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Archive for June, 2009

Wine Wisdoms #36: Broken Corks? Don’t Stress

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 at 12:42:16 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Broken Cork

Corks can break and crumble on old wines, or when a clunky corkscrew causes a problem. Unfortunately this often leads people to panic: Oh no! My wine is ruined! It’s corked!

Don’t stress. If the cork breaks in half and the remaining half is stil intact, simply give it another go and see if you can extract the rest. If the cork has completely crumbled, the best thing to do is to push the pieces into the bottle so they don’t block the neck. Most likely, the wine won’t be harmed by the cork. Pour the wine and give it a smell to look for off-aromas.  If the cork is tainted, the wine smells musty, like wet newspaper, or it has no smell. In this case, you’ll have to discard the bottle. If the wine smells fine, just ignore those pesky cork pieces and pull them out as you pour.

Having a great corkscrew and a humidity-controlled wine cellar (to keep the corks moist) are two great defendants against broken corks. We offer a wide assortment of wine openers and corkscrews, wine cellars, and wine refrigerators, so you never have to deal with broken corks!

Decanter Design and Aeration (Plus, Our Contest Winners!)

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 at 2:48:20 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Because we offer a wide variety of decanters in many styles, we are often asked what the differences are. Does a decanter’s shape affect the wine’s aeration?

The answer is that it can, in subtle ways. Letting your wine “breathe” in a decanter softens harsh tannins and releases its full bouquet. The more space there is in the decanter, the more air can reach the wine. Thus a narrow, tall decanter would aerate more slowly than a wide decanter with a large bowl. The use of a stopper would affect the aeration as well because the stopper prevents air from getting in, slowing aeration. The opening at the top can make a difference too as this is where the air flows. The larger the opening, the more aeration.

In January we launched our first Decanter Design Contest, calling on our customers’ creative juices to design an elegant and exciting new decanter for us. Our first and second place designs are great examples of how a decanter shape can affect aeration.

Our winning design was a fluid-catamaran-like form with ample room for wine aeration. This decanter is expansive, allowing for faster aeration.

Catamaran Decanter Design

Our second place winner designed a more compact decanter which permits gentle swirling without exposing the wine to excessive air.

Celtic Decanter Design

One design allows for faster aeration by spreading the wine across a great surface area and the other is a slower process, in a more compact vessel. You might use the first decanter for a young, tannic wine that requires tremendous aeration and the second for a soft wine that requires less. The most important thing is choosing a decanter that is functional and looks beautiful on the dinner table! By the way, congratulations to our winners: Eric Hwang, Mark T. Maclean-Blevins and Bozena Wysowski!

Browse our full selection of elegant decanters here 

Wine Wisdoms #35: Wine Fining

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 5:11:14 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


Fining is a process that goes on in the final stages of the winemaking process, typically when the wine is in barrel. Fining is used to remove unwanted sediment from the final wine. A substance is added to the wine which pulls the heavier materials together so that they congeal and can be removed from the wine in another process called racking. Most commonly egg whites or bentonite (a powdered clay substance) are used in the fining process. Fining can reduce tannin astrigency and yield a more clear wine but it is not always needed. Some wines are totally unfined, it is a choice that the winemaker makes.

Wine Wisdoms #34: What’s in a Vintage?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009 at 4:29:38 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Brunello di Montalcino La Lecciaia All wine, (non-vintage excluded) has a vintage year associated with it. The vintage year is always the year that the grapes were picked, regardless of how long the wine was aged.  For example, a 2001 Brunello may not be bottled and available on store shelves until 2006, due to the time it ages in oak and bottle, but the grapes used to make that Brunello were picked in 2001. Wine can age in oak or stainless steel for months or years, before being bottled.

The Basics of Whisk(e)y

Monday, June 8th, 2009 at 4:00:20 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Glencairn Whiskey Glass Scotch, Whiskey and Bourbon are all grain-based spirits that can be as complex as they are rewarding and fun to learn about. Each has its own unique style but sometimes these dark potent potables are easily mistaken for one another.

Whiskey is any spirit made from distilled grain, usually barley , wheat or rye. No matter the Whiskey type, all must go through a similar process of soaking (or malting) the grain in water, fermentation, and multiple distillation to bring the spirit to a high alcohol level. From there it is often aged in oak barrels. The process sounds basic, but there is a wealth of complex decisions that the distillery makes along the way, to yield a Whiskey of a certain character.

