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Absurdly simple wine questions...


nakji
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I searched to see if this thread already existed, and couldn't find it, although I did see one requested here.

Apologies if I missed it in the search.

Question 1:

Situation: French Class.

We're discussing "Asterix Chez Les Bretons". Asterix visits England to find that the English serve warm beer, but chill their wine. My French teacher laughs uproariously.

"Chill their wine! Hehehe! Only in England!"

We laugh along. He he he! Crazy English!

Of course, running through my head is the fact that, at that very moment, a bottle of Chilean Chardonnay is nestled in my fridge door.

Was I wrong to do this? Are the French laughing at me too? What would Asterix say?

I wouldn't put a red in the fridge (unless, of course, it's July, when in Hanoi, things need to be refrigerated just to reach room temperature), but I've never thought twice about chilling a white.

Question 2:

Situation: Hanoi Towers Citimart

I'm eying a bottle of questionable French Bordeaux. The label says 1996, and the label is stained. The wine looks more brown than red. In the back of my mind, a warring sentiment - One half of my brain says "Old wine = good". The other half says, "That may contain biotoxins." Somehow, I know that not all wine is created to be cellared, and that this is probably one such bottle. But how do we know which wines? For example, I'd never try to keep a bottle of Banrock Station Shiraz (1L! 30% Bonus!) for twenty years in my basement in the hopes that it would get "better", but how do I identify wines worth keeping? Is there a price range? Are there expensive wines meant to be drunk young? Cheap wines meant to age?

Help.

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these are really good questions.

As for the serving temperature of wines the recommended temps are:

Light fruity reds (basic beaujolais, lambruscos etc)

Roses

most whites

should all be served chilled.

The recommended temperature is 45-50 degrees F and around 10 degrees centigrade. An ice bucket is faster than a fridge for this.

You may like a particular wine cooler or warmer (less cool) it's really up to you.

More serious reds and whites should be served at "cellar temperature" which is recommended to be 15 degrees centigrade or 55-59 degrees F.

personal preference plays a role here as well. I find that for most whites chilling them a bit cooler than I would prefer normally and letting them come down in temperature is good for me.

The key is wines that are more aromatic benefit from a slightly warmer temperature while if served too warm become flabby. I suggest you play around a bit and see which wines you enjoy at what temperatures.

as for age worthiness. I believe this is entirely up to your personal preference. The vast majority of wines are made to be drunk on release. However, there are wines that develop secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors with age.

It all depends upon your preference for fruit flavors vs the non fruit flavors that emerge as the fruit attenuates with age. It is also important what your tolerance for tannins is.

In my experience, it is difficult to find the single optimum drinking age unless one buys several bottles and drinks them at various periods in their development. That is to say, when a wine tastes good to you then by all means drink it!

When a critic or anyone says that a wine will keep or will improve (there's an important difference) for a certain period of time, I would take this advice with a big grain of salt.

as always, with wine there are no hard and fast rules and one should experiment a bit to find out what they like.

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Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I won't feel bad about putting the red in the fridge this summer when it hits 38 degrees outside!

Question #3

When a red wine has turned into more of a maroon/brown shade, is that a natural part of the aging process, or is it a sign that the wine is not worth drinking?

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It depends partly on the variety (or main variety) of the wine. Some grape varieties have more of a brick-red color, and less garnet-plum pigment. This does not mean that they are lesser wines. You should judge a wine on its flavor and aromatics--and ironically, some of the lighter-pigmented varieties are also the most perfumed.

However, if the wine looks blood red in the center, but butterscotch on the edge, that may be a sign of oxidation, heat stress, or age.

So it really depends on where the wine came from, the vintage, and what the wine is supposed to be . . .

Do you have a question about a specific wine, or perhaps a wine that we could use as a classroom example?

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Having lived in a hot climate for a few years, I can only sympathise with your situation. The wine used to be imported by ship, sitting in giant containers on deck and exposed to all weathers, direct sun and up to 50C heat.

