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A Winemaker’s Skill Leads To Great Wine


What makes the difference between ordinary wine, sometimes jokingly called plonk, and truly great wines with complex characteristics? The current explanation dictates terroir is determined by terroir, those elements nature provides, such as soil, the amount of sun, rain, wind, and the influence of nearby rivers or oceans. The magic that comes to grapes starts when the vines derive various flavors from a soil’s characteristics. It seems counter-intuitive, but a great wine’s concentrated flavors are the consequence of grapes grown in mineral-rich soils that are often volcanic or strewn with pebbles and rocks, forcing the vine’s roots to dig deeper to find water extracting flavors from a soil’s various strata. In contrast, deep, loamy, soils produce grapes without character and flavor since the roots stay closer to the surface, reducing the opportunity to extract complex characteristics. Winemakers at large- scale wineries are less fussy about soils since they prefer optimum quantity over optimum quality while vintners with a goal of complex wines choose soils that give their vines a head-start.

A vineyard manager can moderate some of the issues surrounding soil ‘s fertility in order to achieve grapes with more concentrated flavors. Soil and terroir are part of a three-legged stool. The winemaker is the third leg of the stool, one who is challenged by each vintage and goes through the infinite steps that start at harvest and ends in the bottle. A winemaker brings acumen, training, philosophy, artistry, patience, and aptitude to the task. To say wine is totally determined by nature is akin to saying a Beethoven piano concerto flows from the keyboard without the pianist, or paints jump onto the canvas without some help from the painter.

Good wine can’t be made from behind a desk or by committee. An individual winemaker infuses wine with passion, heart and soul personal style. A vintner interested is producing the best wine possible must be committed to managing every detail starting in the vineyards, overseeing every step of the way from spring to harvest in the fall. Each vintage creates endless nail-biting moments that start in the early spring when frost or hail can impact negatively on grape buds. Countless decisions along the road to getting wine in the bottle is fraught with potential problems. Picking too early or too late changes the wine’s profile. Harvest is the most pressured, hectic time when a year’s income often rests on crucial last decisions in the fall. But issues of fermentation, decisions about barrel aging age, what kind of barrels will help wine’s flavors, on to bottling, and finally to getting the wine to the consumer are questions a talented winemaker must deal with through the winemaking cycle that starts over again when spring rolls around.



Pairing Wine and Cheese


Cheese and wine have a centuries-old tradition as a made-in-heaven match. Most often wine continues to be the beverage of choice when serving cheese. Gastronomes insist there is a scientific reason for the combination. Balance in the mouth is achieved because the high fat, high protein in cheese is modified by the wine’s astringency.  W like to think the combination rests on the fundamental idea that wine and cheese have a something in common. They both start as raw products that go through fermentation. One great advantage of their union is that cheese and wine can be enjoyed with little or no preparation.

Few hard and fast rules exist to dictate which wines go best when faced with the wide spectrum of cheese and myriad wine choices. That said, here are  several suggestions, understanding that they are the mere tip of the proverbial iceberg because the problem comes about when following the advice of cheese experts who recommend an assortment of different styles when serving cheese to company.

Therefore, one way to simply the situation is to match wine and cheese from the same region, although that requires some intensive research and a level of sophistication. There’s a lot of room for crossing over the boundaries set by “experts.” In general, white wines go better with many cheeses than reds. As a rule, young, fresh cheese like Triple or double cremes, fresh goat cheese, mozzarella and ricotta match well with crisp, fruity white wines –  Vouvray from the Loire Valley with its light sparkle, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, Champagne or a sparkling wine like Cava. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are perfect with creamy blue, bloomy rind and Alpine cheeses, brie, and gouda that begin to show more intense flavors. Sweet wine like a Gewurtztraminer contrasts very well with a cheese with high acidity, some blue cheeses, and Munster.

Within the red category, fruity, light red wines such a Pinot noir are especially suited to soft cheeses, especially goat cheese. Very salty cheese looks for a wine with good acidity. Roses and Beaujolais complement  soft goat cheese and buttery styles. More full-bodied reds like Merlot, Chianti and Cabernet Sauvignon are excellent choices with Gouda, Cheddar and other hard, aged cheeses with sharpness and complex flavors.

My personal advice is to uncork a favorite bottle and get it to the right temperature. Unwrap the cheese and take it out of the refrigerator bringing them to room temperature. And if this is all to confusing, serve beer.







Pairing Wine and Cheese




Cheese and wine have centuries-old traditions of being partnered together as an extremely compatible match. There are no hard and strict rules about which wine should be selected to accompany a particular cheese as the best selections are almost always based on individual tastes. Fortunately, there are no hard and strict rules about which wine to match with a particular cheese. Rather, it pays to experiment and let your individual taste and judgment be the best guide. However, here are some helpful guidelines.

First, consider matching wines and cheeses from the same region. As a rule, the whiter and fresher the cheese the crisper and fruitier the wine should be. Note that a whiter and fresher cheese goes well with a crisp, fruity wine and in general, white wines go better with many cheeses than reds. Within the red category, choose fruity, light red wines that are especially suited to soft cheeses, especially goat cheese. Champagnes make a fabulous combination with bloomy white rinds. Very salty cheese looks for a wine with good acidity. Sweet wine contrasts very well with a cheese with high acidity.

If it’s still confusing, beer or cider are great alternatives.


