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FAQs about wine

Technically the vast majority of wines have cork stoppers, as cork is the essential material used to get the bottle completely sealed and prevent wine from being spilled. However, sometimes we say that a wine has "cork-taint" when it presents a set of  undesirable peculiar smells and/or tastes similar to cork, mildew, humidity, fungus... definitely moldy and not enticing to the taster, on the palate it is astringent with raspy finish. Then, this is a defect in the wine. Though other compounds can be involved, the cork taste is mostly attributed to the 2,4,6-trichloroanisole(TCA) which might have contamined the cork during the transformation from the bark of the oak cork into a cork stopper. On the other hand, there are studies that set the origin of the contaminating TCA in the woods in contact with the wine during the aging process (barrels, casks, pallets, trained wine post and cages of wood).

Often the cork taste comes with a bland and tasteless flavour in wine.

Contrary to what many people think, the sediments in a red wine determine that we are in front of an authentic (artisanal) wine with few oenological clarification and filtration treatments. Sediments are basically dead yest cells, insoluble grape pulp and skin, dye matter and a natural part of the wine. This does not in any way mean that the wine is bad or has gone off, in fact, wine that has sediment in the bottle is foten quite good. Why this trend of getting rid of them?

Precipitations in the form of white crystals (also known as “wine diamonds”) in a white wine, also known chemically as potassium bitartrate salts, are formed by tartraric acid (natural of the wine) that are in free suspension in the wine. When the wine is aged at a non-stabilised room temperature, the action of the cold transform the acid into salt; chemically an acid is a salt. Tartaric acid is one of the most prevalent acids in the wine followed by the malic.

Usually in the wine industry, prior to bottling, white wine is carried through cold stabilization to prevent the tartrates and eliminate the possibility of its appearing  during its consumption. Needless to say that white crystals are in no way harmful to the health... is a natural product of the wine and at large a sign that the wine is of good quality!

Three factors are involved in the colour in the wines: the variety character, as for example the wines of the Syrah grapes tend to an intense purple color; the different operations during the vinification for instance the maceration time, the amount of wine press, etc...; and finally, the ageing evolution in the bottle that causes the oxidation of the color over the years.

All wine producers try to determine the optimal maturity of grapes for the wine harvest, but how can this be done? There are two basic parameters to stablish the best moment for the harvest: the acidity and the sugar content (alcohol). Many cellars are sometimes only governed by the presumable alcoholic strength to decide the time of harvest: this is a mistake! The alcoholic strength is one sign of maturity, but it is not the only one.

There are a lot of wines (mostly in northern areas) where producers pursue an almost perfect harvest, with the accurate balancing between alcohol, acidity and tannins, but  keeping at the same time the maximum acidity in the wines. Acidity will give the wines a fresh, vigorous, long character and also increases the product’s shelf live, allowing the wine to evolve in perfect condition.

Keep in mind that the acidity is a natural preserver of the wine!

The carbonic acid gas or carbon dioxide is the result of a second fermentation in bottle for sparkling wines produced by the method champenoise: the blended wine is bottled adding a small sugar base and yeast and then. stored in the cellar horizontally for a second fermentation. Bubbles appear due to the action of the  carbonic anhydride, yeast turns sugar into alcohol and releases carbon dioxide during the fermentation.

A natural wine is the one produced with minimal chemical and technological intervention either the vine or in the cellar. Some of the necessary requirements to produce natural wines are: grapes should come from ecologic or biodynamic agriculture with the minimum chemical treatment, sulfur and copper are the only allowed fungicide; chemical fertilizers, herbicide or fungicide are not allowed; grapes cannot be purchased but have to be grown in onw vineyards of winery; alcoholic and malolactic fermentation should be spontaneous, without any yeasts or bacteria addition; no correction in the wine is allowed (acidity, sugar, tannins); under no circumstances the addition of sulphur dioxide is allowed, and the clarifications and filtrations should be minimized.

Nowadays there is no established certification body and the term has no legal status., nevertheless there are locals associations, represented by natural wine producers that stablish the main line of actions desirable to be followed.

Obviously all the other wines that do not meet the above metioned requirements for a so-called natural wine, are also good wines and totally suitable for human consumption.

Liquid Sulphur dioxide is added to the wine as an antioxidant and antiseptic measure, preventing the wine to get spoiled by bacteria and oxidation: the sulphur protects wine polyphenols creating an anaerobic environment avoiding the oxidation by oxygen; it is also known by his anti-microbial power hindering future fermentation restart and/or attacks of undesirable bacteria.

There is a small market for wines without sulphur dioxide where the producer vinified and bottled the wine free from sulphur dioxide. Only few growers are committed to this somewhat risky practice since flawless sanitary measures both at the vineyard and the winery are needed  to carry out this type of wine.

Additionally, transport of sulfur-free wine has to be done carefully as any sudden temperature change might oxidate the wine, (wine without sulfur are more fragile).

According to the atmospheric pressure, climatic changes and even moon phases these wines can: be either gentle or shy (closed);  present a slight turbidity in case it has not been filtered; have natural carbon dioxide as a natural protection; and finally it can be considered relatively normal to scent animal aromas appeared during the reduction process.

