Question from Marcus: What’s the deal with heritage vines? Why do older vines make better wines? I had both an apricot tree and a lemon tree growing up and they both stopped producing fruit eventually. Why are grape vines different?
In a nut shell – They’re not really. Old vines stop producing fruit just like apricot and lemon trees do but grapes grown on old vines produce more intense, richer and complex wines than grapes grown on new vines and hence all the fuss. But to be honest, I think it’s largely a marketing ploy so be warned and read on.
In a clam shell – There is a general acceptance that wine from old vines will taste better – more balanced, more concentrated, bolder, richer and more interesting but there is absolutely no legal agreement, anywhere in the world, defining ‘old’. Read more
Question from Hannah: I really love Pinot Noir, it’s my favourite tipple when it comes to wine! But why oh why does it have to be so expensive? It seems much more expensive than other red wine varieties. Could you please explain why?
In a nut shell – It’s true, Pinot Noir is one of the most expensive wine varieties because it’s a pain in the arse to grow and it’s not going to get cheaper any time soon.
In a clam shell – Pinot Noir is such a princess – if the conditions aren’t perfect it’ll crack the poos and throw the towel in. It only likes cool consistent climates which allow the grapes to ripen slowly. It loves a chilly night but a nice warm sunny afternoon (don’t we all?). It’s so damn fussy that any variable (too much rain, frost or heat) will ruin it. And the grape itself has very thin skin which adds to its sensitive nature including its susceptibility to diseases. Read more
Question from Rebecca: Recently I have noticed with some wines I develop almost a hot rash even after one glass. I have spoken to some of my friends about it and apparently they experience the same. Is this due to an ingredient in the wine, and if yes is there a brand I can drink to avoid having this happen?
In a nut shell: Unfortunately it’s not a simple answer. There are a number of compounds you could be reacting to – sulphites, histamines, tyramine, tannin or alcohol (heaven forbid). Read on for all the nitty gritty.
In a clam shell: Common wine allergies include flushed skin and rashes (in your case), itchiness, headaches, migraines, congestion and asthma which can be attributed to all different compounds so figuring out what you’re reacting to might involved a little trial and error. Before you read on ask yourself a few questions. Do you get that hot rash whenever you drink alcohol or is it just when you drink red wine? Do you get headaches too? Do you get short of breath? Read more
Question from Win: Do I age a screw cap bottle of wine on its side or upright?
In a nut shell: It doesn’t matter, either on its side or upright is perfectly fine.
In a clam shell: Wine under cork needs to be aged on its side to keep the cork moist. If it’s stored upright the cork will dry and shrink, eventually letting air in and spoiling the wine. Also, you’re going to have a very hard time removing a dried cork. Read more
Question from Marcus: I’d like you to explain oxidisation and the effects of oxygen on wine. I guess it all ties in with decanting/aerating your wine before serving.
In a nut shell: You decant wine to develop aromas and flavours but be warned that decanting aged wine for too long can actually ruin it. A little more on oxidisation below.
In a clam shell: Oxygen is both good and bad for wine. We decant wine for two reasons (and when I say decant wine you don’t need some fancy pants expensive decanter, a water jug will do). The first reason we decant wine is to separate it from the sediment (shit bits you get at the end of a bottle of wine that has been aged for a while) which can make the wine astringent. We also decant wine to aerate it. As wine is poured it’s exposed to oxygen. The wine sucks in all that delicious oxygen which opens up the aromas and flavours of the wine and enables the wine to develop. This is particularly useful for young wine or wine with high tannins (that chalky, mouth drying feeling that Cabernet Sauvignon gives you after a big gulp). Read more
Question from Claire: Bonjour! I feel silly asking, but here it goes – is wine vegan?
Question from Laura: Does wine contain eggs and/or dairy?
In a nut shell – So I figure these questions are very similar and hence why I’m answering them together. Unfortunately, wine is not vegan and does contain traces of dairy and/or egg but don’t put down your glass just yet. It’s not that simple. Read on!
