Archive for January 2012

A Perspective of Wine Bottles and Sizes

Bigger Bottles Don’t Necessarily Mean Cheaper Wine

It is interesting to listen to the wine novice take a look at the different bottles of wine at the store. Very often a comment is made about the larger bottles of wine and how only a drunk would need to have that much wine, especially for that price. Yet the size of the bottles and the names they are given goes back beyond the Middle Ages and is more a reflection of the winemaker and what they feel is better for the storage of the wine more than the consumer’s wish to actually consume.

There Is No “Standard” Bottle of Wine

Some wine bottles are shaped like flasks. Some bottles have high necks. Other bottles don’t. Even though many of us consider a 750ml bottle of wine a “standard” bottle, there are other countries and winemakers that consider their standard 700ml, 720ml, or even 800ml. It’s just because most people tend to drink the wines that come in 750ml bottles do they consider that to be the standard bottle of wine.

Different Sizes Invoke Different Names

Bottles of wine can come in very tiny bottles that are single serve and giant bottles that contain the equivalent of 40 regular bottles of wine. That’s because winemakers recognized very long ago that wine is used for a wide variety of events and occasions. Some people simply want a small bottle of wine for dinner and prefer not to open an entire bottle to get one glass out of it. Others are hosting grand parties or banquets and need the larger bottles as a convenience so that they don’t have to open a new bottle of wine every fifth or sixth guest. So sure, everyone can purchase a larger than normal bottle of wine if they want to – but the bottles were meant for occasion, not for individualized alcohol consumption.

Wine Bottle Sizes

 

Isn’t There a Difference in the Quality of the Wine?

Many consumers tend to avoid the smaller and larger bottles of wine because there is a perception that the quality of the wine isn’t as good. For some wines, such as those that utilize the Champagne method where a second fermentation takes place in the bottle, the winemaker simply adjusts the yeast and sugar additions for the larger bottle. The larger bottles take the same amount of time to mature as the smaller bottles if that is needed and when it is time to uncork them, you are going to get the same great flavors from the smallest bottle of wine available to the largest.

So What Kinds of Sizes Are There?

The Smaller Sizes

It is interesting to note that as the sizes of the wine bottles get bigger, they are named after Biblical kings. The smallest bottle, however, is named the Piccolo, or the quarter bottle. That’s because it contains a quarter amount of a regular bottle of wine, which is perfect for a glass or maybe two with dinner. The next bottle is a Chopine, or a third of a regular bottle, and then you come to the demi bottle, or half bottle.

 

Wine Bottle Sizes

If you happen to like sweet wines, then you may be aware of the Jennie, which is a bottle that contains two-thirds what a regular bottle does. This bottle is not generally used for traditional sparkling or still wines, but is used for some fruit wines and others that are much sweeter than regular wine. After the Jennie is the Clavelin, but that is primarily used just for vin jaune, or yellow wine.

The Larger Sizes

Once you have reached the standard bottle and you have realized that you are going to need more wine for whatever occasion you happen to be throwing or attending, the next size up is the Magnum, which is two regular bottles of wine. Going up to a bottle that contains three regular bottles  you get the Marie Jeanne, which is used quite a bit in the distribution of port.

If you still need more, then one of the most popular sizes is the Jeroboam, who was the first king of the Northern Kingdom. Some folks call this bottle the Double Magnum as well, since it holds between 4 and 6 bottles of regular wine. It is between four and six bottles because different regions hold different standards for how much ends up going into the bottle. A Jeroboam bottle of still wine usually tends to contain a bit more wine than a bottle of sparkling wine.

Wine Bottle Sizes

 

The next size up after the Jeroboam is the Rehoboam, who was the first king of Judea after it separated from the nation of Israel. It also holds six times the amount of a regular bottle. If you need something larger, you can always get the Imperial or the Methusela depending on the wine, which is eight times the regular bottle. And yes, though these wines are still the same quality as their smaller bottled counterparts, once you reach this size of bottle, they become difficult to pour, so they tend to be more for show than anything else.

Going larger than 8 times a regular bottle is either the Mordechai or the Salmanazar, which are both 12 times the size of a regular bottle. Mordechai was the cousin of Queen Esther, who ruled Persia, while Salmanazar was an Assyrian king. Even bigger than that, though, is the Balthazar, which is 16 times the size of a regular bottle. But remember – it goes up to 40 times the size of a regular bottle – we’re getting there!