Scotch whisky (note the lack of ‘e’) must be from Scotland and has its own set of rules for production, as laid out in the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988. It is made from a grain (malted barley, wheat or corn), yeast and water. When Scotch is made from 1 distillery it is called a single malt otherwise it is a blended Scotch. Scotch blending is an art and some blended Scotches are regarded as highly as the finest single malts. Scotch is usually aged in barrels that were previously used in the production of Sherry or Bourbon and must be in barrel for 3+ years. Common flavors found in Scotch include vanilla, cereal, toffee and tangerine. Another distinct one is peat, which is a sharp, smoky aroma. Peat is semi-carbonized vegetation that is burnt in the process to give that special smell.

Irish Whiskey is different than Scotch Whisky in that it has to be triple-distilled and some unmalted barley is added in the process. This creates more fruity aromas in the Whiskey like peach and apricot.

Bourbon is a type of Whiskey that must be made from at least 51% corn. The other grains used are typically rye, wheat and malted barley. It must be aged in charred barrels for at least two years. All Bourbon is made in the U.S, primarily from Kentucky (Bourbon, Kentucky is where its name comes from). Because of the presence of corn in the process, Bourbon yields sweeter aromatics of coconut, honey, apricot and butter. Rye has the same regulations as Bourbon, only it uses 51% rye instead of corn.

Our complete selection of Whiskey glasses is available here.

Wine Wisdoms #33: The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting (Taste Like the Experts)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009 at 11:53:27 AM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

5 S’s of Wine Tasting If you’ve ever been confused by all the swirling and sniffing that goes on at a wine tasting, the 5 S’s are a great place to start. These are the basics steps one should go through when tasting wine, in order to appreciate it to the fullest.

See- All wine tasting begins by holding the glass up to a good light and then, ideally, viewing the glass against a white surface. Your wine color should be clear and not opaque unless you have an aged wine with a ton of sediment. Take a moment to note the color. If it is a white wine is it: Yellow? Gold? Straw colored? Water white? If it is a red wine would you call it: Ruby? Purple? Garnet? Wines can range dramatically in color depending on the type of grape used to make the wine and how long the wine sat with the skins or macerated. As wines age they get lose color so a good look at the color of the wine can tell you a bit about how old it is. Also, notice the streams of water on the sides of your glass. These are called legs. Legs are a point of contention as some affirm that the more legs a wine has, the better the wine. Others claim that legs denote sugar or alcohol content. There are also those who say that legs do not mean anything!

Sniff- The next step is to give your wine a nice big sniff. Don’t be shy. Stick your nose way into the bowl of the glass and try to decipher the smells. Remember that wine tasting can be subjective and there are no right or wrong answers. Do you smell fruit? If so, what kind of fruit is it? Is it a black fruit? A tropical fruit? Does your wine smell like oak? Or, is it difficult to smell anything at all? This is certainly possible if you have yet to swirl your wine.

Swirl- After your initial sniff, hold your wine at the base and lightly swirl the wine in your glass. Get a nice momentum going with your wrist. The swirling process sends oxygen through the wine, expands the surface area and allows the aromas to open up. This is sometimes called “swirling the esters.”

Sniff- Now, smell your wine again. Do you notice a change? There should be a remarkable difference between your pre-swirl and post-swirl sniff. If not, work your wine a bit more and give it some time to open. Try your best to pinpoint the aromas and write them down if you’d like.

Sip- Finally, take a nice big sip of your wine. Let the wine spread out across your mouth, curl your tongue, and breathe in air through your tongue. This will send air through the wine once again while in your mouth and allow it to open even further. What do you taste? Sweetness? Dryness? Spice? Fruitiness? The sky is the limit! Did the taste surprise you? Was it similar on the palate to the nose? After you swallow, take a minute to notice the finish and the length of the wine. The “finish” is the after-taste and the “length” is the period of time that it lingers. A really good wine will have a pleasing finish and a very long length. A poor wine falls flat very quickly.

Now you are ready to taste with the experts!

For more help on wine tasting, check out our wine tasting tool collection.

Wine Wisdoms #32: How Sweet It Is?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 at 4:53:44 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Sweet Wine

People often make the mistake of perceiving a fruity, red wine, as a sweet wine. We are used to associating flavors of plum, strawberry, and cassis present in many red wines, with the sweet fruits that they come from. This can cause confusion. Most wine, (with the exception of dessert wines like Port, ice wine, Sauternes, Tokaji and late-harvest Riesling)  are not sweet, no matter how fruity and full-bodied they are. Some may have a higher sugar content than others, but most table wines are “dry” as we perceive them. Cabernet Sauvignon is dry as is Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah etc. Don’t be fooled!