Archive for the ‘Heritage’ category

Are older vintages always better than younger ones?

June 10, 2011

Contrary to what you may expect, most wines today are made for consumption while they are still young (within a year or two of the vintage on the label) and will not improve much over time.

With red wines, you can generally bank on an older vintage having more complexity and smoothness than a younger vintage, especially for age-worthy grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and blends containing these grapes.

Because red wines contain age-friendly tannins originating from contact with grape skins and stems, and from aging in oak barrels, they continue to develop and mature inside the bottle and become more drinkable over time.

Fine red wines that are more expensive than average usually will improve with age, whereas lower-priced wines are made for more immediate consumption — within months of their release.

The issue of vintage can be complex. There are wine vintage charts (available as a reference resource in many wine stores) that list wine regions around the world and rate each vintage year according to its quality, which is primarily determined by that year’s weather.

Weather in a given year is more critical in France, for example, than in the United States because wine laws in France prohibit irrigation of vines. In other words, the quantity of water that a vine gets is not controlled.

What’s more, the climates in California (and South Africa) wine regions are fairly consistent from year to year, making differences between vintages less meaningful.

Red wines age according to a curve that reaches a peak of improvement and then declines. It is just a guess by winemakers and wine critics as to when in the life of the wine that peak occurs.

Because white wines are absent of tannins and their preservative characteristics, the older a white wine gets, the greater the chance that it may be beyond its peak and on the downside slope of its “drinkability” curve.

Source: Ventura Country Star


Wine storing tips

May 10, 2011

If you’re serious about drinking wine, chances are you’re serious about cellaring it too.

And if you’re serious about storing it, you’ll know that under the stairs isn’t the best place for your precious collection.

Make sure you keep it somewhere where the temperature is stable from day to night and season to season. This can be a purpose-built facility or private cellar. That failing, avoid windows, external walls or anywhere near a kitchen. Between 12-18 degrees Celsius is optimum, and based on the average temperature of the great European cellars.

Keep humidity between 65 and 75 per cent. Inadequate humidity will cause cork shrinkage and oxidisation and too much humidity will damage labels and encourage mould growth.

Store wine away from vibrations. This includes subwoofers, speakers, air-conditioners and hot water units. Vibrations affect chemical reactions in the wine.

Keep wine in the dark and avoid sunlight at all costs.


Cooking with wine – Tips and guidelines

March 30, 2011


There are certain guidelines when cooking with wine and it is important to know what effect the wine can have on the dish.

In order to cook with wine you need to know what wine is made of and what will be the effect on certain dishes when wine is used in the cooking process.

Wine is made up of water, grape acids, tannins and alcohol. All of these players, individually and together, affect the final result. Alcohol itself is tasteless, but it affects the release of flavour and fragrance molecules from the other components. It helps fats to dissolve and penetrate the food, bringing out hidden flavours. This is a chemical reaction that “ordinary” liquids, like water or stock, or even fats such as butter or oil cannot achieve. For this reason, when wine is added to the pot it should be allowed to simmer, uncovered, so that the alcohol and some of the volume evaporate. Never add wine at the end of cooking.

When red wine is made, the seeds and the skins are in prolonged contact with the grape juice, so red wine is rich in tannins. White wine is low in tannins because the juice does not come into contact with the skin and seeds during fermentation. Thick-skinned grapes (such as cabernet sauvignon) will result in tannin-rich wine, in contrast to thin-skinned varieties (like merlot).

White wine is low in tannins because the juice does not come into contact with the skin and seeds during fermentation. Thick-skinned grapes (such as cabernet sauvignon) will result in tannin-rich wine, in contrast to thin-skinned varieties (like merlot).

During marination the tannins and other acids in the wine penetrate the meat’s fibers and bind to its proteins, leaving the meat much softer and tastier than it was before its wine bath. Adding tannin-rich wine while cooking will improve the flavours of a meat dish beyond recognition, softening and rounding out hidden fragrances. In cooking, the tannins bind to the meat proteins and coax out their best flavours. When the food is eaten only the aroma remains; the tannins do not react adversely with the proteins in saliva to spoil the enjoyment.

But beware – adding red wine to a vegetable dish does exactly the opposite. The tannins will remain, making the dish relatively astringent. For that reason it’s best to use white wine or a low-tannin red wine when cooking vegetarian foods.