Archive for July 2011

Win Limited edition Alto Wines, Knife and fork sets and a Dinner voucher

July 22, 2011


Red wine in a glass – What should it look like?

July 21, 2011

Much is talked about the nose or bouquet of a wine and, of course, its taste. However, the appearance of the wine is just as important in the process of wine tasting, particularly as it begins the whole procedure.

Red Wine UK recently published an interesting article on this topic.

The way a red wine looks in the glass prejudices our other senses and our brain begins to assess whether the wine will be enjoyable or a disappointment in the same way our first glance at the presentation of a meal in a restaurant may make us salivate in anticipation or wrinkle our nose in disgust.

So how do you go about examining the appearance of a red wine?

Firstly, make sure you have a proper red wine glass. You need a large glass with a bulbous bowl and a long stem. The glass should be clear and thin so the appearance of the wine is not tainted by colour or distortion. Fill the glass only about a quarter full so you can tip the glass horizontally with the wine settling in the curve of the bowl rather than spilling over the edge.

Secondly, make sure you have the correct light. Traditionalists and romantics will argue that red wine should be examined in candlelight. However, in these days of electricity a good spotlight against a white background tends to work better.

The key features to look at are the clarity of the wine, the density of the colour, the colour of the wine’s rim and its viscosity. These features will give you an early indication of the wine’s quality, age, grape, geographical origins and alcohol content. Experts will be able to interpret more than a beginner or amateur taster but do not be intimidated – examining the appearance of a red wine is all part of the fun and enjoyment of wine tasting and even a beginner will be able to detect something.

The best way of looking at a red wine’s appearance is to tilt the wine glass away from you so it is almost horizontal and look at the wine against a white background. This allows you to get a good view of both the middle of the wine and the edges.

The first feature to look at is the clarity of the red wine. The wine should be clear and transparent rather than cloudy or slightly fizzy which indicates a bad wine.

Once the red wine has passed the clarity test, look at the density of the colour, which should be bright rather than flat. Younger wines tend to be more vivid in colour whilst red wines which have been aged tend to be a bit paler and have a slight brick brown hue, although if a wine is too brown it may have been aged for too long. More intense, darker reds suggest thick-skinned grape varieties such as syrah/shiraz. The darker colour can also mean the wine is from a hotter climate. Better quality wines tend to have a glossier colour and a more subtle change in shade towards the rim.

Next, take a look at the rim of the red wine, or the meniscus. If the intensity of colour continues to the rim it indicates a good quality wine. The meniscus of younger wines can be slightly watery or have a slight purplish-blue hue. If the rim is too watery then it is probably not a quality wine. The indication of a wine’s aging is visible first of all at the rim so older wines may have a slight brown colour at the edge.

Finally, give the red wine a good swirl so the liquid clings to the sides of the glass. Then watch how it trickles back down into the main body of the wine. These trickles are known as “legs” and help to show the alcohol level of the wine. The more viscous the wine and the more noticeable the legs, the higher the alcohol content is likely to be.

Read more…

Blue Cheese and Pesto Fillet

July 12, 2011

If you want to try something new and  impress your guests the Blue Cheese and pesto fillet is just the right meal.


4x 200g Fillet steaks

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of white pepper

1 cup basil pesto

1/3  cup blue cheese

½  cup fresh basil leaves


Prepare and heat grill. Place steaks on a platter; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Using a very sharp knife, cut into the side of each steak, creating a pocket. Be careful not to cut through to the other side. Fill each pocket with about 2 tablespoons pesto.

Grill steaks, covered, over medium coals for 5 minutes. Turn steaks, cover again, and cook for 4 minutes. Top each steak with 2 tablespoons of pesto and sprinkle blue cheese on top of the pesto. Cover and grill for 2 to 5 minutes, until desired doneness is reached. Meanwhile, roll basil leaves into a round shape and cut into thin strips, creating a chiffonade. Place steaks on serving platter and sprinkle with basil chiffonade. Let stand 5 minutes, then serve.

Recommended wine: The Alto Cabernet Sauvignon will be the perfect wine with this dish.


Wine ‘nose’ tips

July 7, 2011

Smell is very important to the wine taster as much of what we think is taste really comes through our noses. If you don’t believe it, try to enjoy a wine – or a meal – the next time you have a bad head cold.

When it comes to smelling, we take a distant second place to dogs and cats. Still, we humans can train our sense of smell, and you don’t have to be an expert wine taster to learn to sniff out the differences among wines.

The aroma of Cabernet Sauvignon and the closely related Merlot grape, for example, often reminds me of cedar wood and pine needles mingled with a good fruit smell reminiscent of currants.

Some add hints that wine tasters call “vegetal:” green olives, green peppers, tobacco leaves or grass.

Aging the wine in oak may add touches of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and almonds. Extended bottle aging may lend a toasty quality and impart earthy scents as variable as mushrooms, old leather, roses and wildflowers.

Other grapes have their own trademark aromas: Zinfandel often evokes berries. Pinot Noir, the fine grape of Burgundy, may recall violets and spice. The pungently floral quality of freshly ground black pepper signals Syrah, the French Rhone grape.

Among whites, Chardonnay recalls crisp, ripe apples and may add notes of butter, coconut, figs and other tropical fruits, particularly if it’s aged in oak.

Riesling, the queen of German grapes, may evoke apples, too, and sometimes citrus fruit, canteloupe and pine.

Sauvignon Blanc often shows a grassy smell and sometimes grapefruit.

Chenin Blanc reminds me of melons and, occasionally, orange blossoms. A smell of peaches identifies Muscat and Gewurztraminer; the latter may add elusive spice.


Guidelines to storing wine in closets, racks and home cellars

July 5, 2011

What to look for and to take into account when deciding on how you want to store your wine.


A wine closet

Look around your home for a dark, quiet place with a constant temperature and no vibration. If you choose a closet, it is preferable to choose one that is on a north wall. A North wall rarely receives direct sunlight, thus the heating of the storage space in the summer is reduced.

Such a wine closet may ruin a few bottles after some months of storage.

You can also purchase one of the wine cooler cabinets that are on the market.

Wine racks

Bottles must be stored on their sides to keep the corks moist. You have three solutions :

You build a few shelves yourself;

You take advantage of the many professional companies that design wine racks to suit any space;

You go to your hardware store and purchase square clay pipes (used for chimneys) and build instant racks with them. Stackable and cheap!

Building a wine cellar

To establish your collection in the basement, find a location that is far away from any heat source, vibration (subway) or strong odours (like fuel). Insulation and humidity are primary considerations for custom wine cellar design.

The drier the cave, the faster the corks will dry out. If the stopper lets too much air pass, it will ultimately spoil the wine. Aging wines for ten years requires a minimum of 60 percent humidity.