Category Archives: Tips + Tricks

What Shizuku teaches us about wine

Guest Post from Cynette Montoya:

Loosely translated, “Les Gouttes de Dieu” is French for “Drops of God.” We all know how the French and their country are known for great food and amazing wine. But interestingly enough, it’s a Japanese manga (comic) that has opened a whole new world to wine appreciation, taking inspiration from French origins. Kami no Shizuku is a New York Times Best Selling Japanese manga series revolving around wine.

Perhaps the biggest attraction of the manga is how Shizuku Kanzaki, the protagonist, describes the growth of his relationship with wine. His father was a world-famous wine critic but Shizuku is the opposite. At first, he wanted nothing to do with wine to the point of loathing it. As the series progresses, we find him opening himself up to the world of wine and wine cellars and seeing through his father’s eyes just how wonderful and enigmatic that world is.

A taste of life…

Each episode showcases Shizuku’s uncanny abilities to describe his experiences from his strong sense of taste and smell as he competes with another famed connoisseur for his father’s fortune by uncovering the “Twelve Apostles.” But what’s brilliant about this seemingly simple series is how Shizuku describes his feelings for each and every new wine he tastes as he searches for the right match for the Twelve Apostles. At one point, he muses that we never realize how special wine actually is and how so much effort is put into manufacturing wine to suit even the most complicated of situations.

Wine SwirlTaking a cue from that line, we’ve also come to realize just how significant a role wine plays in our lives, especially when we celebrate special occasions. We choose specific wines to go with even just lunch or dinner or when we engage in intimate get-togethers with friends and loved ones. Also, we try to find the most compatible pairing of wine and food to bring out the best flavors in both. In a sense, wine defines not just our activities but also our honest feelings towards life itself. That’s why there are times when Reds seem to be the best choice for our palate or moments when only Whites can really tickle our taste buds.

In emphasizing the value of wine, Shizuku’s father made mention in more than just a few episodes of wine storage and how essential it was in bringing out the finest flavors. Indeed, maintaining the ideal wine storage conditions is a critical task because wine breathes through the cork and ages in the process. But you would want your wines to age at an elegant pace and achieve the peak of taste conditions. Only then would you or anyone else be really able to appreciate and savor the “feelings” conveyed by each bottle you store.

…comes from the bottle!

FCustom Wine Cellaror this reason, the creation of wine cellars has become quite a detailed project. There are several essential aspects to consider, from the maintenance of the ideal wine cellar temperature from 55-58 degrees down to humidity levels at 55-75 degrees. Picking out the most suitable wine refrigeration system is also another consideration as well as building a wine racking system that would not just “store” your collection but keep them in secure and safety storage.

Indeed, because wine is most sensitive to environmental changes which can affect the aging process, even the littlest details matter. An example of this would be the choice of materials you pick for your wood wine racks and other wine cellar furniture. You would need to go with a wood choice that is durable enough to withstand decades of wine storage without falling prey to rot, mildew, decay, and insects and flexible enough to create the right configurations for your wine racking system.

Looking at everything from another angle, it’s quite obvious that a relationship with wine is an evolving one. Your love and appreciation for wine can only deepen as your knowledge and understanding of it also matures with time, along with the wine that matures in your wine cellars. And yes, we can grow to love wine even more, especially when we care enough to preserve its best flavors. Keep in mind that the taste of wine can be equated to one’s honest feelings. You can never hide or deny a good wine, a great wine, just as you cannot conceal a bitter one. Love wine and enjoy life’s tastes to the fullest!

Author: Cynette Montoya is a wine storage writer for Wine Cellar Innovations. She enjoys talking about style, design, and customizing wine cellars . Check out her fun and upbeat articles in the Wine Cellar Innovations Blog on wine cellar transformations.  You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Choosing the right glassware for your wine

One very important aspect of drinking wine is the third party vessel used to get the beverage from the bottle to your mouth. Most often this vessel is glass. Occasionally it is plastic, or maybe paper, or in worst cases, a straw. But for the majority of those times, it’s a glass, and when it’s a glass, there are choices. Here are a few tips on finding the right glass for your wine.

