Archive for December, 2009

How big is your cork?

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009


Shooting for a little subliminal New Years humor as we prepare to POP THE CORKS of bubbly or whatever alcoholic beverage you will be imbibing in this New Years.

This picture was taken while enjoying some special wines with good friends while on a business trip in Israel.  Although the differences may appear to be small, it is amazing how long that cork on the right is. Though the most interesting (albeit somewhat oxidized) wine of the night was this one…

95 bru

But back to corks for a quick second, these extra long corks are used so that they can absorb a LOT of wine during bottle aging and still maintain a proper seal & prevent oxidation.  Though I wonder how long it would take that long cork on the right to get fully soaked & for any seepage to take place…

Remember folks, it is not the size of the ship…

Happy NEW YEARS wine tasting!


Avoid the hangover – drink clear spirits

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Ahhh….the holiday season is upon us (as is the COLD in NYC).  Which means lots of partying.  Lots of partying means lots of drinking.  And lots of drinking means the likelihood of the infamous HANGOVER.

But is there a way to avoid a hangover?  I think when it comes down to it, if you drink too much and don’t have sufficient food/fluids in your system, you will suffer with some form of hangover.  I would recommend drinking with your meal & if possible, having a glass of water with each drink.  But researchers from Brown University have a different idea…drink clear spirits.

The researchers have said that dark drinks such as wine or whiskey have many times more chemicals called “congers” than lighter colored drinks such as gin or vodka.  And it is these “congers” they concluded that cause the infamous hangover.

“While the alcohol alone is enough to make many people feel sick the next day, these toxic natural substances can add to the ill effects as our body reacts to them,” Damaris Rohsenow, a professor at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, said in a statement.

OH BOY…I’m in trouble…90+% of my wine/beer/spirits collection are dark.  Dark beer, bourbon & red wine.  Thank goodness for ibuprofen!

Happy hangover free imbibing!


Is it worth it to spend $40, $50 or more on a bottle of wine?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

When is it worth spending more than $30 for a bottle of wine?  I would contend NEVER.  OK, maybe not never, but for 90+% of purchases I think it is silly.

Let me begin by saying that I am referring to wines bought at a wine shop, not in a restaurant.  Restaurants generally charge more, so that magic number probably goes up to about $40-50.

I have read several articles of late noting the decrease in sales of  “premium” wines ($30+) that has resulted as the economy has struggled.  Some speculate that as the economy recovers people will go back to buying these wines while others believe that consumers have found wines they like at lower price points and will not go back to paying more for a bottle.  But more importantly, SHOULD PEOPLE EVER spend $30+ on a bottle of wine?

To answer this question we must first discuss some of the factors that make a wine so expensive.

The most important component of wine is the grape.  To make a premium wine one must use the best grapes.  These premium grapes come from the best vineyards in the best wine producing regions.  When not used by the growers themselves, these grapes can cost upward of several thousand dollars per ton.  The high price for these grapes leads to a more expensive wine.  (This doesn’t even account for the cost of the land or the vines which often require 3-4 years before they reach maturity.)

The winemaker, though a debatable topic (for another time) is also an expense.  Those winemakers who have proven the ability to make premium wines command premium salaries.  Some of the best are actually contracted to be consulting winemakers and work with the full time winemaker to make the best wine possible.  This adds to the cost of the wine.

Finally, and the factor I believe plays the biggest role in this debate is the aging process – which further breaks down to time and device.  How long the wine is aged and in what vessel.  Every day wines might be aged in stainless steel tanks that can be reused year after year & kept there for only a few weeks or months before being bottled and sold.  On the other end of the spectrum are the wines that are aged in the finest oak barrels for as many as 24 or more months.  The cost of these barrels can exceed $1,000 & are they only fully effective in their first use – though they are often used for 3, 4 or more different wines.  That is 2 years of holding on to a product aged in $1,000 oak barrels before it can be sold – though it is often held for at least another 2-3 months after the wine is bottled.

SO, as you can see, these premium wines can cost their producer a lot of money to produce.

Then Wine Tasting Guy, you ask, I want the best wine there is and I am prepared to pay for it.

If your purchase is made for ego purposes stop reading now.  You are doing what you want and there is no logic I can provide that will (or should) change your mind.  But if you are really curious about whether or not your expensive purchase is worth it or not, read on…

In my (humble) opinion, these wines are similar to, if not LESS DESIRABLE than wines that undergo a cheaper aging process.  Huh?  If it is cheaper how can it be BETTER?  Well, 90+% of wines (I think the number is closer to 95%) are consumed within 48 hours of being purchased.  Therein lies my argument.   So many of these premium wines are being consumed THAT NIGHT…but they are made to be consumed in 3, 5 even 10 or more years.

