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Where Our Passion for Wine & Accessories Is Shared
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About Winston's Wisdoms
Winston, the endearingly drawn gent you see raising his glass, has been the Wine Enthusiast logo for nearly 30 years—and the symbol of unsurpassed expertise in wine accessories and storage.

Winston's Wisdoms Blog is the place where our experts share their knowledge and answer some of the most commonly asked wine-related questions. It's the place where you can ask questions and share insights from your own wine experience. We welcome your feedback and invite you to offer your wisdoms to wine lovers everywhere!

Wine Wisdoms #23: Some Abbreviation Clarification

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 at 1:58:44 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Italian Wine Classification

There are many abbreviations on wine labels, especially for European wines. These abbreviations refer to the wine classification systems of  each country. They often denote the quality level of the wine and the region that the wine comes from. These abbreviations are based on laws and have governing bodies in each country to enforce the laws. Here are some of the major abbreviations you should be familiar with:

VDT- Vino de Tavola, table wine
IGT- Wine made in a specific region but with less wine making restrictions than other classifications. Some top Italian wines are IGT, like the Super Tuscans
DOC- Denominazione di Origine Controllata, Wine from a specific region and made from a particular grape variety. Toscano is a DOC, for example.
DOCG-Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, Wines from a specific region and made from a particular grape variety that also must pass a blind taste test of quality. Brunello is a DOCG, for example.

Wine Wisdoms #22: Phylloxera, The Pest

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 4:09:25 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


You may have heard the term “Phylloxera” thrown around with reference to grape growing and wondered what it is. Phylloxera is a microscopic root louse and a grapevine pest that enjoys feasting on vitis vinifera, the species of grape vine that produces most wine grapes.  Phylloxera attacks the root of the vine. When a vineyard is infested with Phylloxera it can be completely decimated, and the grower is forced to pull up the vines and replant. Phylloxera is originally from North America and was accidentally brought to Europe in the late 1800s, nearly wiping out the vineyards there as well. Because Phylloxera only likes to feed on the vitis vinifera grapevine, the remedy is to plant another species into the ground like vitis labrusca and then graft the two species together, just above ground. Chile is said to be the only country in the world that is Phylloxera-free.

Aerators and Decanters: What’s the Difference?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 1:55:52 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Respirer Wine Aerator Allure Aerating Decanter

An aerator and a decanter both serve a similar purpose which is to expand the surface area of wine, which allows the air to mingle with it. Whether placing the wine in a larger vessel (decanter) or forcing air to be circulated throughout it (aerator), the end result is a wine with an expanded aromatic profile and/or softer tannins.  So, what’s the difference?

Wine Wisdoms #21: Legs, Do You Use’em?

Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 4:17:19 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine Legs

The term “legs” refers to the streams of wine that run down the sides of a wine glass after swirling. They are also called “tears.”They can be thick or thin and the patterns that they form can vary greatly. The question is, what do you do with them? Do they matter?

It used to be said that the more legs in a wine glass, the greater the wine’s quality. This is a myth. Another idea is that the more legs in a wine glass, the greater the quantity of alcohol in the wine. This can be true sometimes, but it’s not an absolute rule. Some say that legs are related to the quantity of sugar in the wine also where a higher sugar content causes the wine to cling to the sides. For the most part though, legs don’t mean anything at all. You can observe and appreciate them, but they don’t serve any purpose. Just enjoy your wine!

Wine Wisdoms #20: Humidity, Wine’s Fickle Friend

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 at 1:54:35 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine and Humidity

When wine is being stored, a high level of humidity (70%) must be maintained, though too much can be detrimental. Humidity is a friend to wine because it keeps the cork moist which  maintains an air-tight seal between the cork and the bottle. If the cork dries out, air can enter the bottle. Humidity is not a friend at very high humidity levels in the 90% range, where wine labels can discolor or rot, and mold can even grow. Thus, for long-term cellaring, humidity must be kept at a consistent level. Our thermometers can be installed as well, so that humidity can be monitored at all times.

All wine cellars that are built by our team are either built with a cooling system that humidifies, or a system that cools slowly so that humidity is not stripped from the environment. A free-standing wine cellar like our EuroCave models, have a humidity maintenance system and a charcoal air filter to control moisture.

Our 1st Annual Decanter Design Contest, Win $1,000

Friday, January 30th, 2009 at 2:21:40 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Lyra DecanterFor the first time in our 30-year history, we are calling on our customers’ creative juices to design an exciting new decanter for us. Decanters are a marriage of form and function, vessels that can open the aromatics of your wine, while displaying it artfully.

Over the years we’ve carried decanters of all shapes and sizes: horizontal, vertical, duck-shaped, antique, modern and even giraffe shaped! Now we are looking for some fresh ideas, what would YOU like to see in a decanter shape? The new decanter should be both beautiful and functional.

