Category Archives: Wine Tips

Why do we swirl wine?

Just Somme Stuff I Think About:  Why do we swirl wine?

Everyone does it – people at restaurants, wine bars, tasting rooms -even the Sommelier at that fancy restaurant does it.

We all know it makes you look like you know what you are doing, a clear cry of, “no newbie here!”

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But swirling wine is not just a way to look important; the action of swirling a wine in the glass does several things.

  • First off, the non-obvious: swirling the wine in the glass enables some evaporation to take place and the more volatile compounds will dissipate; these include sulfides (matchsticks), sulfites, (rotten eggs) or even some rubbing alcohol Why Do We Swirl?smells.
  • Second, it allows the wine to breathe. Swirling allows oxygen to attach itself to the compounds that make up tannins, and rounds them out, giving them a softer nature; this is also why a young wine should be decanted or run through an aerator: Oxygen helps it open up!
  • Third and most important, the swirling of the wine glass activates esters and aromatizes them, which allows you to smell more of the wine, and thus enjoy it more! This is why having a tulip shape glass helps – it concentrates those aromas up to your nose.

But of course, the most important thing to know when swirling wine is to look good while doing it. Make sure you practice at home and when you get to the restaurant you will look like the ultimate pro!


The 2 best ways to look like a pro:

professorThe Professor: Hold by stem with base firmly situated on a flat surface and give it a swift swirl for 4-5 seconds, then breathe intensely while using the phrase “that will do” repeatedly with a seriously academic look on your face. (bonus points for glasses near the bridge of your nose)

Wine visualThe Sommelier: Hold by base with thumb and forefinger lean ever so slightly so that the wine spreads out toward the rim; evaluate the color while making non-verbal low volume grunts of approval or consternation. Bring the wine up and in front of your face change grip to thumb and forefinger around the stem, and swirl counterclockwise for at least 10 seconds. Then breathe in audibly, and say the phrase, “ok, you can pour it,” but pretending that you are doing the server a favor by not sending it back.


All kidding aside, swirling is a good thing and helps you enjoy a great glass of wine!

Cheers!

 

 

Great Toasts for Momentous Occasions

This is my birthday week, which is likely why I’ve been craving Champagne, my favorite thing to drink in times of celebration.  The best way to kick off a celebration of any sort is a toast.  While toasting as a social drinking activity is almost always a good idea, obviously some toasts are more appropriate in certain situations than others.  In my experience, toasts start off nice, usually witty, and become more sentimental or raunchy as the night continues, predictably melding into some amusing hybrid of the two.

What follows are some toasts I’ve picked up or overheard at dinners and parties.  Feel free to add any of these to your party-going toolkit to impress, amuse, or occasionally embarrass your friends and family!

May friendship, like wine, improve as time advances.  And may we always have old wine, old friends, and young cares.

May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience and enough money in your pocket to buy a glass of Pinot Noir…on your birthday and every day!

Cool, friendly, clever, handsome… but enough about me. Here’s a birthday toast to you!

There’re big ships, there’re small ships, there’re ships that sail the sea.  But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be!

Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends!

I used to know a clever toast, But now I cannot think of it.  So fill your glass to anything, And bless your souls, I’ll drink it!

May we get what we want, but never what we deserve.

Here’s to those who’ve seen us at our best and seen us at our worst, and can’t tell the difference!

May all your ups and downs be between the sheets!

Here’s to the floor, who will hold you when no one else will.  But don’t forget your hands—you’ve always been able to count on them!

I drank to your health in company, I drank to your health alone.  I drank to your health so many times…I nearly ruined my own!

And because no good night of wine is complete without a little bit of poetry, here’s a favorite by Yeats:

“Wine comes in at the mouth

And love comes in at the eye;

That’s all that we will know for truth

Before we grow old and die.

I lift the glass to my mouth,

I look at you and I sigh.”

Wine Quotes to start your weekend!

Cheers!

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.
W.C. Fields

“I don’t like whiny and cheesy people, but I do like wine and cheese people!” – Anonymous

“Seven days without wine makes one weak.” – Anonymous

“My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” – Sir Robert Scott Caywood

“It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full. There is clearly room for more wine.”

“Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes, the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.” Hester Browne (author, freelance writer & journalist)

“Great wine requires a mad man to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make it, and a lover to drink it.” – Salvador Dali

“Wine is sunlight held together by water.” – Galileo Galilei (Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher)

Tips to make wine ratings work for you

magazines290 points. 92 points. 88 points.

Scores, ratings, critic’s reviews, whatever you want to call them, they can be confusing. And controversial. There are those who live and die by the 100 point scale, refusing to consider a wine not scored over 90 points by their favorite critic. Others disapprove, believing scores have led to a conformity in wines as producers strive to earn scores that will sell, rather than produce a wine of character. This is true; if one crafts a wine in order to achieve a high score from a specific critic, that hurts the integrity of the wine and the scoring system. Wine should have a sense of place, a sense of varietal and preferably, a team dedicated to showing the best of those two features.

That said, scores and ratings should not completely be overhauled. There are a number of critics out there (we use 13 different critics/publications on Wine.com) and each has their own approach.

To really get the most of ratings, it’s helpful to learn a bit about the publication or critic that reviewed it. If you try a wine that is rated 94 points and don’t like it, look at who the review came from. While you don’t need to memorize every critic’s biography, learning who has similar tastes certainly helps finding wines fit for you. A few tips to help:

-READ the review. Scores are not just a number; there is an explanation behind that number with much more importance than the number itself. Look for terms that speak to you. I love Rhone wines, but if a 94 point Rhone mentions any term that refers to “barnyard,” I avoid it. You may know you like supple tannins, or prefer tart fruit over ripe fruit – look for these terms in the tasting notes.

– If you try a wine a love it, look it up (on our site or others) to see who may have given it a score, if any. If you see a score from say, Stephen Tanzer, take note that Tanzer (and his colleagues) may be similar to your palate preferences in that particular wine category.

– Exploring wine takes practice, and if you want to use ratings in helping you explore, that takes some practice too. You’ll hit a few ugly ducklings before you learn which wines are your swans.

As always, we try to provide you the most information possible at Wine.com so you can find the perfect wine for you! Happy shopping :)

Dos & Don’ts of Visiting a Winery

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I was barely a wine professional when I visited my first winery. The year was 1975; I had just started buying wines for my family market and been married for a year. Our Gallo representative set up a tour and tasting for me at Sebastiani Winery in the town of Sonoma. I was really excited but had no idea what to expect.  My first experience exceeded my expectations. Why?  I followed the rules, paid attention to the hospitality and enjoyed the ambiance of the area. Visiting wineries is more than just tasting wines at a bar; it can become a foray into the surrounding countryside. The Napa Valley is one of the most toured places in California. In 2012, Napa Tourist spending hit $1.4 billion. (Source: Napa Valley Register.com, April 26, 2013). Folks go beyond wineries – they enjoy landmarks, recreation and restaurants. The end result is an experience of memorable proportions.
What are the dos and don’ts for winery visits?

DO plan
Planning is where it begins. With so many options, one must make the most of the opportunities. What is the most important? The wine, the vineyards, the restaurants in wine country, some scenic point, everyone in your party has a magic button. Once the basics have been covered, you are on your way to a grand time. In my 40 years as a wine pro, I have visited a lot of wineries and whether you are an everyday consumer or a well-schooled professional, I have learned that preparation is the key to enjoying and getting the most out of visiting a winery. While serendipity often occurs at wineries (i.e. OMG, the grapes are just coming in or the owner wants to bring an old wine that is not on the list for you to taste), planning provides the underlying structure to a successful winery visit.

DO be respectful
So now you have arrived at your destination? What now? If you are a walk in, understand that you and your party are guests and will most likely be taken care of by the winery’s hospitality team. If you made a reservation, as some wineries require, then the most important thing is to be on time or inform the team of any changes (you are late or the number in your party has changed). In this way winery and restaurant reservations are quite similar. You would not be 30 minutes late for a reservation at the French Laundry without calling them.

DO thoughtfully taste wines – remember, it’s not a bar.
DON’T be afraid to spit.
DON’T drive if you have had too much wine! Lots of great buses, drivers, taxis to get you home.

And finally… DO enjoy yourself :) It’s wine country after all.