About 20% of bottles were completely ruined with no discernable taste left and often a slight brownish colour, even in a relatively new wine.

To get reliable wine, we had to know the importers and check that they transported the wine with some climate control.

It’s also not fair to say that the English cool their wine. I cool wine in the same way as the French – young, lighter reds and rosé is often better chilled as it takes the edge of the acidity. Heavier wines, such as Bordeaux, don’t take well to chilling as it can lead to tannins coming out of solution making it ‘bitty’. I would suggest that if you have to cool red wines to get them to room temperature, that you do it slowly (iced water would be a desperate measure).

Most white wines are improved by chilling, but again ice temperature may be refreshing but only goes to mask the flavours. I think there is much more personal preference as to the best temperature for drinking whites (but they still have to be cellared at the right temperature 10-12C to keep well).

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I have a question.

I remember reading somewhere that on average one out of every 12 bottles of wine that you might buy are corked. I have drunk quite a lot more than 12 bottles and have never rejected one.

How can I tell, with no other knowledge about the wine I am drinking, if this bottle has 'gone bad'?

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somewhere out here at eGullet is a thread--I am sure!

There's an element of luck involved--I can go quite a while and not experience a corked wine and then hit a patch where I encounter a few over a short period of time.

Badly corked wine has a distinct musty wet cardboard smell--once you experience it you will remember it!

A corked wine may also lack an overpowering smell but will have little or no nose at all and will taste flat--little or no fruit on the palate with no vibrancy. sort of dull.

A bit harder to detect but still with a bit of experience....

The first time I think I met a corked wine was at a restaurant--I ordered a nice california Cabernet. I tasted the wine and didn't notice anything but as I drank more I felt uncomfortable with the wine. It just seemed to lack the fruit flavors I had come to expect from a california cabernet. It really wasn't obviously (to me) unpleasant, rather it was dull and boring. I should have called the sommelier over but did not and sort of suffered through it.

What i should have done and will do now every time I even suspect a problem with a wine or am not happy with it (differentiating between not happy because i don't like the taste from the wine not tasting right) is immediately ask for whomever is the wine steward. If you have experience and know there is a problem with the wine a simple--"I believe this wine is bad or corked" will suffice.

If you have bought the wine at a wine shop, then bring the unfinished bottle back to the store and ask if someone could taste/inspect the wine and confirm your suspicions. I would let them know you are unsure and new to wine and would appreciate if they could let you know--all wine shops should take back unfinished bottles from unhappy consumers--the customer is always right but in this case I would let them know you want to learn what corked wine is like and ask for their opinion/verdict.

I recently opened several 1982 and 1986 Bordeaux first growths and found corked bottles--when i hear people lament today's experiments with screw tops, I remind them of my bad luck!

Overall, I would say that it is hard to ascertain the percentage but my guess would agree that about one out of twelve or fifteen bottles is bad.

Edited by JohnL (log)
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If you have bought the wine at a wine shop, then bring the unfinished bottle back to the store and ask if someone could taste/inspect the wine and confirm your suspicions. I would let them know you are unsure and new to wine and would appreciate if they could let you know--all wine shops should take back unfinished bottles from unhappy consumers--the customer is always right but in this case I would let them know you want to learn what corked wine is like and ask for their opinion/verdict.

I agree. This is one of the benefits of finding a store you like and becoming a regular. They're really willing to make you happy.

I've not experienced much corked wine as I'm a relatively noob. However I did have a white wine that tasted like bad sherry. I took that back to the store and they gave me a credit.

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Q- How long will a wine keep for once opened? I know about the detrimental effects of O2 on wines, but realistically how long do you keep a wine in your fridge door without it going bad? I have been putting opened reds in the fridge and taking them out before I wasnt to drink them. It seems to work fine.

Are there any hard and fast rules? Or does it depend on the individual properities of the wine?

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The drinking window for an open bottle is probably no more than a week, no matter what precautions you take.