At 20 times the size of a regular bottle you get the Nebudchadnezzar, which was the name of the Babylonian King. For some he was considered one of the greatest kings to ever live, though because he occupied territories, others view him as one of the greatest villains ever. And for most wines, the largest bottle is at 24 times the size of a regular bottle and that is called the Melchoir, who according to legend was the name of one of the wise men who visited Jesus after He was born.

Wine

Only Champagne is served in bottles bigger than the Melchoir, and those bottles are named the Sovereign, the Primat, and the Melchizedek. These bottles are especially more for show and actually take two or three people to pour the wine from them if that is ever done.

The other reason why bottles of wine are so large, and especially Champagne, is that they are also utilized to ship the wine to different locations. Yes, barrels are more traditionally used for wine, but remember that Champagne is fermented a second time in the bottle? By shipping in the larger bottles, a winemaker can create the appropriate wine, ship it, and have the distributor put it in smaller bottles before the fermentation process as finished so that the winemaker himself doesn’t have to ship 40 bottles – he or she can only ship one.

But What About the Different Colors of Wine Bottles?

There is a lot of myth and legend out there about why certain types of wine bottles are different colors. After all, there are dark green ones, light green ones, red ones, and a number of other different shades. Most of the stories revolve around the idea that the color of the glass helps support the wine, its continuing fermentation, or that it even helps increase the flavors and aroma of the wine itself. All of that isn’t true. In fact, the primary reason behind the different colors of bottles is that it simply is another marketing device beyond the label itself for a consumer to be able to identify the proper bottle of wine they wish to purchase.

So when it comes to the sizes and colors of the different bottles of wine, remember that except for some of the colors and maybe some that come in unique shapes, they are meant for the customer to be able to properly identify the wine and how much the bottle contains. And by knowing that, you can help the next wine novice you meet at the store or the vineyard understand why wine bottles are the way they are too.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

Mulled wine…what is that? It’s a phrase not heard as often as a simple red wine or white wine. By definition, mulled wine actually is a red wine that has been combined with spices and is typically served warm. If you have never tried mulled wine, perhaps reading that tasty description is enough to make you want to try it. It is also a traditional drink served in wintertime, especially around Christmas or Halloween.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine – How to Make It

To make a British version of mulled wine, combine a cup of water with sugar and spices in it to every pint of wine. Some people also use fruit juice to sweeten the wine, in addition to the sugar added. The spices usually used for mulled wine are cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mace. Boil the spices in the water until the flavor is extracted. Then, add the wine and sugar. The entire mixture should then be brought to a boil. Since mulled wine is served warm, it is appropriate to start enjoying it as soon as it has cooled enough to drink it. Any type of wine can really be used to make mulled wine, but two kinds–port and claret–are usually preferred. It’s important to use a very clean warmer for the purpose of making mulled wine, and it is also best to reserve said container for that purpose only. A dirty container can impart unwanted, unpleasant flavors to the finished product, which would be quite disappointing after spending the time and ingredients to make the wine. When serving mulled wine, impress your guests at a holiday party or at a game night some cold fall evening by serving the concoction garnished with cinnamon sticks. It is sure to be a hit!

Mulled Wine – A History

Where did mulled wine come from? What is its history? “Mulled” happens to mean spiced and heated. Wine, in addition to other beverages, such as cider and mead, can be mulled. Mulled wine goes back in history a long time. It used to be thought of as very healthy, and in medieval times, was a cleaner drinking option than water. Old cookbooks included recipes for mulled wine as early as the 1500s. French wine was used in many of these recipes. In the olden days, apparently before there were laws concerning drinking alcohol, children would even drink mulled wine at birthday parties along with the adults. Today, mulled wine is a huge hit at holiday parties, and there are many, many ways to make it. Depending on where you live, mulled wine recipes and preferences can be different. For example, some recipes call for white wine, and some for red wine to be used in the making. There can also be differences in how many spices and how much fruit is used. Mulled wine is a beloved traditional drink for wine lovers. It is something that can be tried in many different ways with different recipes, and it can really be perfected to one’s personal taste. I for one feel inspired to try this drink for the first time.

Food and Wine

Food and Wine

Most of us have heard that there are certain wines that accent certain foods. There are certain pairings that work wonderfully, and there are certain pairings that are not so delectable. For the average cook who is planning a dinner party or perhaps a romantic date night in, just what these pairings are may leave one scratching their head in wonderment. A little research is necessary to find out which combinations are amazing, simply ordinary, or just plain awful. One must know both what to strive for and also what to avoid.

