Ask the Sommelier – Common Questions with Expert AnswersAdd to My Luxx Living
Welcome to Ask our Sommelier, Diane Slater of Cape Cod Package Store’s Fine Wine & Spirits.
You can email Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org
We truly enjoy our customers asking questions about wine. We are committed to education. Here are some of the most-commonly questions most asked of us. Please click the question and see our answer.
What wine do I use to make beef bourguignon?
Beef Bourguignon is a hearty beef stew from Burgundy, so the wine choice is Pinot Noir. But since Pinot from Burgundy is rather expensive, I often suggest more affordable Pinot Noirs such as Hob Nob or Le Chapeau. Cook with those, but drink the Pinots from Burgundy. A Syrah or Beaujolais would work as well – something fairly acidic which helps tenderize the meat as it cooks.
What other wines would you suggest I try if I no longer like oaked Chardonnay?
If you find that oaky Chardonnay does not hold the same allure that it once did, and you want a “cleaner and crisper” taste profile, there are excellent alternatives. Consider Meursault, a Burgundy designation. Or consider the brilliant wines of Italy – Orvieto, Soave, Roero Arneis. From Spain, there is Godello, Viura or Albarino. Then, there is Sauvignon Blanc from just about anywhere. I am fond of ones from New Zealand if you like a grapefruit/ citrus profile. If you are having shellfish, try a French Pic Poul de Pinet or the classic Mussel Mueniere wine – Muscadet Sevret et Maine. Then, pass the baguette.
I’m having lobster, but I don’t like white wines. What would you suggest?
Visting the Cape and excited about having a Lobster dinner, but you don’t like white wines? What to have? Because lobster is a substantial protein and offers a fatty voluptuous profile, there are a few reds that would work. If the lobster is simply steamed – try a chilled bottle of Zweigelt from Austria. It is a relative of Pinot Noir; so it’s light and a tad fruity – fun for summer! Another often overlooked red is Cru Beaujolais – fruity but drier and wonderful with fish. Pinot Noir would work too. I like Adelsheim from Oregon. Also, consider a young Garnacha from Spain.
What wines pair well with chocolate?
Chocolate is a varied term. Milk chocolate? Dark chocolate? Is it melted or is it partially dipped with dried fruits? Maybe it is a creamy chocolate bread pudding. On the lighter side, I like to pair an Italian Brachetto for an after-dinner lift. Brachetto is like an alcoholic strawberry Italian soda, perfect with chocolate-covered strawberries Serious dark chocolate? Try a rich Zinfandel, Syrah or a tawny Port wine. A lighter bread pudding that involves cream and eggs works well with a Moscato,
What wines would you serve with fish?
Traditionally wine with fish is usually white – something light to complement and not combat it. With a fish as delicate as sole, I recommend Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps a Sancerre or a Pinot Gris from Oregon. If you like a weightier white wine, then choose fish such as cod, hake or haddock. It depends on preparation, but a Spanish white such as Godello would be very nice and different. For salmon, try Pinot Noir or Blaufrankish from Austria.
Could I have a red wine with fish?
Baked cod with capers and sundried tomatoes certainly could be served with a light Italian red such as a Barbaresco or Chianti. Salmon is a legendary match with Pinot Noir. Grilled octopus or squid is complemented well with a Grenache from Spain. Scrod or any other light white fish, as well as trout, are beautifully paired with Rosé Champagne.
I’m just serving appetizers. What wines pair the best with the most foods?
Disobey your mother and play with your food. When serving an assortment of flavors and textures, offering both protein and carbs, mix up your wine offerings with different reds and whites. If you want a white wine to match and please most palates, try Zenato Lugana, which is a Trebbiano with more weight than most – a tad softer and rounder in the mouth. It is a good solution for a crowd that moves between Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. For an all-around red, I might go with a blend or a Pinot Noir from California such as Meiomi.
I am cooking lamb. What wine should I serve?
So many wines are geared to pair with beef. They certainly suit lamb as well. There are several stand-out regions that pair perfectly with lamb. One is Bandol in southwest France and the grape is Mouvedre. Try Domaine Tempier for a taste of a legendary wine that will complement lamb perfectly. Syrah, and Grenache also work. I am very partial to Rhone wines that blend these two grapes, as well as Cinsault and Carignon. A hint of spice, along with fruit, is lovely with lamb chops or a roasted leg.
Do you have a really high-end Pinot Grigio?
Pinot Grigio is a simple and uncomplicated grape. f you prefer a pricier alternative, consider Santa Margarita. If you like Pinot Grigio because it is clean and crisp, may I suggest other Italian whites including Vermentino, Verdicchio, Soave, Orvieto and Pinot Bianco.
What is an organic wine?
“Organic” means that the land is certified organic and that the produce has not been exposed to pesticides. Also, no sulfites are added during fermentation.
What are biodynamic wines?
“Biodynamic” relates to a non-scientific philosophy or theory that farming is best done in a completely natural state. No pesticides, no added sulfites, and then – all the viniculture practiced such as pruning fertilizing and harvesting is done in line with the phases of the lunar moon. A completely natural state of farming.
What is sustainable farming?
“Sustainable” relates to wineries that may be using solar power, wind power horse power etc. Rather than throwing down pesticide , they utilize and import beneficial insects such as lady bugs to keep plants clean, or rather using weed killer it may use sheep; which are “:grazers” , they walk thru the vineyard eating weeds and fertilizing.
Do all wines have sulfites?
