Uptown Wine & Spirits opened December 5th, and has been my primary focus during the eighteen months we’ve spent renovating our beautiful, historic building. In addition to the fun of being part of the great vibe of this new, upbeat resurrected part of town, I find that a large part of the joy of this new business is helping people make choices about wines.
Our customers have had lots of questions about wine. Here are some of the questions I thought our readers might find of interest:
> Do vintages make a difference/matter? People logically wonder if the wine comes from the same vines on the same land, can the vintages be dramatically different from one another? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Not only does the weather make an enormous difference in the quality and quantity of the fruit, but the degree of ripeness when the grapes are harvested and the variations in vinification can cause wines from different vintages to be dramatically different in aroma, taste and ability to age well.
> Do flavors listed on the tasting notes such as cherry, plum, raspberry, vanilla, smoke, etc. mean that those flavors have been added? Absolutely not! These comments about a wine simply indicate the wine’s propensity to display fruit like or other aromas and flavors. Some grape varietals have more fruit like flavors, such as gamay, the red grape of Beaujolais and gewürztraminer, the white grape of Alsace. Fruitiness is also often confused with sweetness, but the two characteristics are distinctly different.
> Why are foreign wine labels so confusing/difficult to read? Many wine labels in the United States indicate the grape varietal, such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, pinot noir, etc. To be labeled as such, these wines must contain at least 75% of that varietal. Many European wines are labeled according to the region such as Bordeaux or Burgundy and/or the “appellation,” which is often also the name of the town, such as Meursault in Burgundy or Margaux or Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux. Many wines from Burgundy also list the specific name of the vineyard on the label, which can make those labels especially confusing. The varietals are rarely listed as the wines are often blended. In Bordeaux, the red wines are most often a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. These percentages can vary from year to year. In contrast, the red wines of Burgundy are almost exclusively made of pinot noir, but are rarely labeled as such.
> What is the difference between Port, Sherry and Madeira? Port wine is made in the Douro Valley in Portugal. It is a red wine that is a sweet dessert wine made with grapes grown in the region and fortified with a grape spirit called aguardante while the wine is still fermenting. There are three main categories of Port wine. Ruby Port, which is aged in wood for about three years and is fruity, simple and fairly inexpensive. Tawny Port, which is tawny-colored from the oxidation from its maturation in wooden casks for generally 10 years or more and is mellow, nutty and slightly woody. The third type is Vintage Port, which is the pinnacle of Port wine from a single years’ production, aged for two years in casks and then for long periods of time in the bottle before being ready to drink. Madeira, which was
George Washington’s favorite wine, is a Portuguese wine that is made exclusively on the Madeira Islands. Madeira wine can vary from dry to sweet. Sherry comes from the Andalucia region of southwestern Spain. There are two basic types of Sherry: Fino, which is light and very dry, and Oloroso, which is rich and full, but also dry. Sweet Sherries are made by sweetening either type.
These are just a few of the questions I have had from customers. Many of these questions have helped me learn more about wine. If you have questions, please call or come by to see me and we’ll explore together! As always, drink what you enjoy!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.