Category Archives: Wine Education

WINE (noun): the alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes used as a beverage

Source: Merriam-Webster

What is fining?

Fining a wine is the process of clarifying and stabilizing a wine by adding a specific material to the wine that will attract and absorb unwanted particles, removing them from the wine.

Sound confusing? A bit. After wine finishes the fermentation and ageing process in the winery/cellar and before it is bottles, many wine makers will use a material or fining agent in the wine to absorb molecules that may make the wine unstable. The materials used can range from egg whites to fish bladder to bentonite (a specific clay material), but very few traces of the materials remain as their job is to simply pass through the wine, removing the unwanted molecules. Fining materials are not left in the wine itself.

So why is fining used? For young, inexpensive, ready-to-drink wines, fining helps clarify the wine quickly, so it can be bottled and not turn hazy or cloudy, as well as not have any unwanted tartrates or bitter tannins. Some of these particles will naturally fall out of the wine, but only with time, so wines bottled young are typically fined. Fine wines, those that need more ageing and have more complexity and character, are often not fined. Fining removes those unwanted particles, but it often removes the wanted particles that add complexity as well. Many of the unwanted or unstable particles naturally go away just by allowing the wine to age and sit before bottling.

Fining agents include: egg whites, isinglass (proteins acquired from the bladders of sturgeon), casein (a protein found in milk), and bentonite, a form of clay.

If you run across an “unfined” wine, it does not imply that the wine is brimming with bacteria. In fact, it may mean you have a very complex and interesting wine on your hands, and one worth trying.

Top Underrated Wine Regions

There are a plethora of underrated wine regions and grapes in the world. That is to say that the wine geeks know and love them, but the general wine public do not. Could be because they are hard to pronounce, or the labels are confusing, or they are not as hyped up or available in stores. Whatever the reason, the wine geeks will continually try to push these underrated wines onto the everyday wine drinkers until they become popular, and then we will move onto something else. So, in the effort to educate, here are my top picks for underrated regions in the wine world:

Alsace: Hands down, one of the best regions for white wine ever. Pinot Blanc is refreshing trimbachin its simplicity, Pinot Gris is rich and round, blends are unique and complex, and the Cremants (sparkling) from Alsace are devine. Not to mention affordable. In all, a region producing an array of whites – from sparkling to dry to sweet – that are ideal for food and easy on the wallet.

Loire: Wait, did I say Alsace was hands down best for whites. Hmmm… I take it back. Because there is also the Loire. Another French region so often overlooked, the Loire produces food-friendly whites, reds, rose, sparkling and sweet wines, with a huge range of flavors, from refreshing Muscadet to steely Sancerre to off-dry Vouvray to light and fresh Chinon (a red wine).  And it’s all so damn good, with one underlying aspect: acidity! These wines are all crisp and perfect with food. So if you love acid, buy a bottle (of anything!) from the Loire. Your palate will thank you.

Western Australia: Australia gets lots of love, but Baroassa Shiraz, Clare Valley Rieslings and Yarra Valley Pinot are diverse and all, but you have to try Margaret River wines to leeuwin vineyardstruly understand the depth of Australian wine. All the way across the country, Margaret River is a region with a climate similar to Bordeaux, which results in incredible Cabernet and Cabernet blends. For whites, they make some of the best Chardonnay I’ve had, definitely the best in Australia. Just give Leeuwin Artist Series or Cullen a try. You’ll be in heaven.

Austria: I’m hesitant to even put this on here because Austria is gaining some ground in hype and availability of its wines. Gruner Veltliner is obviously the top white to try (one of the best to pair with those vegetables that never pair well with foods), and then you have a whole line up of hard-to-pronounce reds like Zweigelt and Blaufrankish. They won’t be your typical Cab/Merlot/Pinot flavor profile, but they are interesting and.. you guessed it. Food friendly (do you see my theme here?).

So give some of these wines a try – for the ones you can find – and broaden that palate. You’ll be well on your way to wine geekdom.

Preserving a wine after opening…

If you don’t happen to be a member of the empty bottle club, there may be times you are faced with leftover wine and the daunting task of trying to preserve it. Without a helpful “gadget,” some basic options include re-corking the wine and sticking it in the fridge. Even it it is a read wine. Putting it in the fridge slows the oxidation process of a wine so make sure you cool it down in there. If it is a red wine, taking it out an hour or so before you plan to drink the next day will help. Have an extra water bottle around? Because another method to prevent too much oxygen from hitting the wine is to transfer the wine to a smaller container with a tight closer, like a water bottle, and keep the wine in the fridge that way. This cuts down on surface area, though plastic is not as inert as glass, so you would not want to use this method for too many days in fridge.

And we’ve got gadgets to help, too! Two gadgets that help preserve wine are the VacuVin Wine Saver and the Private Preserve. The first is a suction device with a special stopper that pulls the air out of the wine. The second is an inert gas spray that blankets the wine. Both work well, are safe and have the primary goal of preventing oxygen to affect the wine. If you don’t have a device, you can also transfer your wine into a smaller container, such as a water bottle, which will allow less surface area of the wine to reach oxygen. Or you can just re-cork or put the screw cap back on as tight as possible. Whatever method you use, make sure to put the wine in the fridge!

Check out our video on closures to learn more.

What are “legs” in a wine?

I often get the question at wine tastings, “What do legs in a wine mean?” Very valid question as some will stare intently at them as they swirl a wine, while others wonder, what are they looking for exactly? So what are legs? “Legs” in a wine glass are the tears that stream down the side of the glass after you swirl it. Some take special notice of these legs – are they fast or slow? Thick or thin? Whatever speed and shape they take, what does it even mean? Well, we can tell you what it DOESN’T mean – the legs of a wine show RiedelGlasswareyou nothing of the wine’s quality, and studies have shown they don’t really show much about a wine’s viscosity, either. Legs are created in a glass by a number of different relationships between the liquid and the glass surface and between the water and alcohol components of the wine. The way the legs fall usually has to do with the level of alcohol in the wine and the speed at which it evaporates, which means, in easier terms, that  thicker and slower legs can indicate a higher alcohol level. That said, sugar in wine can also lead to slower legs, so a sweet wine may showcases legs that slide down the glass more slowly. So, in short, watching the legs flow down a glass may be pretty, but won’t give you much insight into the wine. You can, however, guesstimate that heaver and thicker legs may equate to higher alcohol and/or a touch more sugar in your wine. Legs are fun to look at, but don’t give you all that much information about a wine.