Absolutely not! The only thing we have to consider is that wines bottled with screw caps do not evolve at all because this type of stopper does not allow the entry of oxygen while a cork stopper does. Usually the winemakers often use this system for young wines where the point is to maintain all the freshness and the primary flavours  the wine.

It is just so! The taste of cork or TCA in wines only happens place with natural cork stoppers.

Yeasts are microscopic fungus responsible for the fermentation of sugars and/or carbohydrates which convert sugar into alcohol. Yeasts used in winemaking are mainly saccharomyces (sugar mold), which produce alcohol (ethanol) and release carbon dioxide.

Of course! A mash can be fermented whether adding yeast (exogenously) or leaving its own yeasts, stuck to the grape skin, to start a spontaneous fermentation (endogenous).

Yes. There is plenty of commercial yeasts that affect wine aroma/flavour and its taste, for instance Levuline alsace yeast from Oenofrance, widely used in Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling wines as it enhances the distinctive flavour of the grape variety.

During the fermentation the yeast originate volatile and aromatic compounds, as well as other substances, that might give wine a taste combination of saltiness, bitterness and acidity  as for example the succinic acid. These is commonly known by secondary aroma/flavour of the fermentation.

The organic farming principles, when applied to wine, lead us to organic viticulture or organic wine. It is indeed a way of understanding the relationship between the man and the nature according to the basic rule of excluding the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.  Thus the organic viticulture pursues a balanced and sustainable way of farming,  guarantees products are free from any chemical residues and a lower environmental impact.

Biodynamics agricultures is method of organic farming that goes one step further.  The difference in biodynamic agriculture is that all products used for combating pests as well as fertilizers are plants and minerals compounds, fertilizers are natural (non-chemical) and tasks performed both in the vineyard and in the cellar follow a lunar calendar based on the movement of the stars and the moon phases.

Absolutely not, the TCA is not toxic to health! Simply it alter the organoleptic characteristics, leave us an unpleasant taste and in some cases ruin our pockets.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations are to take a maximum of 2 glasses of wine in a day. Any quantity exceeding will adversely affect our health.

You have to consider the gradient of alcohol and the dose of sulphur acid in the wine will affect our organism differently depending on its value. It has been proved that the human body can metabolize better a wine with low doses of sulphur, while high doses can be toxic and induce nausea, headaches and gastric irritation.

Usually the higher alcohol content a wine has, the bigger sensation of  heaviness will be and as a consequence, the more difficult its consumption is. However, the acidity plays an important role in this sensation of heaviness.  Thus, it is interesting to find a balance between both components: alcohol and acidity.

A wine with a 13% of alcohol and a low acidity may be heavier than a wine with 14 % of alcohol and a good acidity!

Absolutely not! Urban legends may blame wines with excessive acidity for causing heartburn, even create stomach ulcers. Who said ulcer? There are clinical reports that indicate ulcers are common in sweetened soft drinks consumers... If you have ulcers and you are a wine drinker of wine read on...

The acidity in the wines is a sign of ageing potential: for instance, German wines of the Riesling variety have an extreme acidity that rends these wines excellent for ageing. Keep in mind that  acidity is a natural preservative!

The only explanation we have is that sulphur dioxide (SO2) consumed in large doses which in large doses can cause dizziness and headaches.

Sulfur is a chemical component used in the wine industry to prevent wine oxidation,  and also rot and mildew from developing. The more healthy the harvest is and the higher hygiene in the cellar, the less of sulphur dioxide will be used.

Note that the maximum total legal dose of sulphur in wine is approximately 150mg/l, and we may find wines in the market with just 50mg/l.

It is absolutely true and has been scientifically proven that  moderate consumption of wine has beneficial effects to the whole body:  it prevents cardiovascular problems, prevents ageing, and other diseases such as Alzheimer's or cancer.

As everything in live, in due proportion! There is no food that taken in excess, does not have a negative effect to health. Can you imagine having red lobster rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner? The cholesterol and uric acid levels would go up the wall!

A glass of  white wine and/or red wine have about 80 calories, which is equivalent to those of an whole-wheat chocolate cookie, so it would take about 20 minutes walking to burn those calories. Furthermore, think that a glass of semi-skimmed milk has about 100 calories.

If we talk about storing temperature it refers to cellar temperature. In this case it is recommended to keep wine between 12ºC and 16ºC ( 54ºF to 60ºF)  with a relative humidity around 70%.

Please note that a low temperature storage will make your wines evolve slowly.

It depends! For the large majority of rosé wines the advise is to consume them on the same year of its market launch, because the fresh and fruity profile distinctive of rosé wines tends to disappear over time.