General rules you should always follow:
– Stay away from a rolled rim. It won’t kill the wine, but it is so much less enjoyable than a good wine glass that has no roll on the rim – it allows the wine to just flow into your mouth seamlessly and makes a difference in heightened aromatics & flavors.

– Make sure it’s a tulip shaped glass. The shape helps catch and concentrate the aromas and bring them to your nose. Enhanced aromatics lead to more enhanced flavors and therefore, enhanced enjoyment.

– Don’t stick your nose up at stemless glassware – most of the stemless glassware is made by high-end winemakers (like Riedel) and fits the two requirements above, just without a stem.

Now, for finding the right glass for a specific wine… you can get just about as specific as you want here. Riedel (rhymes with needle), the famed Austrian glass maker, has a number of different glassware lines, some of which even have different glasses for a Riesling vs. a Rhiengau. The founder of the company, Claus Riedel, recognized that wine smelled and tasted differently depending on the type of glass used to drink it. So over the past 50 years, the company has attempted to perfect the art of the perfect glass for every wine. Each shape and design is meant to heighten the enjoyment of the style of wine meant for it. Not trying to advertise for Riedel, but they are one of the pioneers in this sector.

But while Riedel has a glass for everything, chances are you don’t need to. In general, having a good glass for red and a good glass for whites is good enough. The classic white size is that for Sauvignon Blanc, and has a more narrow bowl and smaller shape in general. The classic red glass is for Bordeaux/Cab/Merlot and has a wider bowl and is larger in general. If you want to increase your selection, we recommend a Pinot glass, which is great for, what else? Pinot! But also wonderful for Chardonnay. Between those three glasses, you’ll be set. You don’t need to get the highest of high end, just stick to the basics above (no rolled rim, tulip shape) and you’ll be good to go!

Looking for just one glass to fit all? We love the Riedel Overture and it’s what we use in all our wine tastings here at the office – it’s an ideal all-around glass.



Using Ratings to Buy Wine

As we see the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2011 hit our shelves, we want to encourage you to browse this elite list, as these are THE top 100 of the year, and Wine Spectator tastes thousands of wine each year. Most of these wines have great ratings, and for sure they are of the highest quality. But don’t buy a wine just based on its number – use the ratings as they are meant to be used and READ the review.

Ratings are not just about the number, and that is too often what people focus on. A rating is much more – it’s about the aspects of the wine that lead up to the number, the wine’s personality. Because it’s more the wine personality that  will determine whether you will like it or not.

An example – an un-oaked, crisp and clean Chardonnay could garner 90 points, while a
heavily-oaked, big and buttery Chardonnay receives 94 points. You may dislike any oak on your Chardonnay, so most likely will appreciate the 90 point wine much more than the 94 pointer. Glancing at the two wines and the two numbers next to the wines, you may be tempted to put the higher-rated wine in your cart. But when you read the descriptions, you’ll realize your tastes run the other way. A high score does not change the style of wine you may like.

Another tip – find a reviewer that you agree with and follow them. I realize that I’m not huge on wines rated around 90 points by the Wine Advocate, especially if they are from Australia or California. Alternatively, I love wines rated in the 89 range from Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar – he’s a bit more stingy in reviews and 89 point wines are often right up my alley. Along with the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have tasters with certain “beats,” so the same person is not tasting every region. You will learn who has a palate similar to yours and start to look to those critics for finding wines your palate likes.

So peruse this fantastic list, as well as wines rated by other publications and critics, but read past the number to make sure you get the right wine for your palate!

