Archive for September, 2018


Five easy steps that enhance enjoyment of wine


It sounds unbelievable, but very wine tells a story. Five simple steps help understand what a wine is trying to communicate. In five steps its story is unlocked, enhancing the enjoyment of wine while adding to your tasting skills. The five steps are easy to remember are because they all begin with the letter S. Best of all, going through the drill can be done unobtrusively in a restaurant or at home any time a new bottle is opened. Note not everyone experiences the same sensations from the same bottle of wine. Some folks say their experience is limited to a general sensation of drinking wine.

Step 1: SEE. The color of wine offers an introductory esthetic experience as well as  revealing information about its weight and texture. White wines’ pale color indicates it is light in texture while as the color increases the wine is more robust.  Whites range in hues from the palest yellow to straw to a deep golden hue depending on the varietal and the wine’s age. Red wines showcase bright tones ranging from ruby red to intense plum tinged with purple. A dark brownish tint that develops in white or red wine shows it oxidized with age and practically bellows, “Pick me up and pour me out. I’m way over the hill.”

Taking a good look at wine requires a clear glass rather than one with jewel-like colors—as beautiful as they may be. Fill the glass halfway (the bulge in the bowl of a glass is a good guide) and hold it at eye level to check the color. White wines can range from pale yellow to deeper straw. Red wines can range from ruby to red tinged with purple.

Step 2: SWIRL. Hold the glass by its stem and gently rotate it. The action releases the wine’s aromas, or bouquet, pent up in the bottle. (I like to think the release of aroma as the exhalation of the Genie in the bottle.) The action sets us up for step 3. Wait a few moments until the aerated wine allows the wine to show its true nature.

Step 3: SMELL. One of the pleasures of wine is the anticipation that comes with inhaling its aromas, hinting at what’s to come. It broadens the awareness of the complexity of individual wines.

The ability to taste actually begins with the ability to discern aromas. Wines release  aromas ranging from pleasant to funky. Noses outweigh taste buds with an amazing ability to detect hundreds of aromas while tastes are limited to a mere five: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami, a relatively new term that describes yummy flavors.

Step 3 begins by lifting the glass close to your nose and taking a deep breath, inhaling the aromas that range from simple to heady and complex, from pleasant to funky.

Some individuals whose sense of smell is elusive or who lack a sense of descriptors that show the range of aromas should check out the Aroma Wheel at sold by its creator, Ann C. Nobel, sensory chemist and retired professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of California. The Aroma Wheel classifies descriptive terms into hundreds of favorable and unpleasant aromas associated with wine.

Step 4. SIP: Take a moment to savor the flavors in the wine by holding the wine in your mouth. Swish it over your tongue, teeth, and gums. The action releases the flavors your nose predicted. Tannins, a sensation of dryness that also happens in strong tea, is often discernable in red wine.

5, Swallow. That’s what we’ve been waiting for since the wine was poured in the glass. Enjoy.

P.S. If you have time and are drinking alone or with friends, take notes. Notes help you remember labels, aromas, and tastes. Notes are especially helpful if you like the wine and want to purchase it again. They can help describe what you’re looking for in  taste profiles, so if the wine you enjoyed isn’t available. it is easy to  find a similar wine.





“Say MEAD, and people hear MEAT,” says Greg Heller-LaBelle, co-owner of Colony Meadery in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It’s the first step he and his partner, Michael Manning need to overcome when they seek to introduce an ancient beverage to a contemporary audience. “We have to get up-close and personal to market our mead, especially if consumers haven’t heard of it or tasted the honey-based alcoholic beverage. Mead recycles its popularity after long periods of dormancy and right now is its time to be experiencing an amazing renaissance. Modern technology coupled with inventive ingredients has significantly improved the ancient beverage.

