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What does “Dry” wine Mean?

Wine presents itself as a bit of a mystery. I often feel that it is this mystery that makes people hesitant to talk about it. One topic is dry wine. What does this mean? How can a wine be dry when it is made of liquid?  Well to put it simply, dry is the opposite of sweet.  It is the amount of residual sugar that is left in the bottle that can or can’t be perceived by the taster.

[caption id="attachment_80" align="aligncenter" width="200"]Sugar scale wine Is it dry or sweet?[/caption]

Sweetness is detected on the tip of our tongues. Most wines are in the dry category.  Their sugar level is at  4g/L or less . This would be less than one packet of raw sugar in a 1L bottle of water.  Very hard to detect on the tip of your tongue. As the chart above indicates most people will start to perceive sugar once it reaches the 10g/L mark in a wine. This would encompass the very popular Moscato style of wines today.  As you can see the levels can get very saturated with sugar and very sweet like port wine and Sauternes from France.  The difference is highly noticeable and usually procures wines of heavier more luscious mouthfeel.

The biggest question I get is why does my NAPA cab taste sweet then, Justin? Well, because of the intense sunlight and uniqueness of California the intensity of the FRUIT FLAVORS shine through. And when you taste fruit it is typically associated with sweet. So this is where the difference of a sweet wine with actual residual sugar should be compared to a FRUIT FORWARD wine that is a dry wine expressing fruity characteristics.

Feel free to discuss this topic or ask me any questions at The Bottle Room.

On a side note. I highly recommend serving your wines at suggested temperatures. Most reds at approx. 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sweet wines in the lower 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  The serving temperature helps balance some of the properties of wine for better enjoyment. I will explain in an upcoming blog post.



Glassware – Does it matter?

As Maximillian Riedel says, the glass is the messenger.  So does it matter who is delivering that message. I certainly think so. So many times I have gone to fine dining establishments with the intention to get a nice bottle of wine to share with the table. The wine list is superb. The bottle looks like a winner. The glass kills the moment.

Now there are plenty of wine glass producers out there but I will stand next to the Riedel stemware as consistently delivering a great message. Riedel has gone as far as creating varietal specific stemware and several levels that range from value driven everyday users to top end sommeliers.

What did they do to make them perfect for each varietal? First, they start with a lead oxide crystal base. Now first thing that comes to mind is that lead is bad. This is not the case. This is an oxide that is part of the structure of the glass and does  not leach out. It meets and surpasses all requirements for a food grade consumer based product.  Second, they experimented repeatedly to find the perfect shape and size for each style of wine. Some wines are more aromatic and some a little less so. Some wines are very acidic and bright while others come in under the radar. The shapes created for each varietal harness the attributes of the wine and deliver it to your nose and palate with the utmost of finesse.

Try drinking your favorite wine from a solo cup. Then place it in riedel varietal specific stemware.

What kind of message does each vessel deliver.   You be the judge.




What is Terroir?

So what is terroir?

In essence we have found that terroir means”sense of place”.  The French love to use this term all the time to describe the soils, climate, elevation, relation to wind patterns, amount of sun, setting of the vineyard etc… I also like to add the people making the wine.  A lot of these wine making regions have age old traditions and a so called “way we make the wine”.  That could apply to the yeast used or not used. The type of barrel program typically used if used at all. When the grapes are picked. What types of processes the grapes undergo after picking. What type of aging requirements there are for the wine? In barrel or in bottle? Is it left to sit on the “lees” ,the dead yeast matter that gives some wines a fuller body or mouthfeel along with a biscuity appeal.

When we combine all of these aspects we find that wine really does have a “Sense of Place” – Terroir. This is why a Sauvignon Blanc from France, California or New Zealand will have characteristics that are distinctly different.

We find this intriguing and a reason to keep looking for the next wine that shows it’s unique sense of place!



