Friday, October 25, 2013

Wine Infographic: United States Cheat Sheet

Update:  I've revised and updated this cheat sheet. Check out the new and improved U.S. Wine Cheat Sheet.

I'm working on making cheat sheets for all the major wine regions in the world.  (See the full collection here.)  Here's one covering the United States, without California.  California produces 90% of the wine that comes from the U.S., so it will get its own page.

This overview includes information on climate, grapes, wine laws, and major American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).  AVAs are the American version of AOCs in France or DOCs in Italy, except with far fewer regulations.  I included some technical details that might not be of interest to the casual consumer, but are necessary for any serious wine students to know - such as labeling requirements and latitude.

I chose 4 states to focus on - New York, Washington, Oregon, and Texas.  The first 3 were the top producers of wine in the U.S. in 2012 (after California).  And I included Texas because I live here and I'm interested!

I hope you'll find this cheat sheet useful and educational, and that it will inspire you to try a wine from a place you've never had before!  My personal favorites from these regions are Pinot Gris from Oregon, Cabernet Sauvignon and dry Riesling from Washington, and Cabernet Franc and dry Riesling from New York.

To see the Cheat Sheet in full size…
…in Internet Explorer, right click on it and select “open in new tab.”
…in Chrome, right click on it and select “open link in new tab.”
…in Firefox, right click on it and select “view image.”   

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is wine gluten free?

Many people have begun avoiding gluten in recent years, some because of Celiac disease, others for other health and dietary reasons.  If you are avoiding gluten, should you worry about wine?  Generally, the answer is no, but here are some points to keep in mind:

1)  The basic ingredients of wine do not contain gluten.

2)  If you drink sweet, artificially-flavored wine products, anything might be in those flavorings, including gluten.  Also, yuck!  Let me encourage you to try a good-quality Riesling or Moscato d'Asti!

3)  A tiny amount of gluten can make its way into a wine if it is used as a fining or clarifying agent (this is not very common), or if a wheat paste is used to seal the wine barrels (wax is more commonly used today).  In these cases, testing has revealed that the resulting amount of gluten in the wine is less than 10 parts per million.  (The FDA's standard for products labelled "gluten free" is that they contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.)  If you are concerned about the barrel issue, you could avoid wines that have spent time in barrels, and stick to wines that will usually not be oaked, such as Pinot Grigio/Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and unoaked Chardonnays.

If you are gluten intolerant and want to drink wine, you should generally be okay, unless you are extremely sensitive to it.  To learn more, check out this informative article from Wine Spectator or this interesting perspective from WineMaker.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wine and Cheese Pairing

I've had a crazy-busy couple of months, so I'm taking the week off!  Instead of reading a post here this week, click over to theKitchn, where Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW, has some thoughts on which wines you ought to be drinking with that cheese...

Why You Should (Almost) Always Pair Cheese with White Wine, Not Red

Monday, October 7, 2013

Would you drink wine with a moldy cork?

I bet your answer is no, and mine was too until recently.  A few weeks ago I pulled this great bottle of Rioja out of my wine fridge and was disappointed to see mold growing out of the holes in the foil.  I had bought the bottle a couple of years ago and had stored it properly that whole time.  My first thought was to throw it out or return it to the store and ask to exchange it, but I decided to do a little research first.  

It turns out that mold on the outside of the cork is not a problem, and may even be a good thing.  The presence of mold between the cork and the foil suggests there was a good deal of humidity present when the foil was put on the bottle at the winery.  Humidity is good because dry air can contribute to a cork drying out.  Dry corks shrink, then leak, letting wine out and/or too much oxygen in.  My bottle was a Rioja Reserva, and in Spain the term “reserva” has a specific meaning:  this wine was aged at the winery for at least 3 years.  Mold on the cork just means that it was aged in humid conditions, then over time a little mold grew where some moisture was trapped between the cork and the foil.  

If you come across a moldy cork, just wipe off the mold with a damp towel and open the bottle as you normally would.  Examine the end of the cork next to the wine – mold on THAT end is cause for concern.  If the mold was all on the top, drink away!  I wiped the top of the opened bottle again before pouring, just to be sure the mold was gone.  My Rioja Riserva tasted just as good as I remembered.  I’m so glad I didn’t throw it out!

P.S.  The moldy cork issue is different from the wine being “corked.”  Stay tuned for more on corked wine at a future date…