Eons ago, mead occurred accidently when rainwater and wild yeast entered beehives, creating the perfect environment for honey to ferment and produce alcohol. Archaeological evidence indicates mead may have been a precursor to, or perhaps evolved at the same time as beer and wine, dating from as early as 7000 BC in northern China and slightly later in Egypt and Rome. Archeologists discovered a two thousand-year old crystallized honey that was still edible. Vikings had a taste for mead. In literary writings, Beowulf andChaucer’s Canterbury Tales mention mead several times. Chaucer wrote, ”‘He sent her sweetened wine and well-spiced ale and waffles piping hot out of the fire, and, she being town-bred, mead for her desire.” Mead was drink of preference during the Middle Ages when it was safer to drink  than water. Picture Robin Hood and his Merry Men at a trencher table drinking mead from large flacons.

Greg Heller-LaBelle and Michael Manning, co-owners of The Colony Meadery, welcomed me at their facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Their working space is part of a single-story industrial building. Several steel fermentation tanks at the meadery take center stage. Plastic conditioning tanks hold various meads until suitably aged and ready to go to the bottling line  sit across the floor. Each plastic tank is named to identify and keep track of batches of mead. The steel tanks are labeled from A to Z. Two are called Agnes and Bertha. The secondary tanks start at Z and go to A, one bearing the name Xavier. They have yet to figure out what to do when the alphabet meets in the middle.“We don’t measure output in bottles or cases, but rather in gallons. Our 2,000-gallon production goes into bottles and regular old beer kegs. In some meads, we’re looking for CO2 to brighten the flavors and add a fizzy mouth feel,” Manning says.

The partners are two affable, articulate guys with an obvious sense of camaraderie. They bonded as hobbyist beer makers at a beer festival and switched to mead after realizing the potential market for a beverage that delighted the palates of mankind for thousands of years. Heller-LaBelle combined his background in beverages, startups, and economic development with his love of craft beer, bourbon and mescal. He handles the company’s business. Manning’s hand steers mead’s production, adding inventive ingredients, modern tools and fermenting techniques to Colony’s artisanal production. “We get along because we have the same vision and do different jobs. We don’t step on each other’s toes,” says Manning.. His personal recipe had earned  Best of Show at a previous Valhalla mead competition. “Some companies produce a basic mead, but mead evolves over time. Some have more or less alcohol. Ours includes a number of complex styles using berries, herbs, fruit, and hops. Blueberries and other fruits are pressed and the juice, along with pulp and skins go into the tanks to add color and tannins to the mead. Some meads are ready to drink with no aging requirement. Light, delicate meads can last for two years in the bottle while heavier ones can last for over a decade.

Mead’s flavorschange with the seasons and with pollen from flowers brought to hives by bees. Honey is subject to terroir. Where bees source their pollen from affects the flavors of mead. Seasonal styles range from sweet to bone-dry with fruit and floral aromas. Light spring honey tastes of dandelions, clover, and tree fruit blossoms that make a delicate mead. Summer’s abundant flowers change mead’s character. Fall’s darker and more flavorful honey is the backbone of more assertive mead.

Colony gets its honey from two pollinators located in New Jersey. “We almost exclusively use an orange blossom honey from bees whose hives are trucked south to giant orchards in Georgia and Florida in early spring. We pay about $2.50 per gallon. The price varies, but not significantly, always staying below $3.00.”

“We like to produce many flavors and styles. Some are produced year-round while others are sold depending on the season. “Wolfie Dog” is a straight-forward hops and honey based mead. We favor the Pennsylvania Dutch style that likens the taste to cream soda. Another year-round mead made from honey and raspberries is called “Favorite Child” because we loved it from the first moment we tasted it.”

The number of companies producing mead has exploded in recent years. By 2009, 90 commercial meaderies were in production in the U.S. Today over 200 operate with more in the works. It’s not only seeing a resurgence in the U.S. English consumers testify to its current popularity. If you’re looking for an interesting expiration into another taste profile, check out mead. It’s definitely worth a try.