Finding The Right Wine Shouldn't Be Difficult
By Tami Sutcliffe, ithought.com staff writer (C) 2013
Buying and enjoying wine might be easier than you think. So many wonderful domestic and imported wines are available today, you can experiment on a small budget until you find your favorites for any occasion.
How to de-code a wine label:
What type of wine is this? This is usually printed in the largest letters and indicates the kind of grapes used ("Chardonnay", "Zinfandel", etc) Use the handy list below to decide if this wine is "dry" or sweet.
Where is this made? Look for the wineries name, which usually includes a region. In the United States, where growing regions are called American Viticultural Areas (AVA), least 85 percent of the grapes used in the wine in this bottle must come from a single AVA for the region's name to be used on the label.
What is the alcohol content of this wine? For table wine, the U.S. requirement is a minimum alcohol level of 7 percent, a maximum of 14 percent. This may vary up to 1.5 percent. For example, a wine label stating "Alcohol 12.5% By Volume" can legally range anywhere from 11 to 14 percent.
What is a sulfite and should I worry about it? Sulfites are widely-used, naturally-occurring preservatives which have been used for centuries in wine production. Some people are sensitive to sulfites and may experience headaches and other minor reactions. In the US, all wines which contain sulfites must list them on the label. (French and German wines do NOT contain these warnings.) Many wineries now produce "sulfite-free" wines, which can only be labeled as such when the levels of sulfites are under 10 parts per million.
What else is important to note? Look for general descriptions of taste ("berry-like", "nutty", "peppery") as well as residual sugar levels: the higher the sugar level, the sweeter the taste. Harvest dates are helpful if this is a wine which is best" when young" i.e. right after it has been bottled. Usually, most whites (except Chardonnays) are better chilled and "young." Many reds are better after some aging.
Popular RED Varietal Wines in North America
Cabernet Sauvignon: Originally from French grapes, this full-bodied red wine is now the best known varietal produced in the U.S. It is often aged in different types of wooden containers, which lend interesting flavors to the finished wine.
Merlot: Good quality Merlots are dark, rich and strong- and they do not have to be aged for long periods to be tasty. They often smell like plums, black cherry, toffee, or chocolate.
Pinot Noir: These grapes are hard to grow, making this wine more difficult to produce. It has a medium to dark ruby red color and is drinkable when young.
Zinfandel: This is a dry, red wine which can be peppery and rich. It is the most widely-planted and versatile grape in California: the under ripe fruit is used for rose wines, ripe fruit mainly goes in regular red wine, and overripe grapes make port wine.
Popular WHITE Varietal Wines in North America
Sparkling Wines:(mistakenly referred to as "Champagne): Demi-sec is the sweetest, Sec is a little dryer, Extra Dry has almost no sweetness and Brut is completely dry.
Chardonnay: This dry white wine can be quite expensive because the grapes themselves are costly. Unlike almost all other wine, Chardonnay does not need to be blended with any other grape. It also benefits from aging, so older bottles, aged well, can be wonderful.
Gewürztraminer [pronounced "gaa-VERTS-traa-MEE-ner"] is usually sweet and should be enjoyed while it is fresh and young. It has a strong, flowery smell and is often aged in stainless steel to keep this fragrance.
Riesling: One of the more complicated names to understand. Can be either dry (California, German) or quite sweet (Oregon or Washington blends). May be named "White" Riesling" or "Johannesburg Riesling" Rieslings vary from very dry to sweet dessert wines with up to 25 percent residual sugar. Read these labels carefully.
Sauvignon Blanc (also called Fume Blanc): This wine is widely produced and yields many different flavors, from light and dry to full and sweet. The only way to try this wine is to experiment.
White Zinfandel is a white wine made with red Zinfandel grapes. The dark grape skins are removed from the light juice before any color is absorbed.
Cheers! Wine is good for you, too!
Apparently, wine alters blood lipid levels, lowers cholesterol count, breaks up blood clots , raises the high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels and contains resveratrol, which may help suppress cancer. Medical research has indicated that one glass of wine each day may be beneficial. Adults who drink 1-3 glasses a day regularly are healthier than those who drink no wine at all (and are also healthier than those who drink more than 1-3 glasses a day.) Salut!
NOTABLE AND QUOTABLE:
Chardonnay is the most planted grape in the US. Zinfadel is the most planted grape in California.
"Men are like wine. Some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age." - Pope John XXIII
"Late harvest" refers to the condition of the grapes, not the gathering time.
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