a fine glass vase.  And perhaps it may be little more – until that is, we scratch the surface of wine glassware and see that experience proves otherwise.

Perhaps the setting we as wine drinkers are most likely to confront the sardonic, curious thought what with all the pomp of different glassware is at a restaurant or wine bar.  But certainly, this proves to be a general rule of experience, as wineries, private tastings – or other venues even, may be as likely to offer various different glassware as well.  In any event, it is in any restaurant or wine bar that boasts a great variety of wine styles – that we are most immediately engaged by  different accompanying styles of glassware.   Naturally, in these settings, we see different styles of wine glasses proper to a style of wine in action . As with any of these settings, it follows that with a great wine variety, comes a great variety of accoutrements.

Before you invest in that 12 piece set of Riedel glasses you have been eyeing lately, it is strongly encouraged you visit your local winery, restaurant, or wine bar that will serve  wine in its accompanying style of glassware. But, should you choose to invest in those elegant Riedel glasses after reading this article, you will at least have a good starting point to explore confidently.

The philosophy behind using glassware proper to a distinct style of wine, is that we want to deliver the best possible flavor to the palate.  Wine is, after all a gift, a wondrous experience and a great pleasure of the table. So just as proper glassware will enhance our experience of a wine, so will an improper glassware diminish our enjoyment.

Most of us here have, at some point, heard of two different terms used casually when it comes to wine glasses.   At any point we may hear stemware, glassware, or crystals used to describe wine glasses.   So we will clarify between two principle terms.  The distinction between crystal and glasses may be summed up as follows: all crystal is glass, but not all glass is crystal.  

 

From our casual experiences of holding, or drinking from a crystal wine glass- most of us will associate a crystal as fairly delicate.  But beyond the cursory stuff of our experience with wine glasses, the distinction between wine crystals and glasses has historically been the presence of lead oxide.  You read correctly.  We say historically here because traditional glasses were – and in some cases – continue to be made with lead oxide.

Manufacturers that have and continue to use lead in wine glasses, use the element to soften  glass, and make it easier to be engraved.  As it turns out, traditional glassware carries the risk of lead leaching out to the surface of the glass.  It is here we encourage you to check with your retailer or the manufacturer of your product before making your purchase.  For health and safety reasons, the bottom line is, avoid lead oxide.

But fortunately today, many manufacturers have shifted towards safer, more sophisticated ways of producing crystals minus the lead oxide.  Today, many crystals are produced through lead-free substances, such as barium carbonate and both zinc and titanium oxide.

With this in mind, we will refer to fine wine glasses from here on as crystals, although they are basically interchangeable terms for the most part.  If you habitually enjoy wine, you will in time make your own conclusions that crystals are indeed ideal, insofar as they truly enhance the experience of the grape varietal you are enjoying.  But do note, asking for crystals in whatever setting – whether restaurant, or retail – means getting finer glassware all the time.

Our understanding and ability to choose the proper crystal for wine begins with understanding the different parts of our crystal.  Believe it or not a wine crystal has an anatomy! Different parts are associated with the following terms.    Now, if you can’t help but stifle the thought that this seems finicky, or trifling, then remind yourself then, that wine is a cultivated, highly civilized pleasure, after all!  And since the ancient times of the Near East or ancient Greece, we have come along way in enhancing our experience of a noble drink from time immemorial.  Crystalware is truly an art and science whose understanding deepens our appreciation for wine.

In any event, we start from the bottom to the top of a wine crystal.  The base of our crystal is referred to as the feet.  More obvious is the stem, which elevates the body of the glass, and prevents your hand from warming its contents, especially if you are enjoying a delightfully crisp, Marlborough sauvignon blanc.  (Incidentally, some wine professionals and lay persons will refer to crystals as stemware.  As if there were not enough fine distinctions to be made!) The bowl of the crystal, just mentioned – is the body of the crystal.   And lastly, the lip of the wine glass is referred to as the rim.

By distinguishing different parts of the crystal, we deepen our understanding of how its design contributes to our experience both smelling and tasting our wine as we shall see here.

The principles that go behind making good wine crystals are not essentially ergonomic, aesthetic or even state-of-the-art.  The wine crystal, although it should be easy to hold (and there is currently a wine crystal on the market that bears resemblance to a spinning top, without a stem), is not our primary concern.

Neither are the aesthetics even, of elaborate swan shaped decanters or beautifully etched wine glasses a concern.

Nor is the emphasis so much placed on what new composite glass material it is made out of.   And although these things may be worth some consideration, they do not define the essence of a good crystal.  Simply put, the essence of a good crystal – the appropriate crystal to a style of wine – is  how good it will make our wine taste.

