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Archive for the 'Wine Wisdoms' Category

Wine Wisdoms #53: Using a Vintage Chart

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 12:53:19 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


Our panel of editors at Wine Enthusiast Magazine don’t just rate wines, they rate entire vintages as well.

Vintages are rated by the weather a region experienced during that harvest year. For example, if Napa Valley had a terrible frost in 1989 that harmed the vines, it could negatively impact the wine in that year and therefore, the vintage rating. Wine can vary greatly between vintages so a vintage chart is a handy tool for predicting a wine’s quality and value.

To use the vintage chart:

1) Locate the name of the country your wine is from in the left column.

2) Once you’ve found its country of origin on the chart, scroll down to the region it’s from which is usually identified by the appellation on the bottle.

3) Find the wine’s vintage across the top of the chart and the corresponding square of Region/Vintage. You will see a rating in that box. The box will also be color-coded to correspond to its maturity in the year the vintage chart was produced.

Here is a key to the ratings:
98-100 Superlative
94-97 Classic
90-93 Excellent
87-89  Very Good
83-86 Good
80-82 Acceptable

The “Maturity” legend explains the colors.

You can access our 2010 vintage chart (which actually assesses 2009) here. Our iPhone application includes a handy vintage chart as well so you can lookup vintages on the go.  Find it here. Cheers!

Wine Wisdoms #52: What is a Tastevin?

Monday, April 5th, 2010 at 3:33:35 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

A Tastevin is a silver wine-tasting cup that hangsTastevin from a chain, like a necklace. Tastevins were originally used in dark wine caves in Burgundy. The dimples at the bottom of the tastevin caused light to reflect in the wine so the winemaker could assess clarity.

Though typically considered to be an old-fashioned style, some sommeliers still wear them, though they serve little purpose.

Wine Wisdoms #51: Get To Know Your Wine Slang

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 at 2:44:49 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


When speaking about wine, formality sometimes goes out the door when you want to get right to the point. In these times, wine slang comes in handy. But if you can’t “talk the talk”, you’ll simply get lost when a knowledgeable oenophile starts throwing in foreign expressions. Maybe you’re familiar with common, proper phrases used to describe wine like body, mouthfeel, length and finish. But there are plenty of other wacky words that winos are well-versed in. These are just a few:

Plonk- Bad wine

Quaff- To drink, often used as the adjective “quaffable” to describe a basic, everyday, wine.

Cat Pee- A specific aroma, often found in Sauvignon Blanc. This means exactly as it sounds, though no actual cat pee is used to make the wine ;)

Hot- A wine with a high level of alcohol to the point of tasting out-of-balance.

Tight- An adjective used to describe a wine that needs time to open up or for the tannins to soften. Air or proper aging can help a tight wine.

ABC- Anything But Chardonnay/Anything But Cabernet, used to focus on other varietals.

Claret- an English phrase for a Bordeaux-style wine

QPR- Quality/Price ratio or a wine’s quality as compared to its price. A wine with a good QPR is a good value.

Entry-level Wine- A basic wine, often used to a describe the least expensive wine in a brand’s portfolio.

Clunker- A bad wine

Flabby- A wine that lacks a component such as acidity or tannin to bring it structure. Tastes overly soft and out-of-balance as a result.

Green- A wine that has a vegetal quality usually stemming from under-ripe grapes.

Muscular- A wine with a lot of body and typically strong tannin.

Cork dork- An extreme wine hobbyist. Usually has a high level of wine knowledge.

Are there other wine slang terms you are familiar with? Leave a comment and let us know!

Wine Wisdoms #50: Bottle Shock (Not the Movie)

Monday, February 15th, 2010 at 4:17:42 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


Bottle shock is a phrase used to describe what happens when wine goes through tough conditions (travel, heat, cold, vibration) and changes for the worse. Symptoms such as muted flavors or a general disjointedness can be found in a wine that has experienced bottle shock. But don’t fret! Usually it resettles and fixes itself once stable for a period of time.

When we design custom wine cellars we build them to avoid anything that might cause botttle shock. Learn more about the enemies of wine, here

Bottle shock was also mentioned in the March issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Find more wine articles at

Wine Wisdoms #49: Grower Champagne

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 at 1:38:57 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Champagne ToastMost Champagne is from large Champagne houses which blend together wine from multiple vintages to create a distinct blend. These houses buy grapes from growers. Grower Champagne is an emerging trend in France that involves smaller, artisanal producers who craft Champagne from their own grapes. Grower Champagne is also referred to as “Artisanal” or “Estate-Bottled” Champagne.

