Category Archives: Wine Tips

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.

Does the Proper Wine Glass Matter?

YES IT DOES!!! I was very fortunate to be included in a private San Francisco Riedel Wine Glass tasting this week, which was led by 10th generation family member GEORG JOSEF RIEDEL.  I have always been a believer of drinking my wine out of proper glassware, but had never put the theory to test.  

There were about 75-100 of us participating, seated at long tables with three different sized/shaped empty wine glasses (Pinot – Hermitage – Cabernet/Bordeaux).  In front of each wine glass was a clear plastic 8oz glass, called a “joker,” each filled with 6 ounces of red wine.  There was also a bottle of still mineral water.  We began the tasting by pouring equal amounts of the water into each of the wine glasses.  Georg instructed us to drink the water out of glasses 1 – 3, and then asked us by a show of hands if we had a preference to any of the glasses with the water. 

Glass #1: Riedel Vinum XL (Pinot Noir)
Glass #2: Riedel Vinum XL (Syrah/Hermitage)
Glass #3: Riedel Vinum XL (Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux)

I was surprised, and in total agreement with the majority, that the clear-cut favorite out of the 3 for drinking water was glass #3.  

Now it was on to the main event.  Georg instructed us to pour the wine from the plastic “joker” glass directly in front of glass #1 equally into glasses 1-3.  We were then instructed to twirl, smell, and taste the wine from glass #1, and repeat the same for the remaining 2 glasses.  Again, we were asked by a show of hands which glass was preferred for that particular wine.  Glass #1, the Riedel Vinum XL (Pinot Noir) was the overwhelming choice by a landslide.  The wine was revealed, and it was the beautiful 2008 Domain Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir.  

Again we were asked to pour the contents of the “joker” glass in front of glass #2, equally into each of the three freshly rinsed wine glasses.  We repeated the exercise of twirling, smelling, and tasting.  The majority of the hands were raised for glass #2 Riedel Vinum XL (Syrah/Hermitage), with a small percentage for #1.  The second wine was revealed and it was the 2007 Neyers Syrah Hudson Vineyard.  The third wine poured was the 2008 Dominus Estate, and again by overwhelming majority glass #3 Riedel Vinum XL (Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux) was selected as the favorite.  

Throughout the tasting Georg Riedel kept referring to the Cabernet glass, which is their top selling red wine glass by far, as a “troublemaker” and that the glass had “zero tolerance” for any wines other than those made with Bordeaux varietals.  This was made abundantly clear when tasting the 2007 Neyers Syrah Hudson Vineyard out of the Cabernet glass.  The beauty of the wine was completely lost in the Cabernet glass, and an extraordinary wine was made to taste very ordinary.  If you’re going to choose just 1 red wine glass…make it a Syrah/Hermitage glass, as this is the very best vessel compromise for all red wines. Why Shape Matters: 

  • Grape varietal specific stemware features finely-tuned glass bowls consisting of 3 variables:  shape, size, and rim diameter.
  • Grape varietal specific stemware has to translate the “message” of wine to the human senses.  There are 4 sensations of wine.   

Bouquet: Grape varietal specific stemware is responsible for wine aroma (quality and intensity)
Texture: Grape varietal specific stemware highlights the exciting variable mouth feel of wine (watery, creamy, silky, velvety).
Flavor:  Grape varietal specific stemware creates balanced interaction between fruit, minerality, acidity and bitter components.
Finish:  Grape varietal specific stemware offers a pleasant, seamless, harmonious, long lasting aftertaste.   

My  Riedel Wine Glass tasting takeaway: 

  • One glass is not ideal for all styles of wines, and wine’s bouquet, taste, balance and finish are all affected by the glass it is consumed from.
  • The same wine will display completely different characteristics when served in different glasses.
  • These differences can be so great, that even experienced wine connoisseurs believe that they are tasting as many different wines as there are glasses.
  • RIEDEL has created shapes that specifically enhance a wine’s harmony and highlight its unique characteristics.
  • Grape varietals carry unmistakable flavor profiles in their DNA, which add to the importance of selecting the appropriate glass.