Food and Wine

Food and Wine – Tricks of the Trade

In the endeavor of magnificent food to wine matchmaking, please do not make the mistake of thinking that opposites attract. If you prepare a bland, mild tasting meal, do not pair it with a strong, intense wine that is high is alcohol content. This makes for a bad combinations in which the wine overpowers the food and and you come away forgetting what you ate, but feeling a slight wine buzz. If you are preparing a meal that includes rich creamy sauces or deep fried foods, don’t be afraid to throw in a wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet. These are high acidity wines that pair well with fatty, rich dishes. Also, these acidic, tart wines go great with food that are tart as well: think vinaigrette on a salad. A high tannin wine is a great wine to serve with foods that are high in fat. Tannins are astringent, and that quality cuts through the viscosity of the fat in the food. (Viscosity is the quality of a liquid that does not flow well, such as honey.) The idea of a wine helping a fatty meal to flow better through the digestive system is really quite appealing. Send that fat through! Another food and wine pairing tip is this: if you have a wine that you are wanting to showcase, such as an older vintage bottle, remember that these older wines tend to have a more subtle flavoring. It is therefore not a good idea to serve a wine of this type with a complex dish. You should instead make something more simple so that the special wine will truly be the center of attention in the meal. Above all, remember to think of wine as a condiment. It should complement a meal and make the food taste better. The wine should not overpower the food, and the food should not overpower the wine. And, don’t forget the wonderful pair–wine and cheese. There’s nothing complicated about this one. Red wines go wonderfully with mild to sharp cheese. Pungent cheese should go with a sweeter wine.

Food and Wine – Ways to Learn More

When it comes to being an expert on the subject of serving the best combinations of wine and food, there are many resources to utilize. One can simply use the internet to search the topic, take classes, read books, watch cooking shows,and buy special cookbooks, just to name a few ways. Of course, one can also just use the good old method of trial and error! There are very few combinations that would be simply horrible, and in experimenting while following a few guidelines, it is possible that the very best combinations could be stumbled upon by chance!

Dry White Wine

Dry White Wine

People throw around terms like “dry” wine, but what on earth does it actually mean? It seems somewhat contradictory for a liquid to be considered dry at all. Well, it turns out that a wine being called dry has more to do with how much sugar content is in the wine than anything else. Wine grapes have different degrees of sugars in them depending on what kind of grapes they are, when they were harvested, and the level of concentration of the juices. When the grapes ferment, yeast converts sugar from the grape juice into alcohol. When most of the sugar is converted to alcohol and the amount of sugar that is left is less than one percent of the wine’s volume, a wine is considered to be dry. When defined and explained, the strangeness of calling a wine dry doesn’t seem so strange after all.
Dry White Wine

Dry White Wine – Characteristics

Dry white wines are not very flavorful, as a rule. They are not considered to be sweet wines, but more crisp. It is important that they be paired with the right foods so as to bring out the best in the wine. It is also key to be aware of serving dry whites at the correct temperatures. Rieslings and Chardonnay are two very popular dry white wines. These are common favorites that most people who like wine enjoy, but they may not realize that their favorite wine is considered a dry wine. The more one learns about wine, the more interesting it becomes, and the more desire for experimentation there can be. It is possible for a wine to be considered “medium dry.” These are wines that have less than 12 g/L of residual sugar left. These would be wines that are a little sweeter than the drys, but not as sweet as the more sugary wines some people enjoy the most.

Dry White Wine – Cooking

Some of the most popular dry white wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling. A general rule is that you should not cook with a wine you would not enjoy drinking. Obviously, the wine you use to cook is going to impart some flavor to the food, and flavor intensifies with heat and cooking. So it is very important to cook with a high quality wine that you would also be willing to sit down and drink a glass of in a moment of relaxation. If a recipe calls for a dry white wine, then use a dry white wine. It is important to stick with the general wine that a recipe asks you to use if you want optimum results. The brave chefs of the world would possibly argue that there are ways to change up recipes safely, but if you are not an expert in wine substitution, perhaps following the directions is the best choice for all involved. Dry white wines are a wonderful addition to any occasion and they a wonderful choice for those who do not enjoy very sweet, sugary wines. They are not overpowering; and it is more possible to enjoy more than one glass at a time, contrary to the way a sweet glass of red can be filling and too sweet after one full glass.