The essential question is, will this crystal deliver the best experience of this Syrah?  Or how about the Tempranillo? Will the delicate nose of an Alsatian riesling be lost in this crystal at hand?

To paraphrase Christopher Cribb of Marquee Selections, the thought behind creating and serving wine in proper crystals is 1. We want to see how a grape best expresses itself, 2. Have adequate room to spin a wine in the crystal,  and  3. Ensure the best delivery of wine to the palate.

If you are throwing a party, and serving a bottle of Rioja, you might not give it a second thought bringing plastic drink cups to serve your wine.  Plastic cups are inexpensive and practical, after all.  But the same Spanish red wine that you delighted in taste sampling at your favorite wine bar, once poured, takes on quite a different character.  The wine you, you will find – has no nose.  Swirling the Rioja is as clumsy as the gulp – which is precisely how it hits the palate.   What was formerly a little symphony of flavor in your mouth, from the introduction of fruit notes approaching your palate, which gave way to herbaceous notes of red spice, that finally seemed to have been structured around woody notes of cedar on the finish – is easily thrown down the hatch!

Although we should place great emphasis on the nose of a wine, a wine is ultimately consumed, and therefore largely experienced through the palate.  Thus, as in the instance above, a plastic cup clumsily delivers a red wine that should merit more thoughtful drinking.  Use a plastic cup, and you are essentially tossing the wine to the back of the throat.  You are missing its full character of flavor.

In all his erudition and poeticism, the Austrian Maximilian Riedel observes that wine crystals are the tools which we not only use to consume wine, but use to deliver to the palate.  For Riedel, a proper glass means the proper flow of wine to the mouth.

But let us return back to the Rioja tasting.  If we drink the wine from a crystal, we will find a superior taste experience.

Now, it should suffice it to say, that there is a dizzying assortment of wine crystals for red wine available in the market.  Is it truly necessary to choose a one glass for Rioja, another for merlot, and yet another for cabernet sauvignon?  Yes and no.  But for general purposes – no.  These are, for example, medium to full-bodied wines.

In reality, you will observe that restaurants or bars with specialized crystal basically have three or four different glasses for any wine that spans the spectrum of light-bodied to full-bodied in style: from beaujolais to cabernet sauvignon.  Generally speaking, the reader need not fuss over three or four basic wine crystals for  both reds and whites.

Our Rioja, along with other medium to full-bodied wine styles, including merlot, Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux, are best served in crystals whose rim is slightly narrower than the bowl, tapering slightly bottom to top.

Go ahead, explore on your own.  By all means, take a break from reading, but be sure to read on for white wines.  If not, then use some wine-imagination.  The design of this type of glass allows for vigorous stirring, a ritual as sophisticated as it will make you look as it is necessary to force more air into your wine, allowing it to breathe.  A crystal whose rim is narrower than its body exposes your merlot, or Syrah to some air, but does not do overkill.  Its design allows for the bouquet or aromas  to gently engage your nose.  Tilting the glass back to your lips delivers the wine in a more a controlled flow – and not all at once like a brusque gulp as our former “tool” – the plastic party cup.  Truthfully, a plastic cup whose design more closely follows a real crystal would be an upgrade.  Today, these plastic wine cups with stems can be found in many retailers.

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But you may object, and point out that – there is a larger, more bowl-like goblet of a wine glass.  And this is not invalid point.  Sometimes billed as “sommelier” or “Bordeaux crystals” these glasses can very easily accommodate a great deal of wine.  Some are easily a decanter, accommodating a whole bottle of wine (750ml)!  And there is credence to this objection.  A larger, goblet-like crystal is well suited for a great Bordeaux wine that demands a breath of air and a violent stir.  And this crystal easily accomplishes that.  With a wider rim, more air activates the wine, opening it up at the same time.  A principle that applies more or less to a decanter.

Assuming that most of us are in fact lay persons, and not wine sommeliers or critics at a tasting panel, the first style of wine glass is an excellent choice and fits our needs no less.

With lighter styles of red wines, such as beaujolais, pinot noir, or perhaps even zinfandel, it is suggested you choose a glass which appears more sharply angular in design than the above.  Lighter wines, such as pinot noir, especially from the Burgundy region of France, are known for having fine aromas of licorice and black spice, pepper, and earthy noses along paired red fruits.  A distinctly narrower rim simply contains more of the bouquet of a pinot noir for instance.  Too much immediate exposure to air, and some of the delicacy of  this lighter wine, especially beaujolais – may very well be mitigated.  As wine drinkers, we want our sense of smell and taste to both be engaged and surprised by our wine’s offerings.  These crystals clearly (no pun intended) allow for vigorous swirling.