A few years ago a wine industry publication (Wine Business Monthly) did side-by-side evaluations of the various methods--oxygen pump, gas spargers, and . . . refrigeration. Of all the methods and accessories sold in wine catalogs, simply putting the wine in the fridge proved to keep the wine freshest, over the longest period of time. If you happen to have a pump or a sparger, combining that method with refrigeration would probably keep your wine best.

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The first time I think I met a corked wine was at a restaurant--I ordered a nice california Cabernet. I tasted the wine and didn't notice anything but as I drank more I felt uncomfortable with the wine. It just seemed to lack the fruit flavors I had come to expect from a california cabernet. It really wasn't obviously (to me) unpleasant, rather it was dull and boring. I should have called the sommelier over but did not and sort of suffered through it.

It is worth remembering that there are degrees of cork taint. You can get a wine which blows your head off with the musty smell, or you can get wines which just aren't quite right. I usually reckon that when I get to smell the wine I can say straight off yes or no but sometimes I'm not quite sure and if it is the last one then it is almost invariably corked.

I must say that I have generally been impressed by the willingness of restaurants to change a bad bottle. I've heard of other people complaining how they have had problems getting a bottle changed but I've never encountered that.

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I had a wine at a wine bar that tasted really funky to me - but I asked my server to check it and she said it was just fine. I've had good experiences there before so I trusted her, but I still wonder. I wish I could remember which wine it was so I could try it again. Oh well... :D

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thanks for the info folks.....just clarify this for me if you will - can new wines be corked, or is it just vintages? (not that I really know what vintage means!)

Anything sealed with a cork is vulnerable. Obviously, the older the wine, the more chance of spoilage.

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Unfortunately, the mustiness of corked wine is because of mould growing in the cork. It means wines of all ages can suffer when a natural cork is used. Of course, using a synthetic cork or screw cap avoids this problem, but has other issues. There is no ‘best method’ of sealing a bottle of wine.

Correct me if I’m too far out, but vintage can mean a whole load of different things. Unlike cars, where vintage is just another word for ‘old’, vintage means that the wine is from an identified year. This seems to be the only element in common across all wine-growing regions.

More than that seems to depend on local wine regulations/customs. For example, for some French AOCs, vintage is only applied when the growing conditions and, therefore, the quality of the grapes meets the required high standard. So with champagnes, there are vintage years and non-vintage years, with vintage champagnes only being made with grapes from the specific vintage year.

I suspect it gets more complicated than this…

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thanks for the info folks.....just clarify this for me if you will - can new wines be corked, or is it just vintages? (not that I really know what vintage means!)

All though the phrase "vintage wine" is sometimes used to denote a wine of superior quality or one that is worth aging, rather than ready to drink right now (Frank Sinatra: "Now the days grow short/I'm in the autumn of my years/And I think of my life as vintage wine/from fine old kegs...it was a very good year") the vintage is just the year in which the grapes were harvested and most still table wines.

"Vintage" does have a different connotation for true Champagnes and Ports, as Champagne makers and porters :wink: release "vintage" champagnes or ports only in what they consider exceptional years.

From a New York Sun article on Dom Perignon's winemaker: "Vintage Champagne is made from wines produced in a single year exclusively, while a majority of Champagnes are non-vintage and consist of a blend of wines from different years. Dom Perignon is vintage Champagne exclusively, and made no more than six times every decade."

And, from Wikipedia: "Although it accounts for only about two percent of production, vintage port is the flagship wine of all Portugal. Vintage port is made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year. Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro; only those when conditions are favourable to the production of a fine and lasting wine. The decision on whether or not to declare a vintage is made in the spring of the second year following the harvest.

The decision to declare a vintage is made by each individual port house, often referred to as a 'shipper'. The port industry is one where reputations are hard won and easily lost, so the decision is never taken lightly. During periods of recession and war, potential 'declarations' have sometimes been missed for economic reasons. In recent years, some shippers have adopted the 'chateau' principle for declarations, declaring all but the worst years. More conventional shippers will declare, on average, about three times a decade."