In a clam shell – At the end of the wine making process most winemakers will clear out the floaties and remove any unwanted flavours left in the wine (yeast, protein, cloudiness) before bottling it, by ‘fining’ the wine which involves adding a fining agent. The problem here is that fining agents are animal based products, namely isinglass (fish bladders), gelatine, casein (milk protein) and egg whites. Read more
Question from Jacqui: I’m not a huge wine drinker and usually stick to sweet ciders so I would probably like a sweet wine. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
In a nut shell – We’ll get you started on sweet wines and you’ll be downing the drys in no time! Stick to Asti (sweet sparkling), Muscat and some Rieslings (more on this below). You’ll probably love dessert wines too but they’re crazy sweet so you wouldn’t drink these unless you’re eating dessert.
In a clam shell: If your best mates just got engaged and everyone is drinking sparking but you don’t want to whip out your sweet ciders stick to Asti. Asti is a sweet, fruity sparkling wine from Piemonte in northwest Italy. It’s made with the Muscat grape, which is very fruity (think peach) and very floral (think roses). Read more
Question from Steph: I always get confused when I am ordering Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. They seem quite similar to me but what’s the difference?
In a nut shell – Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the exact same grape variety but it’s the way they are made that’s different.
In a clam shell – How confusing is it when you’re looking at a wine list with a Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio option! What to do, what to do?!? Read more
Question from Tahnee: I feel like this is a stupid question but what’s the difference between oaked and unoaked wine? I’ve come to learn that I don’t like white wines that have been ‘oaked’ but why?
In a nut shell – Oaked wines take on toast and nutty flavours because they are aged in either an oak barrel or have oak planks or chips added (if they are aged in stainless steel barrels).
In a clam shell – If you know you don’t like oaked wines it’s safe to say that you probably don’t like that toasty nutty flavour. Many wines are matured in oak but you mightn’t pick it up because the flavour intensity depends on how long the wine stays in contact with the oak for. It’s also more obvious to taste in a white wine than it is in a red wine. You’re probably drinking oaked reds all the time and just not realising.
Question from Nathan: When someone starts telling me that the wine is full bodied with high tannins and low acid what on earth are they talking about?
In a nut shell – They’re probably talking about a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz. Both wines are generally full bodied with high tannins and low acid. How do you tell? Read on, it’s actually pretty simple.
In a clam shell – ‘Winos’ have a language of their own and assume that normal people who like wine can understand their crazy talk. Little do they know, to the average punter it’s boring and intimidating and gives their beloved drink a bad name. I’ll translate into plain English and once you’ve got the basics you too will be able to talk a little wine wank. Read more
Question from Jacqueline: What is the difference between Shiraz and Syrah?
In a nut shell – Absolutely nothing! This black grape is known as Shiraz in Australia and Syrah in France.
In a clam shell – I don’t have much more to say except that Shiraz is quite unique to Australia so when you’re jet-setting (you lucky thing you) they’ll probably say Syrah and not Shiraz. It’s simple my friend. Read more
Question from Ben: What is corked wine and how can I tell if a wine is corked?
In a nut shell – You won’t be able to smell or taste any fresh fruitiness and if it’s really bad the smell will be musty and might remind you of a wet dog.
In a clam shell – It doesn’t matter how expensive or how cheap the wine, no bottle sealed with a cork is immune from the dreaded taint! The cork stopper is responsible so if it’s under screw cap you’re in the clear. Read more
Question from Sheryl: Besides the obvious, what’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine?
In a nut shell – Well here’s the obvious for those that aren’t sure what the obvious is! They both have bubbles but what sets them apart is where they come from. Like zucchini and courgette. Champagne comes from a region in France called (wait for it) Champagne. It’s about 1.5 hours north east of Paris. Sparkling wine comes from everywhere else. It’s that simple!
In a clam shell – The chalky soil and cool climate in Champagne creates the perfect conditions for growing those delicious grapes but what’s also different is the way they make their bubbly. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to drink Champagne you’ve probably noticed a yeasty, bread-like taste (some people love it, some people hate it) which is a direct result of the way it’s been made – more on that later. Read more