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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 #16: What is a Cru?

Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 3:39:50 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Vineyard in France

The French word for “growth”, cru is a classification term used throughout France to signify either areas of wine production or producers. For example, in Burgundy the term refers to vineyards and in Champagne, to whole villages. For most of France, the main classifications are grand cru (great growth) and premiere cru (first growth), the next best, and so on. But in Bordeaux, crus refer to chateaus and are designated under cru classé (classified growths), which was officially enacted in 1885. For the Medoc area of Bordeaux, the designations have a five-tier designation, with premiere cru classe as the highest.  The St.-Emilion region of Bordeaux was left out of the 1885 decision along with Graves and Pomerol, so they have their own naming system, which categorizes wines as either premiere or grands cru classés A or B.

As featured in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, available now.

How to Shop for a Waiter’s Style Corkscrew

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 at 3:30:30 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Waiter’s Style corkscrews are sold in various styles and price ranges. Since all of them lead to the same result, you may be curious how to select the one that’s best for your needs – and your budget. Ranging in price from $7-$170, depending on their material, the difference is generally found in the craftsmanship of the product which affects its ease-of-use.


Chateau Laguiole Aubrac Waiter’s Corkscrew

Higher-end wine openers, (like Laguiole Corkscrews) are crafted of stainless steel with handles made in everything from stag horn to olive wood, and more. The basic functionality is the same but a Laguiole will be more durable and stylish. More affordable waiter’s corkscrews are typically made of an ionized plastic, and cost around $10.


Capitano Waiter’s Corkscrew

Both work, but when comparing the action of the two, you will find that a more high-end corkscrew will open the wine in a smoother fashion, and feel better in your hands. Assuming you treat your wines with care, you probably want to take care in how you open them, and invest in a nice corkscrew.

After you’ve made your decision to purchase a waiter’s style corkscrew, you‘ll now need insight into how to extract that pesky cork. Watch as a member of our team, Josh Farrell, shows you in this live video:

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Wine Wisdoms #15: Learn to Detect Fruit Aromas

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009 at 10:52:16 AM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine and Fruit Aromas

Learn to detect fruit aromas. Wine will usually have some kind of fruit aroma. Experiment with different types of wine and learn to recognize what those aromas are. Swirl your glass with gusto and put your nose deep inside of it. For red wine, the primary aromatics are categorized into black fruits or red fruits. Black fruits consist of blackberries, plums, blueberries etc. while red fruits consist of strawberries, raspberries, cherries etc. The first question to ask yourself is whether the aromas are black or red fruits and from there you can pinpoint the specific fruit. White wine fruit aromas can be anything from the simpler citrus and apple to more exotic tropical fruits like pineapple, banana, and lychee fruit. Once you learn to recognize these aromas on their own, you’ll be more apt to find them in your wine. How did you first learn to detect fruit aromas in wine?

Our wine taste and aroma kits offer great assistance in learning to detect aromas in wine.

How to Use a Decanter

Monday, January 12th, 2009 at 12:30:25 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Personalized Wine Decanter

Decanters are essential for enhancing the flavors of a young wine or for removing sediment from an old wine. There are all kinds of shapes and styles available but you may be wondering: “What do I do with it?” There are two simple methods of decanting:

1. Decanting a young wine, to aerate it
• Take out your decanter, funnel, and wine. Open the bottle of wine.
• Affix the funnel to the top of the decanter and pour a slow stream of wine through the funnel. Watch as your wine cascades from the sides of the funnel and into the decanter.
• As the wine goes through the funnel and the surface area of your wine is spreading, the wine is aerating, changing its aromatic properties.
• Once the full bottle is poured into the decanter you can remove the funnel from the top of the decanter, and pour from the decanter into your glasses.

2. Decanting an old wine, to separate the sediment
• As tannic, red wines age, the sediment often conglomerates, forming unwanted clumps in the bottom and along the sides of the bottle. The sediment is harmless–made up mainly of grape skins–but it is usually bitter, and impedes the enjoyment of your wine.
• Old wines open up over time, as the pores in the cork allow them to breathe. Therefore, aeration with a funnel isn’t necessary for an older wine.
• Slightly angle your decanter and slowly, pour the wine into the decanter so that only the liquid pours through, leaving the sediment behind in the bottle. Discard the bottle and sediment, and pour the wine from your decanter into glasses.

Now that you understand the basics of decanting, you may need some help selecting the perfect decanter to suit your needs. In this brief video, we explain some of the different styles available, and their benefits. Enjoy!

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Do you have any special decanting techniques? Please share your story, with us!

Wine Wisdoms #14: When Oregon Pinot Shocked the World

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 6:13:48 PM
by Josh F., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot NoirAbout twenty years ago Oregon winemakers took the bold and outrageous step of inviting famous wine experts and journalists to blind taste their 1983 Pinot Noirs along with 1983 Grand Cru Burgundies costing four and five times as much. The Oregon wines were mistaken for and rated higher than the Burgundies in almost every case. The experts were shocked by the results, and in that moment Oregon Pinot Noirs achieved their status as the world class wines which they hold today.

Wine Wisdoms #13: How to Taste Wine in a Restaurant

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 at 5:00:44 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

winewaiter.gifWhen a waiter offers a taste of your wine prior to pouring you may wonder: Do I sniff the cork? Do I touch the bottle? Swirl the wine?

The purpose of tasting your wine prior to pouring is to check quality and temperature. You want to taste the wine to be sure it is free from cork taint and oxidation. A corked bottle of wine has been infected by a pesky mold called Trichloroanisole (TCA) and an oxidized bottle of wine will have been exposed to excess oxygen, rendering it undrinkable. So, how do you know?