Say Cheese! A Market of all Markets in France

I had the luxury to visit a quaint little place called Chateauneuf Du Pape, ever heard of it? While at our bed and breakfast stay, run by an Austrian named Andreas, we were directed to a market beyond the scale I have seen in the States. It was Isle sur la Sorgue. With it’s Venice appeal and tight old world alleys my wife and I gazed around every corner in amazement. Linen lined spice buckets, wheels of cheese, baskets full of countless types of olives and old deli sausage only seen in Europe, allowed no empty space to exist. The nice part is that you can test drive any of these delicious products before giving a full commitment. My weakness, CHEESE! Go figure, I’m from Wisconsin. I am not a man of many words to fluff a story. I do, however, with confidence, pick out  what I feel are obvious highlights. One such noted case was the vibrant colors that pulled me in in the first place. The christmas tree green of pesto filled goodness or eye catching fire engine red of a tomato basil round was to say the least captivating. Once offered a slice of this still unknown piece of heaven I fell immediately. The flavors popped without restraint. Pesto and Tomato basil like never before. The texture was elegantly creamy with a silky finesse that coated the inside of my palate. Even after the cheese was consumed the pleasure continued to ensue for many minutes after it was gone. After returning from dreamland I realized the Frenchman who was selling this cheese had presumably asked me several times what I thought. I just asked him, “how do I get this back home”. Now I meant how do I get this into The Bottle Room so I can share this experience with my guests, whereas he thought I just wanted a slice. So he said,” Easy, I will vacuum wrap it for you, good for six months”.  Without hesitation I picked out a slice size for each and he sealed them up for a safe flight back to the U.S. It wasn’t that long ago we pulled our little slices of heaven back out and relived our moment in a Market place called Isle sur la Sorgue.

[caption id="attachment_15" align="aligncenter" width="300"]DSC_0411 Cheese at Isle Sur La Sorgue[/caption]


Holiday Wine Picks



With the holidays approaching so much emphasis is put on what wine to pair with “the” holiday meal; but there’s a lot more to the holidays than just one meal.  Out of town guests, holiday work parties, engagements, gatherings and so much more. The question now begs – what style of wine is right for these occasions?


Don’t let lesser known styles of wine go unnoticed as they are often “the perfect fit.” There’s sparkling, fortified, still and dessert. The style of a wine will accessorize the moment and give meaning to why you picked it. Just like the right shoes go with a certain dress for a specific occasion.



Dom Perignon is quoted as saying, “Come quickly, for I am drinking the stars.” These bubbly wines are fun, full of class, and fit a range of possibilities. Choose this style to enhance yearly events such as reunions, anniversaries, or the start of the New Year. Kick off a new job or welcome home a longtime friend whose presence has been missed. Sparkling wines turn any occasion into a celebration.



This classic red or white wine is your “Thank You in a bottle.” With an endless variety to choose from these wines are fantastic for dinner parties, game night, or just making memories an ordinary evening. Still wines provide a delicious accent to food or just friendly conversation.


Fortified Wines

Nothing helps keep friends and family around the table longer than fortified wine.  Pull out a Port, Madeira or a Vin Doux Naturel, next time you want to extend the experience with your loved ones. Fortified wines have a flavor profile ranging from sweet to nutty. Fortified wines enhance the occasion by insisting to others that your time with them is too precious to end just yet.


Dessert or Sweet Wines

Neglected by most drinkers due to its scarcity, thankfully it only takes a few drops of this decadent wine to transform this treat from an afterthought to a go-to the next time a host asks you to bring a dessert to a party.  Forego the cheesecake that makes a mess of the kitchen and pick up a Sauternes, Tokaji, Late Harvest or Ice Wine and save the cleanup time-not to mention a few calories. Dessert wine is best if treated as the dessert itself.


When searching for the style of wine that will accessorize your occasion try utilizing a customer focused wine store that can help you hand select “the perfect fit.”

Christmas Wine Gifts

The holidays are sneaking upon us in usual fashion. Soon the remnants of Thanksgiving turkey will be cluttering the fridge and you’ll be slipping on your walking shoes for a full day of the ritual shopping adventure known as “Black Friday.”


So what will you get for that friend or loved one that has an appreciation for wine? Picking out the perfect bottle of wine can be quite challenging when dealing with a connoisseur of one of the worlds oldest beverages. There’s red then there’s white and of course sweet or dry. But why not take a different approach? A true oenophile, lover of wine, does not appreciate only the liquid in their glass but the entire cultural experience. Search for a gift that accessorizes the culture of wine.