Rose Rundown

As I stepped out of the airport at Reagan National Airport a couple weeks ago, I was hit with a blast of wet, sticky air. Oh, yes, that would be the humidity I have not missed over the past 6 years. Combine it with temperatures in the 90s and you’re talking serious weather shock. As I always try to look on the bright side of things (which one must do with a toddler, a baby and a pending move on their mind), I see this heat as a way to enjoy my favorite summer wine, rosé, even to a greater degree. The hotter it is, the colder it feels, the pinker it looks and the more refreshing it tastes.

Rosé has been on the upswing for some years now, with more Americans realizing that all pink wine is not the semi-sweet “blush” wine made so popular by Sutter Home in the 70’s and 80’s. There are all sorts of rosé styles out there, from sweet to off-dry to bone dry; dark crimson colored to pale salmon hued; full-bodied and lush to lightly crisp. Rose wines are definitely not one-size-fits-all. But how do you tell which is the right one? Each country seems to make a range of styles, so I often focus on color and grape. 

Color: I generalize here, but similar to reds and white wines, the deeper the color of wine, the more full-bodied the wine will be. A darker rosé often means a grape with a darker skin was used and/or the wine spent more time on the grape skins. In either scenario, you’ll get a fuller-bodied wine and mouthfeel. Light, salmon-colored rosé is often made with Pinot Noir or is a wine that has very little time on the skins, so will be lighter bodied with more delicate flavors, but not lacking in flavor!

Grape: If a wine bottle gives you the grape (or grape varieties) used, it’s obviously more helpful in taking a gander at the style of wine. Mulderbosch Rosé, for example, is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based rosé – not your typical rosé variety. It’s fuller-bodied and has excellent structure, just like a Cab! But if you are sipping Robert Sinskey Vin Gris, a pale, salmon colored rosé based on Pinot Noir, you’ll have much lighter-body and more delicate flavors – both are excellent, but different.

In my case, while I swelter here in the heat and humidity of Virginia for another week, I’ll take it if it’s pink and cold.

Wine and Heat – Eternal Enemies

Heat is to wine like water is to oil…they just don’t mix. In fact, once the juice is in the bottle there is nothing one can do that is more detrimental to the long term health of the wine, than expose it to extended periods of long heat. When a wine is exposed to high temperatures in transit or storage, the liquid expands and several things may happen. It may force the cork from the neck of the bottle, pushing it up under the capsule. This is called a “pushed” or “raised” cork. Or the wine may expand and leak around the cork. This is called a “leaker.”

In either case, when the liquid cools it will contract, and this may result in air seeping in around the cork leading to a further problem, oxidation. Cooked wines won’t have any freshness to the fruit aromas or flavors – instead you’ll get a stewed, prune-like profile. If you’re getting blackcurrants and fresh summer fruits, for example, then you haven’t got a cooked wine. On the palate, a cooked wine often seems thin, lacking body and character.

As an internet wine retailer, is extremely cognizant of the perils of summer shipping, and we are doing our best to get you your wine to arrive in as pristine condition as possible. Here are a few safeguards to help keep your wine protected from the summer heat when ordering wine online from, and after the wine has been delivered.

  • Be aware of the pending weather forecast in your region.
  • If the temperatures are going to be in excess of 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time, consider expediting your shipment from ground delivery to overnight or 2-day, or “hold until safe” at final review. For “hold until safe” we will store your wine at no additional charge in our temperature controlled warehouse and ship it when the weather cools. You can also choose a delivery date up to six months out and we’ll store your wine free of charge until then. Think about the inside of your car at these elevated temperatures…that is what your wine is being exposed to in the back of a UPS/FedEx truck.
  • Once you’ve received your shipment it’s best to store your wine on its side, so the cork stays moist, in a cool dark place. If wine is kept too hot, or exposed to strong sunlight, it RAPIDLY deteriorates.
  • For bottles stored more than a few weeks at a time, the primary concern is to keep them from strong direct light, and to ensure that they do not reach extended periods of time at temperatures in excess of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the wine may be spoilt and forever afterwards taste cooked.