Wine 101: Tips for sipping


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Posted Online: March 19, 2013, 12:04 pm
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By Bill Ward
Improve your learning curve — and fun factor — with these pointers from a wine expert:

I enjoy talking about wine. Sometimes, to my never-ending surprise, other people actually want to hear me yak away on the topic.

During the course of several such public discourses, it becomes easy to pick up on what resonates with an audience, beyond my advice that the best way to learn about wine is to pop a lot of corks.

Here are a few tips and topics that generally garner a good reaction from folks interested in wine:

Identifying aromas is more parlor game than useful exercise: Sniffing a wine generally is enjoyable and can be useful if you're looking for freshness, clarity, harmony (alcohol fumes = bad) and focus, but not if you're debating whether you're getting Key lime or kaffir lime.

And those tasting notes that list a litany of fruits and other elements should be pretty much ignored, certainly not emulated. The wonderful wine importer Kermit Lynch explained: "I might smell violets on a wine out of the barrel, but by the time it's bottled, there are no violets there. And a year later, it will have none of the same aromas as before. Or you can get an aroma at one temperature, but you heat the wine up five degrees and that aroma's gone."

What we "know" can hurt us: The wine world is no place for assumptions and conventional wisdom. At a recent tasting before a wine dinner, I hit upon a theme of counterintuitive bottles: a complex Beaujolais worlds apart from the candyish Nouveau that most folks associate with the region (Domaine Diochon Moulin-a-Vent); a dry moscato (see Wine of the Week) and a malbec not from Argentina but its homeland, the French region of Cahors (Chateau Eugenie). People love surprises, or at least the open-minded sorts who most enjoy wine.

Understanding texture is actually pretty simple: Talking about weight/body/texture/mouthfeel can elicit befuddled looks — until I trot out a "lactic" analogy from writer Karen MacNeil that unerringly provides context. Light-bodied wine = skim milk; medium-bodied wine = whole milk; full-bodied wine = cream. That prompted one wag at our recent gathering to quip as we sipped the Beaujolais, "I think this one is 2 percent milk."

Cook with what you drink: And this is not just about how my better half and I call "cooking wine" the stuff we quaff while we're actually prepping a meal. Wine should be viewed just like other ingredients in a dish: A good cook wouldn't use 5-year-old dried herbs, and a $20 cut of meat deserves a better flavor enhancer than most any $6 wine.

And I unfailingly quote my friend, Duxoup Wine Works winemaker Andy Cutter, who knows a thing or three about food:

"Never use crummy wine while cooking, because all it does is cook off the alcohol — and the only thing good about crummy wine is the alcohol."

















 




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  Today is Sunday, Aug. 31, the 243rd day of 2014. There are 122 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad will carry all who wish to attend the Chicago convention for half fare — that is, full fare to Chicago and return free.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Hardy Hetter, for several years yardmaster in the Burlington Railroad yards in Rock Island and Moline, was transferred to Beardstown. He was succeeded here by J.E. Albrecht.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Corn was estimated at 50 percent of the normal crop in Rock Island County by Crop Correspondent Thomas Campbell.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Robert Carroll, 12-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Farr Carroll, of near Aledo, won the grand championship of the Mercer County baby beef show with "Fat Stuff."
1964 -- 50 years ago: About 250 persons attended the first in a series of horse shows at the Hillandale Stables off Knoxville Road near Milan on Saturday afternoon and evening.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Ground was broken this morning for the $4.5 million Rock Valley Business Park near Rock Valley Plaza, Rock Island. The first building is 17,000 square feet for offices and a warehouse and should be completed by Dec. 1.




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