If you have a unique idea, submit it via JPEG to and you could win:

  • a Grand Prize of $1,000
  • a 1-Year Subscription to Wine Enthusiast Magazine 
  • Tickets to Toast of the Town in New York City, America’s Premier Wine and Restaurant Tasting Event. 
  • Have your design featured at Toast of the Town and in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, read by thousands of business professionals every day!

Calling all wine lovers with an eye for artistry, now is your chance to create a revolutionary new wine product, enter today! Or maybe you have a friend who may be interested? Pass on the link love! For more details visit our contest page, here.

Wine Wisdoms #19: The Point of Punts

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 at 4:18:48 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine Bottle Punt The “Punt” is the concaved base or indent at the bottom of a bottle of wine. It has many purposes, though most likely punts are just a traditional style that has been perpetuated over the years.

  1. It makes the bottle easier to hold and pour from
  2. It makes the glass bottle more break-resistant and less likely to tumble over
  3. It can be seen as a symbol of quality
  4. It holds the bottle in place on a bottling line
  5. It helps gather the sediment of older wines
  6. Historically, it was used in Champagne to help stack bottles for the riddling process

It’s unclear what the real reason is, and not all bottles are actually created with punts. Different producers may have their own individual reasons, beyond this list as well.

Why do you think wine bottles have punts?

Wine Wisdoms #18: The Foundation of Rioja’s Greatness

Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 4:02:34 PM
by Josh F., Wine Enthusiast Companies

In the 1880′s when the Phylloxera epidemic hit vineyards in Bordeaux, hundreds of French families moved South to Rioja to continue their wine-making trade. They used the local grape varieties (primarily Tempranillo) but they brought the Bordeaux techniques of long skin maceration and oak-barrel aging. The quality of Rioja improved dramatically and today it still represents one of the great wine values in the world.

How to Shop for a Lever Style Corkscrew

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 at 3:32:30 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Based on the popularity of our recent post about how to shop for a Waiter’s style corkscrew, we thought it only fair to represent the lever style as well. Lever Style corkscrews have grown in popularity over the years because they have revolutionized the ease of uncorking a bottle of wine. The power of leverage in the handle removes the cork almost effortlessly.  And over the years, slick designs from manufacturers like Metrokane (makers of the Rabbit wine opener) and Le Creuset (makers of the Screwpull brand of corkscrews) have turned these into chic collectibles, too.


Concord Lever Style Corkscrew

Much like shopping for any style of corkscrew, the level of craftsmanship will determine a lever-style corkscrew’s ability to extract the cork…as well as its price. All lever style corkscrews function the same way, but levers made from a heavier, more durable material, will extract all corks more easily. Models made from polycarbon require a bit more force than other models and may not be strong enough for use with synthetic corks which require stronger leverage. You may want to check out Wine Enthusiast’s own value-priced Concorde Lever Style Corkscrew, recently recommended by Cook’s Illustrated.


LM 400 Personalized

The latest craze in lever-style models is the vertical or horizontal design option. Traditionally, lever style corkscrews had wings that operated perpendicular to the wine bottle. But now, these newer models have upright wings that are tucked into the sides, allowing for a more compact design and even better ease-of-use. The sleek, Screwpull LM-400 and the Vertical Rabbits are two great examples.

No matter which  model you select, a lever style corkscrew will  make uncorking a breeze. Not sure how to use a lever style corkscrew? Check out our quick video tutorial with a Rabbit corkscrew, which brings the lever style corkscrew to life!

YouTube Preview Image

Wine Wisdoms #17: Food and Wine Pairing Basics

Monday, January 19th, 2009 at 5:27:11 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Food and Wine Pairing CookbookFood and wine pairing can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. The goal is to focus on the flavor components of the wine and harmonize them with those of your food. Typically more heavy foods such as steak, pair well with bold wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. Lighter foods like sea bass therefore, might make a great pairing with Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not as basic as red wine with steak and white wine with fish though. Preparation also plays a big role. A heartier fish like swordfish, prepared in a rich sauce can be a nice pairing with a light red like a Pinot Noir. While swordfish in a lemon, butter sauce could be a nice match with Chardonnay. Experiment with various combinations and find what works well for you. There are no right or wrong answers.

Need a place to start? Here are some great combinations, as featured in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Wine & Food Pairings Cookbook. It’s over 30% off for a limited time.

Avocado, Tomato and Spinach Crepes with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Bouillabaisse with a Spanish Rose
Pork Chops with Pinot Noir Demi-Glace with Oregon Pinot Noir
Wild Rice Salad with Mushrooms with Cabernet Franc
Duck Breast with Caramelized Apples and Red Burgundy