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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About keeping opened wine:

I drink a glass a day of red wine for my health/digestion. I don't need anything fancy, so I get the boxed wine. Do I need to refrigerate it once I've "tapped" it? I had been, but it occurred to me that there is no seal or anything on the tap, so the first time I turned it doesn't seem any different than the tenth. Will it spoil at room temp?

~ Lori in PA

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About keeping opened wine:

I drink a glass a day of red wine for my health/digestion. I don't need anything fancy, so I get the boxed wine. Do I need to refrigerate it once I've "tapped" it? I had been, but it occurred to me that there is no seal or anything on the tap, so the first time I turned it doesn't seem any different than the tenth. Will it spoil at room temp?

I would put the cork back in or use one of those cute stoppers available in places like williams sonoma etc. and keep the bottle in the fridge.

As long as the wine tastes ok to you then is it...well...ok.

You might want to look for a red wine that is sealed with a screw top. A lot of nice wines use them these days--this makes it easy to reseal the bottle.

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About keeping opened wine:

I drink a glass a day of red wine for my health/digestion. I don't need anything fancy, so I get the boxed wine. Do I need to refrigerate it once I've "tapped" it? I had been, but it occurred to me that there is no seal or anything on the tap, so the first time I turned it doesn't seem any different than the tenth. Will it spoil at room temp?

I would put the cork back in or use one of those cute stoppers available in places like williams sonoma etc. and keep the bottle in the fridge.

As long as the wine tastes ok to you then is it...well...ok.

You might want to look for a red wine that is sealed with a screw top. A lot of nice wines use them these days--this makes it easy to reseal the bottle.

Actually, Lori's talking about boxed wines, so putting the cork back in may be a bit tricky.

Wine in a box won't spoil at room temperature, since the packaging (which should have a plastic bag within the box) basically ensures a vacuum seal. It's oxygen that's the real enemy of wine -- oxidation over time is what ultimately robs wines of their lustre. No need to refrigerate it unless you prefer it to be cold.

Christopher

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tetra packs - boxed wines have a seal on the spout which prevents air from entering. The interior bag collapses as wine exits, keeping oxygen out. They say the box is good for 6 weeks once you start pouring.

For bottles, refrigeration is good, and a really good trick is to buy a couple of half bottles of wine, enjoy them, then when you've consumed half a regular bottle, pour the wine into the (empty, rinsed) half bottle, stick the cork in and fridge it. Using the smaller half bottle reduces the exposure to oxygen. Works really well!

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Question: I've heard the term "barnyard" used when describing wine -- what does it taste like? Manure?  :raz:

Barnyard tastes are a result of Brettanomyces,a spoilage yeast and your BEST source will be an article by Rebel Rose (Mary Baker of Dover Canyon Winery)from October 26, 2004.

And, yes, they do often have a manure like nose and taste.....can't imagine why but SOME wine makers actually like this.

Ted Task

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Thank you, Ted! Here's a link to the article Disgusting Things in Wine.

The "barnyard" character that people refer to is also sometimes difficult to define, as it depends on each person's experience with a barnyard. So if you can, ask your companion to define "barnyard" a little more specifically . . .

* nasty, gaseous poo things

* shaved wood and sawdust

* horse sweat, animal hide

* saddle leather

* mushrooms and compost

* decaying vegetation

* steaming, healthy poo with masticated grass

:laugh:

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Question: I've heard the term "barnyard" used when describing wine -- what does it taste like? Manure?  :raz:

Actually, the term barnyard almost always refers to the aroma (or odor, if you prefer) of the wine. Mary is right about many wines afflicted with brett give off barnyard aromas. I'd also add band-aids to that list. With respect to taste, however, I don't recall ever thinking a wine tasted like a barnyard or even poopy. But -- wines afflicted badly by brett have a distinct metallic taste. Think of tomato sauce cooked in a reactive aluminum pan. Yuck.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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