Premium wine aged in fine oak barrels need time to reach their full potential.  A well made wine gains complexities as it ages.  And the barrel aging process leads to wine that tastes oaky and often “tight” in its youth (think of cold food that should be served hot).  HOWEVER, once these premium wines are given time (known as bottle aging) for the oak flavors/aromas to integrate well with the fruit component of the wine & are further allowed to develop secondary characteristics, these wines can be magical.

On the other hand, wines intended for early consumption, within about 3 years of the vintage date, generally have less new oak used and can reach their full potential much sooner.  So while some may argue that the potential of these wines does not hold a candle to that of the premium wines, at least they are being enjoyed closer (or at) their full potential rather than way before their potential has come close to being realized.

SO, if you are a wine collector who intends to age your wine (in the proper place, temperature, humidity, etc) then go for it.  Buy expensive wine…and invite me over to enjoy it with you ;).  You are likely to be rewarded!  But if you are like the other 95% of the population who consume wine within 1-2 days of buying the wine (or even within 6-12 months) then save your hard earned money and buy a wine in the magical $15-25 range.

Happy economically sound wine tasting!


Is this food/wine any good?

Monday, December 7th, 2009

When you go to a bar/restaurant, do you ask the waiter if a dish/drink/wine is any good?

I mean seriously, what server/waiter/waitress worth half their weight in plonk (low grade wine) would actually answer NO, that dish/wine is bad.  I mean seriously…

But WTG, what if I am curious about a dish and want to know if it is any good?  Shouldn’t the server tell me the truth???

NOOOO!!!!  Sure the server is working for a tip & presumably that server will not want to steer you wrong.  BUT once you leave the restaurant that server has a boss to answer to & if that boss hears the server saying anything negative about the food at the establishment said server will likely be unemployed.

The best solution would be to ask for a taste of the dish/wine in question.  In the case of foods this may be difficult, but with most wines that are served by the glass at restaurants or wine bars you should be able to get a taste.

At restaurants I like to employ 2 strategies.  The first, if I have a specific dish in mind, is to ask the server if they have had the dish.  (Many servers only eat from community dishes prepared in advance of their shift for the whole staff.)  If they have, ask if they enjoyed it and would order it again.  This way the server can tell you that they might not have enjoyed it or they might not order it again, without saying that it is not good (or heaven forbid BAD).

The next strategy I like to take, and the one I favor most hoping to get the restaurant’s BEST dish is to ask the server what their favorite is, or what they would order if they were eating dinner and I was paying.  This really gets them to open up & generally lets you know if you take their recommendation that you are likely to end up with a good dish.

Happy tasty food & wine tasting!


“Contains Sulfites”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

We’ve all seen it on the back label of a bottle of wine…

…but what does it mean?

Sulfites are a preservative.  They are found in dried fruit & are commonly used in salad bars.  They are added to wine to preserve the wine & prevent it from spoiling.

Some people are allergic to sulfites.  Others believe that the sulfites in wine are what cause them to get headaches from wine.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were no sulfites in wine?  And what of organic wines – isn’t that sulfite free??

Well, ALL wine has sulfites.  Sulfites are naturally occurring on the grape skins.  Since red wine gets its color from the skins red wines have more naturally occurring sulfites than white wines.  But white wines generally have more sulfites added than red wines.  So there is no and will never be any sulfite free wine (as far as I understand) – or at least none that will last more than a few days (hours?).

As to organic wine, it not only has the naturally occurring sulfites, but almost all has added sulfites – otherwise the wine would spoil relatively quickly.  BUT…and here is the difference, organic wine, to maintain their organic classification, can only add a specific (small) amount of sulfites.  YES, it is still there, BUT it is also added in smaller amounts.

SO, now that we have cleared that up I want to tell you about a real cool technology I just read about on  The technology, called SurePure, uses light to purify wine REDUCING (but not eliminating) the need for sulfites.  Something about the technology “deactivates microbes” (whatever that means)  reducing the likelihood of spoilage.   Apparently it is already used in the juice, dairy & beverage industries.  And now it has been approved for use in South Africa.

No idea whether this technology will work for wine, how far its use will spread or whether it will enable those who suffer from red wine headaches to drink wine worry free.  But it does sound like an exciting development…

Happy light purified wine tasting!