The Serving Temperature For Wines

At what temperature does a wine show its best? It’s  commonly thought to serve white wines on the cool side and reds warmer. But what exactly do cool and warm mean? Whites and roses should definitely be served on the cooler side, around 50 to 55 degrees F. But often restaurants bring a bottle to the table covered with frosty moisture . Also home fridges keep the wine at around35-45 degrees F. It means the cold blocks the aromas and tastes until the wine warms up a bit. It’s possible to warm the wine by cupping the glass with  two hands for a moment, but in any case eventually the wine will reach ambient room temperature. That’s the reason why once served the bottle is placed in an ice bucket.
Red wines are said to be best at room temperature but in most American homes, and even crowded restaurants the temperature hits 75 and above. The correct temperature for serving red wine is somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees F. That’s the temperature of a house  cellar  (or in the old days, the cellar of a monastery or castle). In the hot summer days of Napa Valley,it’s common to see winemakers and serious drinkers drop a couple of ice cubes in their red wine to get it at its most palatable best.The bottom line, however, is that serving temperature is largely based on personal preference.

Questions About Sulfites In Wine

Many wine consumers are nervous when they read labels that indicate wines contain sulfites. The U.S government mandates wines sold in the U.S. carry the warning although many other countries don’t have the same requirement. Sulfites are found naturally in wine although some winemakers add additional amounts to wine as a preservative. Sulfites are found in most fermented products: beer, cheese, bacon, olives, and dried fruit to list just a few.  About 1% of the population who suffer from asthma, allergies, or sensitivity to sulfites develop wheezing, hives, or swelling in the throat.

Wine drinkers often blame sulfites for their headaches. There is no scientific proof for the claim, although many people avoid red wine in particular, citing sulfites as the culprit. It’s very possible histamines are the real cause, although tannins may have to take their share of the blame. Tannins are found in grape skins and seeds, and oak barrels in which wines are aged. Alcohol is also a trigger, so look for wines that have low percentages of alcohol always marked somewhere on the front of back label in small print. Avoid wine with alcohol levels above 14%. This big wine bombs with 16%+alcohol are hazardous to your health. They are hot on the tongue, making them poor matches with food.


Hibernating Grapes

Terroir, those elements of nature including sunshine, wind, soil, rainfall, etc. are factors that impact on grapes. It’s easy for even the untrained eye to be aware of what’s happening in a vineyard once spring renews the cycle of growth and life flows back into the vines. Through spring, summer and fall, there are noticeable changes from bud break to the development of tiny grapes. Summer brings full fruition when clusters of grapes hang heavy on the vines ready for eager hands to gather them. Fall passes and harvest is over. Leaves that provide glorious colors of yellow, orange and red in the autumn become dry and brittle, scattered on the ground by the wind. Vineyard workers look forward to a well-deserved rest from the months of intense work it requires to ensure grapes will produce a good harvest.

Work in a winery is a year-round occupation. Life goes on inside the winery during winter. Checking on fermentation, aging in oak barrels, and multiple tasks take place indoors. We tend to think that life stops in the vineyard when temperatures drop.  But during winter the vineyard is quietly taking care of tasks necessitated by colder weather. It is a time when vines hibernate, storing up energy for the coming season. Trained eyes understand the subtle changes winter imposes on the vineyard. Wood hardens on the vines protecting them from inclement weather. Vines gather and store carbohydrates for the future. Falling temperatures convert sugars to starch. The period of winter dormancy prepares them for the cycle of growth that begins once spring wakens the earth. Once again vintners and vineyard managers watch and wait for signs of burgeoning life when cover crops slowly emerge signaling hibernation is over and the cycle of regeneration is about to begin.


Know the characteristics in wine to make them more enjoyable

Several factors make drinking wine more enjoyable than popping the top of a can of soda. Wine’s infinite variety is part of the adventure of drinking, but it’s also daunting. Every brand of soda is always dependable – from color to fizz to taste. Conformity is the stock in trade of soda producers which is why a can of Coca-Cola aims to be the same around the world. It’s precisely the difference between soda and the many incarnations of wine. That’s why it’s helpful to recognize the different elements found in wine.

Many wines, particularly reds, contain tannins. They are compounds that come from grape skins, seeds, and stems that add to the complexity and texture of wine. Tannins, like those found in strong tea, are astringent and feel dry on the tongue and mouth, leaving a slightly bitter taste. Tannic wines are great match for red meat and heavy dishes like pastas.

Body in wine is defined by their different weights and richness that run the gamut from light to full-bodied. Some wines leave a distinct feeling of viscosity in the mouth. The more alcohol, oak,and sugar in  wine the heavier it tastes.. It’s comparable to the difference between creme fraiche and aged Gouda, or skimmed milk and heavy cream. Match a wine’s weight with an appropriate food. For example, whites or roses with lighter food.

Aromas and flavors are among of the great pleasures of wine. Aromas and flavors are a result of a variety of factors including grape varietal, the blend of grapes, aging in oak barrels, a vineyard’s terroir … i.e. the climate, amount of sun, and soils in the vineyard as well as the winemaker’s skill in in shaping the wine. These are the reasons why wine aficionados check a wine’s color and inhale its aroma before taking the first sip. Sensing flavors and aromas is very subjective because not everyone picks up the exact same aromas and flavors from a bottle of wine.

Experience helps to develop a finer appreciation of wine’s innumerable characteristics.