But do not worry: you are not uncouth for serving a merlot or a cabernet in the same glass.  Just don’t do it at the same time!

When it comes to serving wine, we may add another option to allow a greater quantity of wine from the bottle to breathe – that is to say – allow it to be activated by ambient air – by pouring some or all of a wine from the bottle into a decanter.  Mentioned above, looking like a nice glass vase.  Decanters range from being quite sturdy glass, to being finer and more delicate like crystals.  It makes no difference whichever way you go.  A decanter is essentially a matter of convenience.   Christopher Cribbs quips that a decanter “smooths out tannins” and Riedel posits that a decanter makes a wine less “tight”.  In any event, a decanter is a convenient tool because it allows wine- especially older vintages — expose themselves to ambient air for an hour or more – the period of time is completely up to you.  Typically, red wines as opposed to whites are decanted.  Some exceptions would include whites that have formed tartaric crystals which is quite another story.  Decanters also can rage in aesthetics from the elegant to the elaborate to the absurd.

For those that are impatient to aerate, or would rather not fuss with a swan shaped decanter, you might find the Venturi, personal aerator a great alternative.

The underlying rationale for pairing certain styles of white wine to crystals is easily accessible, now that we have seen the basic principles behind crystal design and wine delivery.  Again, so as not to get lost in all the intricacies of pairing crystals to wine styles, the reader should generally think of two or three types of wine crystals to white wines.

We need not discuss as in such great detail as the above, but a cursory glance over white wine glasses reveal no less an rationale for design.

For instance, a delicate-on-the-nose riesling, which wafts gentle notes of white flower, lemon zest, citrus or green apple is best matched to a taller, fluted crystal.  The design of the crystal allows for delicate aromas to pronounce themselves, and a narrow lip acts as an acidity barrier.  Serve a riesling in a Montrachet glass, for instance, and the wine flowing to the palate is just not as balanced.  A good riesling, especially a kabinett, can hold lively, bright energetic notes of citrus with a sorbet like finish; but these lively notes are offset by its own innate acidity which makes it refreshing – it causes the palate to salivate.  In a wider lipped crystal, the delicacy of what this light white wine has to offer, is greatly diminished, and therefore less enjoyable.

Consider as well that lighter white wines such as riesling, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc do not demand so much vigorous swirling.  They are hardly that complex.  That is not to say that they are less enjoyable than red wines, but they are of a different nature; they are quite their own experience.  To illustrate, I would urge you to eat oysters on the half shell and pair them with a nice South African Chenin Blanc.  You are welcome.

Fuller-bodied white wines, such as chardonnay, particularly American chardonnay noted for its toasted vanilla notes from American oak, are best matched to a wider-lipped crystal.  Generally,  speaking, a good rule of thumb here is to bear in mind that a chardonnay, like a red wine, spends some time in oak barrels, and therefore has greater complexity.  Notes of honeysuckle, butterscotch, vanilla, citrus and white flowers structured around woody notes are transmitted  from American oak.  A white wine that is more complex, like a chardonnay, need not be decanted, necessarily, but merits its own special wine crystal.

Maximilian Riedel, mentioned above, of Riedel glassware, has designed a crystal whose design lends itself to the character of oaked whites.  The model in mind is the Montrachet crystal.  Wider lipped, but proving an over all shorter bowl all around, this wine crystal allows wines such as chardonnay, Pouilly-Fuissé, and white Burgundy to be optimally delivered to the palate as described above.

Last in our discussion of wine crystals includes sparkling wines such as cava, champagne brut,

and cuvée prestige.  Now there are two directions we can proceed here.  Taller wine crystals, such as flutes, are slender in body, and tight on the lip.  Sparkling wines, to be sure, are most enjoyed when bubbly and therefore, too much exposure to ambient air, and the crisp, effervescent  quality of champagne is greatly diminished.  Champagne, for instance, is a delicate wine.  Try Perrier Jouët and you will see delicate notes of toasted brioche and white flower greet the nose and palate.     At the same time, coupe glasses are sometimes opted in lieu of flutes.  Their design implies a greater facility in looking at bubbles (believe it or not).  I know of no other benefit to coupe glasses, and have yet to hear of any other advantage.

So there you have it – a crash course in matching wine crystals (glasses) with the wines, whether white or red.  You have made it thus far, and should have a good foundation to explore on your own.  After all, experience is a great a teacher, and there is simply no substitute for tasting and seeing for yourself.