Please do not smell the cork. Smell the wine. Taste the wine as you normally would: swirl- sniff-sip and look for off-aromas like wet newspaper, mustiness, or even a complete lack of smell. These are all signs of a bottle that is suffering from one of the aforementioned problems. If you feel that you’ve got a sick bottle, send it back without hesitation. You should never pay for a damaged bottle of wine.

Then decide if your wine is at the appropriate temperature. Hopefully it has been stored at the proper temperature at the restaurant but if not, have them chill it down if need be. If everything tastes right, give the waiter the OK sign, and he will pour around the table. Cheers!

Look for Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Restaurant Award Winners of 2008, our picks for America’s premier wine-driven restaurants, announced in the upcoming February issue or search our online restaurant awards database.

Wine Wisdoms #12: Champagne 101

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 at 2:20:51 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Champagne Toast

Though traditional Champagne is made as a white wine, it is made from a blend of red and white grapes including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The juice has no contact with the grape skins so despite the red Pinot Noir grapes in the blend, the final result is a white wine.

There are 7 basic steps to making Champagne by the Traditional Method, also called Fermentation in Bottle or Methode Champenoise:

1)  First Fermentation: a still wine is produced from each grape variety that is to be a component of the Champagne (usually Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier).

2) Blending: still wines are blended together from different grapes, vineyards or perhaps different vintages to create a consistent style.

3) Liqueur de Tirage: a blend of wine, sugar, yeast nutrients and a clarifying agent is added to the blend to set off a second fermentation in the bottle and create the sparkle. After the liqueur de tirage is added, the bottle is sealed temporarily.

4) Maturation: the bottles mature horizontally while CO2, yeast and alcohol build inside. An important process called yeast autolysis also occurs in which the yeast digests and interacts with the wine, creating unique flavor components. This process can last as long as ten years!

5) Riddling: the bottles alternate from horizontal to vertical positions to move the deposit of yeast up to the neck of the bottle, so it can be removed. In the past, a skilled person did this work by hand but recently Champagne houses have started to use mechanical techniques. A further period of aging typically occurs after riddling.

6) Disgorgement: the neck of the bottle is frozen so that the yeast deposit can exit the bottle in a clean way. During disgorgement, the pressure inside the bottle from the CO2 releases the deposit fully from the bottle.

7)  Dosage: a small amount of wine is lost during disgorgement so some more wine is added along with liqueur d’expedition (mix of wine and sugar). This process is called dosage and will vary depending on the desired sweetness of the resulting Champagne. Further aging can be done after this depending on the producer’s needs.

Finally the Champagne is sealed and dressed with a label and foil covering. Sparkling wines can be made in a variety of methods but traditional Champagne from France must be made in this method in order to be called “Champagne.”

Learn the best vintages and regions in Roger Voss’s “Champagne’s Brightest Stars”

Find affordable Champagne and sparkling wine at

Shop great Champagne accessories like our beautiful Fusion Infinity Champagne flutes 

From all of us at Wine Enthusiast Companies, have a very Happy New Year!

Top Regions for Great Buys in 2008

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 5:14:55 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Last week, we announced our Top 100 Best Buys of 2008, these represent quality wines with a suggested retail price no more than $15. These wines offer outstanding value and are a great springboard for building an everyday wine collection. Like we did with the Enthusiast 100, I analyzed the list only this time to determine the best wine-producing regions for value. Refer to this list when you’re next in a wine shop, looking for the most bang for your buck:

  • Countries with the most Best Buy wines in the Top 100 are the U.S (28), Chile (15), Australia (10), Spain (10) and Portugal (9)
  • At the lowest end of the price range, for just $8, you find wines rated 87+ from California, Central Valley (Chile), Columbia Valley (Washington), Portugal and Spain.
  • Other hot regions to look for: Mendoza (Argentina), Provence (France), Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma, California), and Stellenbosch (South Africa)
  •  The list crosses a wide spectrum of wine styles including everything from Pinotage to Albarino to Bordeaux and the Douro, showing that you can find great wines of every style, at low price points. Why spend a lot for great wine?

What are some of your favorite great buys this year? Where are you seeing the most value?

Top 100 Best Buy Regions

Wine Wisdoms #11: Bordeaux, Left and Right Banks

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 at 6:55:18 PM
by Josh F., Wine Enthusiast Companies

mapfrancebordeaux.JPGThe Bordeaux region is divided by the Gironde river into two major areas. On the left bank you find the Medoc and various sub-regions while on the right bank you find St. Emilion and Pomerol and various sub-regions. Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary grape variety on the left bank and Merlot dominates on the right. Often the right bank wines are softer than the left due to the prominence of Merlot rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. Because the right bank region is larger there is more Merlot planted than any other grape in Bordeaux.

Wine Wisdoms #10: Are Reserve Wines Important?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 at 6:48:25 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Unlike old-world countries like France and Italy which have levels of designation which are enforced by the government (AOC/DOC), new-world wineries build their reputation on perceived quality by the consumer. As a result, many wineries use the term “Reserve” to denote special bottlings made from top grapes/vineyards or wines made in a different style than their other labels. The term “Reserve” is not regulated, so it is up to the winery’s discretion. As a result, a “Reserve” wine can be a quality wine, or it can be a clunker. A low level winery can produce a “Reserve” wine if it’s better than their other wines, but it’s not necessarily a great wine because the term “Reserve” is used.

For more basic wine education, check out our selection of educational products at

For a comprehensive glossary of wine terms at your finger tips, check out our brand new iPhone Application, available now!