There are many options available that would make perfect gifts for your wine enthusiast. First, stemware is the vessel that elegantly cradles the wine. I suggest purchasing the most accepted brand Riedel, pronounced “REE-DULL.” There are many different lines with several price categories, but the one thing across the board Riedel offers is a fine delivery system of wine to the lips.



Another option for your wine guru is a food and wine pairing book. The culture of wine blends perfectly with that of savory food. And for most it is a never ending quest to taste the tango of the perfect food and wine pairing.



Another popular item includes wine keys, aka: corkscrews, I recommend a style known as a waiters friend. If you want to go all out shoot for the brand called laguiole.



If all else fails head to your favorite boutique retail wine shop and consult with their staff on potential gift items, including the possibility of a custom made gift basket with hand selected wines.


It’s a sip of wine… it’s Summertime!

It’s summer time, the time when we usually see a shift in our wine selections. We transform from heavier robust wines like big bold Cabernet Sauvignon to lighter refreshing styles such as a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. With so many different varietals though why not try taking a step out of the box to discover your next favorite patio pleasing refreshing white.


Let’s first look to the coastal region of Rias Baixas, Spain to the lesser known grape: Albarino. This region produces delicious wines with bright lemon zest acidity offering a clean uplifting appeal. With the ocean influence on this gem, hints of sea spray are often detected on the mid palette. Albarino will surely be tempting you to grab the sunglasses and flip flops to head down to the beach for some oysters and crab legs; a fantastic pairing for this wine.


Gruner Veltliner is Austria’s dominant grape variety and another light to medium bodied refreshing option for summer. The style tantalizes with hints of green apple, tropical fruits, white pepper, and subtle minerality. This Austrian beauty is a perfect companion with green salads, fruit, or fresh salmon.


If you’re the type that still prefers red wine even in the summer heat, venture to a dry style Rosé that often goes unappreciated. Rosé employs well-known red grape such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir to lesser known varietals like Cinsault.  This style of wine utilizes minimal skin contact when the grapes are pressed to reduce the tannins in the wine along with its pigment, thus the lighter pinkish hue. Rosés are some of the best wine to pair with food and are said to be the “Red Wine Drinkers” summer wine.


Wherever your refreshing wine selections lead you in the heat of summer just remember, it’s a sip of wine, its summertime!


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The Marriage of Food and Wine – Who’s in charge here?

Many things in life just go well together. For instance: chips and salsa, chocolate and strawberries, or peanut butter and jelly; when matching food and wine there are many great possibilities and a few pitfalls. We tend to ask, “How will the wine affect my food,” when a better approach is, “How will the food affect my wine.”


Wedding cake and Champagne? How about potato chips or popcorn and Champagne? The second choice is a fantastic marriage of food and wine. Although the elegance of wedding cake and the prestige of Champagne seem like the perfect fit, they can leave a bitter taste in your mouth after the best man’s toast. Sweetness in food is the most significant culprit in creating an unpleasant wine and food pairing. It will increase bitterness and decrease the sweetness in a wine. The best way to alleviate such an effect is to serve a wine sweeter than the food. Dessert wines like Sauternes from France or a Tokaji from Hungary are a couple examples that could meet the challenge.


Salmon with a lemon drizzle pairs well with Sancerre from France. The fat from the fish and the acid in the lemon tones down the acidity in the wine while increasing richness, sweetness and fruitiness in the Sauvignon Blanc based Sancerre. Acidic food in general pairs well with acidic wines. Be careful not to pair a highly acidic food with a medium acidic wine as it could render the wine to taste flat.


Shake on the salt! When salt is added to any food it will soften the acidity and decrease bitterness in a wine. Salt also increases the richness and delivers smoothness to the wines character. For fun at dinner, try an unsalted piece of steak with that Pinot Noir or Cabernet and then see the difference after a little salt is added – preferably non-iodized salt.


Spicy dishes? Spicy dishes like Szechuan Chicken or Uncle Joes Three Alarm Chili have some profound effects on wine. The biggest is the burning sensation is magnified when paired with a wine that contains a lot of alcohol; typically anything above 13% ABV.


Find a sweeter wine like a Gewürztraminer or Moscato that will create that traditional sweet and spicy dish.


When marrying up food and wine use these simple ideas to create the perfect pair.


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