There are isolated cases of rosé wines that had a short ageing in wood and/or have been fermented in fudres (huge casks) that have a great acid and tannic potential, being perfect for the ageing. If you are interested, you have to investigate which peculiar rosé wines are suitable for ageing in the cellar. Some of the rosé wines we could taste and consider could meet the expectations of getting better with age are: Domaine de l’Horizon Rosé in Languedoc-Roussillon; Pricum Rosado Barrica in Castilla y León; Nistal Rosado in Monterrei; Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva Viña in Rioja; and Gran Caus Rosado in Penedès.

There are different brands specialized in glass manufacturing such as Riedel, Zalto, Schott and Spigeleau, with different designs according to the type of wine and/or style. In Riedel, for instance, each collection of glasses has a different shape according to each grape variety so you can choose the right glass for your wine.

However, as you go deeper into the wine world you will discover yourself the different types and manufacturers that best suit you. Consider that depending on the type of glass used you can get different results with a same wine.

It is recommended to decant red wines that present sediments due to light filtering or those wines from old vintages presenting a considerable degree of solid matter. By decanting wine the sediments are separed and also wine is aerated.

It is also recommended to decant those red and white wines that are closed or reduced in order to oxygenate them. Whenever you open a bottle and notice wine is aromatically blank (closed) or presents animal aromas (reduction), do not hesitate to decant the wine.

Depending on the type of wine and the dose of sulphur, a wine will withhold its quality more or less time once the bottle has been opened (between 2 and 4 days). Hence, all the Riesling variety wines produced in Germany are usually unbeatable in this sense and can be consumed days after its opening, due to its high acidity and the important concentration of sulphur dioxide they keep its properties and characteristics.

Additionally, we strongly recommend using a manual vacuum pump to re-seal any opened bottle (Vacuvin) and needless to say, place it in the refrigerator: you will appreciate the difference and enjoy again any left over wine!

In the event that wine freezes, absolutey yes. Many times haste makes waste and when trying to lower the temperature of a wine quickly, if we use the freezer for a short time span (20 minutes maximum) there should be no problem, however if we keep it longer, it can reach the freezing point and that will entail loosing most of the aroma and taste.

Of course! Both the quality of the materials and the geometry of the glass make a difference in the taste and smell. Big bowls allow the volatilization of all aromatic constituents enhancing them while the crystal affects the sight evaluation, the swirl  and the touch of the wine.

Put to the test the same wine in an ordinary glass and the appropriate crystal stemware... you'll be surprised!

It is possible that you notice slight differences in a wine from the same producer and vintage from one bottle to another. You have to consider: storing conditions of the wine been before its  purchase; storage temperature (between 12 °C and 16 °C) without sudden changes; and purchasing the bottles from the same supplier or different ones.

If all the points above detailed above are correct it is will be difficult to notice any difference in the wine. Still, don’t forget that any bottle can be affected by TCA (Cork taste) and also that wine evolves over the years so the same bottle will have different taste and aromatic atributes over the years.

Our nose has a limit to smell and discriminate fragrances, so during a wine tasting of many wines we can easily get saturated. A very common trick among perfumers is to vigorously smell coffee beans since it neutralizes the pituitary gland.

If we find ourselves in this situation unfortunately there is not a right answer as many factors can affect the conditions of the wine and perhaps the wine is past its optimum time of consumption. Thus, we are facing a big question!

The best thing to do in these cases is action: don't be afraid and uncork the bottle to find it out. If you detect any faults or has lost its qualities, try to discover if it is a specific problem of the bottle opening another one. Should the second bottle be equal to the first, just give up and place the rest of bottles in your collection showcase!

The basic and foolproof rule to know which wines suit your taste and preferences is learning how to distinguish them by styles. This way you can try different wines and organize them by its properties, according to the structure, the aromatic power and by the ageing.

At GourmetHunters homepage you can browse through wine styles (dry and light whites, fruity and aromatic whites, powerfull full-bodied whites, light and subtle reds, medium-bodied reds, powerful full-bodied reds, fresh light and sparkling wine and sparkling crianza wines ) and by type of ageing (barrel aged whites, young whites, young reds, young crianza reds, crianza reds, reserve reds, grand reserve reds, etc .)

Let’s take an example: If you like soft red wine, light and with little structure, in that case the best option are wines grown in cold climates such as Galicia and the Burgundy from Mencia or Pinot Noir variety; on the other hand you're a lover of powerful red wines, with personality and alcoholic, you will have to look for wines grown in warm areas such as Priorat or Rhone with varieties that provide structure such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

The best way to learn about your favourite wine is sorting by styles!

The art of the pairing is based in adapting a wine to a dish and its main ingredients. The thing gets harder when we have a dinner and face to 2 or 3 different courses: a starter, a meat and a fish. In this case you can choose between: pairing the various dishes with a same wine if you have the option to decide on dishes with a same tune; or you can choose a different wine for each different dish if there are discrepancies between them.

As an example think about a menu that combines a tomato tartar with marinated mackerel, grilled tuna tataki with asparagus and veal sweetbreads with pumpkin purée. In this case you could pick out a fresh, nimble wine, with a fruit explosion of the variety Gamay from the denomination of origin Beaujolais, or a white wine with wood, fruity aroma and acidity from Treixadura variety from the denomination of origin Ribeiro.