Yes, and No. Sulfites are a natural part of the fermentation process and (affecting only 0.01 % of the population adversely) and some wines add more sulfites to tweak the flavors or stabilize them. Organic wines have no added sulfites. Some wines are organic and additionally have been processed to remove sulfites. These always are marked “No Detectable Sulfites” , such Our Daily Red. Often without sulfites these wines may lack any real depth of flavor and will not keep for long. Most wine on average has less sulfites than a banana or a deli meat sandwich.
Does red wine have more sulfites than whites?
No. Red Wine has much more histamines than white – which may cause a stuffiness and is often and incorrectly attributed as being a reaction to sulfites. White wine has much more sulfites than red. Red wine usually undergoes a malolactic fermentation requiring much less sulfites.
Do imported wines have more sulfites than domestic ones?
This is an often asked question as most people believe that sulfites are implemented only to stabilize wines for export. Sulfites are actually used quite often as an enhancer to tweak flavor profiles, control fermentation All wineries use some sort of S02 in winemaking – and most bottles contain less sulfites than any dried fruit. It utilized to for hygienic purposes and keeping the wine preserved. Isn’t nice to get wine from Europe while it is still good? The same goes for domestic wines which ship via trucking across the US. No wineries want their wine to spoil so its there to prevent that. It is the single most misunderstood characteristic in wine today.
Do organic wines have sulfites?
Yes, unless they have been eliminated and removed and never added- this is clearly labeled on the wine bottle as “No Detectable Sulfites” – it ios a natural part of fermentation and is a key element is making sure wine does not spoil. It is also used in almost all food products.
Is white Merlot or white Zinfandel actual grapes?
Emphatically no. Merlot and Zinfandel are red-wine, red-skinned grapes. When they are being crushed to make wine the skins rupture and the color bleeds from the skins. The juice is turned red when this happens and becomes tannic and robust. Contrary to the term “White” – these wines are actually pink – like rosé they show the beginning of color transfer and then the juice is separated from the skins. Unlike a proper dry rosé, residual sugars are then added to make it sweet. These wines are made with sugar not natural grape glucose, such as in the case of a sweet QMP Riesling, which is naturally sweet.
Does Italy make any Cabernets?
Yes. Cabernet Sauvignon is widely grown in all major wine producing countries. In Italy it is often blended with Sangiovese, particularly in Tuscany. These wines are often referred to a “Super – Tuscans” such as Tignanello, or Redigaffi. They earn huge scores and demand big prices – they break the DOC rules by adding Cabernet but often earn an IGT status which allows them to improve winemaking by breaking those old rules. Antinori broke all the rules and changed wine history back in 1974.
What do you mean by a ‘lean’ wine?
I often refer to some wines as leaner – and people often wonder what exactly that means. I feel that regions such as Napa Valley, or Spain’s Priorat can create some huge wines – bold dark fruit, really big in the mouth. Whereas, the regions of Burgundy, or the Rhone in France and Oregon make wonderful wines – but they are much more restrained in fruit and their profile is reveals focus on structure- the tannins or “bones “of the wine – the very architecture is more easily tasted, it is not covered up with abundant fruit. It is lighter bodied in the mouth, and thus – leaner.
What are tannins?
Tannins or Tannic acid is a natural derivative found in some animal matter, bark, and plant tissue. It is heavily present in grape skins, seeds, and stems. Thus red wine is much more tannic than white wine as it is fermented with seeds and skin. Aging in oak barrel can also add some tannins as can corks. It has a preservative nature as well what builds the structure in wine. Big tannic wines age very well – just as tannic acid found in animal matter can be used to “tan” leather, thus preserving the skins.
When the wine is not good enough to drink anymore, is it okay to cook with it?
I would not. When wine oxidizes and loses it fruit and composure – the rule is – if you would not drink it – DO NOT COOK WITH IT! When you cook with wine that has spoiled – you are simply adding more heat and making the wine taste worse – thus ruining the flavor of your favorite dish – not enhancing it.
What is the ideal temperature for a red wine?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions and it may vary depending on the season. White wine tends to last a tad longer – much of that is due to its being refrigerated – so if you have a nice red and want it to last put it in the fridge as well. Just let it sit out until it is back to room temp to serve. Room temperature really means cellar temperature; so, ideally reds should be served at about 56 degrees. Once a wine is opened, oxygen, heat and light can damage wine shortening its life span. Some wines taste terrible even the next day – and some will last two days. Private Preserve is a can of argon that can save your wine for up to two weeks – saving you a lot in wine money too. If you pull a cork – know that it is not like a dozen eggs – it is not going to sit there and be good when you get back to it, unless you preserve it. A can of Private Preserve is priced around $10 and lasts for quite a while.
How long does a bottle of wine last once it is open?
Many folks make the biggest mistake of holding onto a bottle of wine for decades until it is past its prime and worthless. Wines need to be of the right quality and the right grapes and the right vintage to really have lasting power. They are alive. They need to be laid down so the cork stays wet and tight in the bottle neck – preventing oxygen from seeping in. The temperature should be maintained at a consistent 56 degrees. A California Cabernet at $10.99 is not going to last more than a year or two at best, whereas some Cabernets from Bordeaux may live well and even evolve into greatness. If you are buying everyday wines, they are made for consumption, not laying down. If you are a collector, it is best to keep records and taste a bottle every few years. There is nothing worse than opening a bottle with great excitement and high expectations only to find you opened it too late.
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