Cupcake Wine

Cupcake Wine

Imagine someone taking your favorite baked dessert and pouring it into a bottle, combining it with some other equally amazing flavors, packaging it, and selling it for all to enjoy. Well, that is a way to describe some amazing new wines made and distributed by a place called “Cupcake Vineyards.” There are multiple flavors made by this rather new wine company, and they are all geared towards the younger generation. The idea of these wines is to combine the well-loved flavor of chocolate with the delicious flavors of different fruits and berries. Since they are very sweet wines, it is not the best idea to actually sit down and drink it while eating a red velvet cupcake or sweet dessert. Instead, it can be enjoyed with simple flavors, such as a regular cheeseburger or a juicy steak.

Cupcake Wine

Cupcake Wine – What Does It Taste Like?

Cupcake Vineyards strive to craft the richest, smoothest, and most elegant wines on the market. One of their full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon boasts soft tannins with fruit flavors of blackberry, dark cherry, and cassis. These dark fruits combine with the tastes of cocoa and toasty oak and the wine ends with a smooth, silky finish. If a description like that doesn’t make your mouth water, what will? It seems that only good things could come of joining chocolate with fruit. This is one wine that is relatively new, and that a lot of people have yet to try. It is going on my list of wines to try very, very soon. How about yours? Word on the street is that it is only about ten bucks a bottle, so it is price-friendly for the wine drinker who does not like to spend a lot. With the economy as it is, finding wines that are both fabulous and affordable is exciting!
 

Cupcake Wine – What’s In A Name?

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about Cupcake Wine is its name. It is not hard to pronounce, it does not sound too sophisticated to attempt to know how to serve or cook with it, and it is named after a dessert! What more could we ask for? The marketing department associated with the Cupcake Wine vineyard surely deserves credit for enticing us. And not to be discriminatory, but it seems like a wine for the ladies because of its fun, flirty bottle and packaging. But for the fellas out there who love this wine, please take no offense as this is just a musing. Upon researching, the best reasoning I could find for choosing such a name was that the word cupcake would evoke positive and pleasant thoughts in the one potentially purchasing the wine, which could cause them to pick the wine and associate it with something delicious. It makes me think about other desserts. How would a cheesecake wine or a hot fudge wine be received? What about an apple pie wine? You get the picture. Whoever thought of this name was ingenious, and I’m sure, raking in the monetary benefits of a job well done.

Champagne

Champagne

No New Year’s Eve celebration is complete without the sweet, bubbly wetness of a tall-stemmed glass full of champagne.The very word champagne evokes a certain feeling of festivity. In the movies and in culture around us, champagne is usually related to a reason to celebrate or be happy. Champagne shows up when people get new jobs, get raises, or get married. There’s just something about it! Champagne first became respected as a festive beverage because it was associated with the anointing of kings in France. Royalty themselves fast embraced this special drink that embodied wealth and luxury, and its popularity grew steadily in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Wine makers were quick to promote this carbonated wine as a drink associated with important life events and important moments in time.

Champagne

Champagne – A Place or a Name?

Champagne is often confused as a type of alcohol in and of itself. However, it is actually a sparkling wine that is made by using secondary fermentation of wine, which effects its carbonation. The term “champagne” is correctly used when speaking of wine that is geographically produced in the Champagne region of France, but mistakenly has come to be used more broadly as the name used for all sparkling wine. There are laws that have to be followed when it comes to the formal labeling of sparkling wine. These laws prohibit the use of the word champagne in some areas, if the sparkling wine was not in fact produced in Champagne, France. These laws are not in effect in all places, however, which is what causes the confusion.

Champagne – Special Glassware for a Special Drink

There is much more to learn and know about this special drink with the interesting name attached to it. It is important to know how to drink this beverage as well. You might say that one should “handle with care” in order to best enjoy this drink. There are a couple of different glassware items that can be used to maximize the taste and temperature of Champagne/sparkling wine. The first is called the champagne flute. This lovely glassware is comprised of a stem glass with a tall, narrow bowl attached to it. It can resemble a wine glass or a trumpet. The purpose of the stem is to allow the drinker to hold onto their glass without clenching the part of the glass where the champagne is, thus keeping the champagne at the proper temperature. The bowl design also serves its own purpose, which is to help retain carbonation. The flute is the most popular of champagne glasses. Another option for drinking champagne is known as the champagne coupe. It is a shallow, broad-bowled glass with a stem that is more often used for weddings. It was a beautiful and effective choice for champagne drinkers in the thirties when the champagne was sweeter, but now that champagne tends to be more of the dry variety, the broad surface of the coupe can cause sparkling wine to lose its carbonation more quickly, leaving the flute a much better option for champagne lovers everywhere.