As lovely as a great bottle of luxury Champagne is, it often commands a hefty price tag, while the lesser-known grower Champagnes can offer great value. Like any wine, Champagne is only as good as the fruit that goes into it, so the attention-to-detail that goes into Grower Champagne can pay off, both in the bottle and in your pocket!

Wine Wisdoms #48: Cult Wines

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 6:09:50 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Screaming Eagle Cult Cab

Cult wines are a particular set of wines which command fanatical followings due to their low supply and high quality. A cult wine can be from any region but the phrase is most often used to refer to cult Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, California. A cult wine usually commands high prices of over $100 per bottle or thousands at a wine auction. “Rockstar” winemakers are at the helm of the limited production, and to own one of these wines is usually a sign of status, connection, pride and wealth. Some of the longstanding top names are:  Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Caymus, and Dominus

As featured in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, for more wine information visit

Wine Wisdoms #47: Biodynamic Wines, What’s the Story?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 at 5:22:06 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Biodynamic Farming

In the past decade we’ve seen an increasing number of biodynamic wines in the marketplace. A biodynamic wine is entirely different than an organic wine. Wine that is made in a biodynamic fashion incorporates various methods of vineyard preparation that specifically correlate to the phases of the moon and seasons of the year.

The methods can include anything from grounding quartz and flowers into animal skulls and horns to adding tea to the compost.

As strange as the practices may sound, many wineries swear by biodynamic agriculture. Many argue that biodynamic wines are more terroir-driven and of higher quality.  There are now hundreds of biodynamic wine producers all over the world, and the list is growing.

The Demeter Association provides biodynamic certification to wineries that fit its criteria.

For more information, visit A Green Glossary at

Wine Wisdoms #46: Fermentation, Take Two

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 3:18:22 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

In order to convert the grape’s natural sugars to alcohol, wine must go through fermentation.  But a winemaker may also decide to put the wine through a second fermantation, called malolactic fermentation (malo, for short). Malolactic is almost always used in red wines but is sometimes used on whites, most often on Chardonnay. Malolactic fermentation converts the malic acid (tart, like a green apple) to lactic acid (mild, creamy). This calms the acidity and can give the wine a buttery, rich mouthfeel.

Wine Wisdoms #45: Vertical and Horizontal Tastings

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 at 4:37:11 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Vertical Wine Tasting

A wine tasting can be based on any theme, but two of the most common are “Vertical” and “Horizontal” tastings.

A Vertical is a tasting in which one wine, from one producer is tasted across a series of vintages. The point of a vertical is to observe how the wine has changed over time and also discover its best/worst vintages.

A Horizontal tasting is one in which a style of wine (varietal, region etc.) is tasted across many producers in one vintage to discover the differences in how each producer crafts the wine when the vintage is constant.

Whatever you choose, you can learn a lot by comparing wines side-by-side! Planning on hosting your own wine tasting at home? Our Wine Enthusiast Essential Wine Tasting Kit is a great start!

Wine Wisdoms #44: The History of Hermitage

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 at 3:45:56 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


Many wine lovers are familiar with Hermitage, the world-renowned wine from France’s Rhone Valley. But the origin of its name is an interesting story.

Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, as battle raged in the Holy Land, legend has it that one Crusader, returning home to the Northern Rhone territory, threw down his armament and declared his days of battle behind him. Bearing Syrah vines, the man became a hermit and built a chapel on a hill, vowing that his vineyard would be his hermitage, and thus the venerable Hermitage wine region was founded. With just 331 acres of vineyards on the east side of the Rhone, the hilly Hermitage area towers over the riverfront town of Tain-l’Hermitage, and yields are low, making the wines very rare. Reds are made mainly from Syrah, but also Marsanne and Roussanne, and are renowned for their deep color, complex aromas and long cellaring life. Whites are harder to come by (account for about a quarter of production) and are made from Marsanne and Roussanne. They are known for being full-bodied and, likewise, have long aging potential.

As featured in the October issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. For more articles from the October issue visit