Back To School Wine Quiz!

For many Arizonans, it’s back to school time already. (Why they do this when it is 112 degrees out, I do not know.) But I thought I’d help you all get in the school spirit with a little wine quiz!! The best part about wine school is that whether you pass or fail, you get to move on to a glass of wine.

I call this game, “Region or Varietal?”.  To be clear, here are some definitions:

Region (or Appellation): a named growing area that makes wine.

“Region” is a more general reference – such as “California”. Whereas “Napa Valley” or “Alexander Valley” (while also regions within California) are actual “Appellations” recognized in the U.S. as an American Viticulture Area (AVA).  “San Diego”, for example, is not an appellation or AVA.

Grape Varietal: a grape that is used to produce wine.

Sometimes wines are labeled by their varietal, and sometimes by their region or appellation.  Many times, European wines are labeled by their region/appellation. Therefore you have to know what kind of wine the region produces in order to know what to expect from the wine. Then again, there are a lot of grapes used in European wines that aren’t very well known in the States.

It can be so confusing! Good thing that no matter what, there’s always wine in the wine bottle!

So take the 15 question quiz – you’ll see how you did immediately!! Our follow-on post will have a bit more explanation of each item in the quiz!

Old World vs. New World Wines

Have you ever meandered into a wine shop or wine bar and overheard some wine snoobery about how “I much prefer the complexity of old world wines [blah blah blah]”? [I intended to write “snobbery” but “snoobery” was such a fun typo that I’m sticking with it.] So what does that mean and why does it matter?

Winemaking Location

Old World

The “old world” generally refers to wine made in Europe where the origin of winemaking practices started. This also reaches into the Middle East a bit and northern Africa. So this includes France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Cyprus, Macedonia, amongst the many other winemaking countries. [Here in the U.S., we don’t often see much Middle Eastern or northern African wines. If you do see some, pls let us know!]

New World

“New world” refers to wine made everywhere else. Yes – everywhere else. This includes North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, China (yes! China), etc.

Characteristics

Location differences are pretty simple, but there are some key differences in the wine characteristics between the old and new world wines. This primarily has to do with the acidity of the wine, the general flavor profile, and the alcohol content. To put it simply:

Old World vs. New World Wine Characteristics

What are the GENERAL characteristic differences between Old and New World wines?
 Old World
(Europe)
New World (Everywhere Else)Why does it matter?
AcidityHigherLowerHigher acidity in wine may be best enjoyed with food.
FlavorLess Fruit ForwardMore Fruit ForwardMore fruit forward makes it easier to drink the wine without food.
Alcohol ContentLowerHigherDepends on how you want to feel after a enjoying a few glasses.

These are most certainly vast generalizations! OF COURSE, you can find European wine with high alcohol content. And OF COURSE, you can find California wine with high acidity. But GENERALLY speaking, these are the types of characteristics you’ll find if you sample through a collection of old world and new world wines.

Why Do Old & New World Wines Generally Have Different Characteristics?

This is primarily due to two big differences: climate and winemaking practices.

Climate

Climate differences are a major reason for typical flavors/characteristics in wine. The European climate is generally cooler, cloudier, and rainier than other parts of the world. (Again, a big generalization, but think France).  But that leads to less sun to ripen the grapes. And less ripe grapes mean grapes with less sugar. And less sugar means less alcohol content once fermented and higher acidity.

On the opposite side, a sunnier climate (think California and Australia) will ripen the grapes more, creating more juicy, sugary characteristics. And with all that sugary goodness, once fermented the grapes will have higher alcohol content and lower acidity.

sun-sugar-alcohol

Winemaking Practices

And then there’s that good ol’ human factor. Farmers and winemakers are certainly a major influencer on the way a wine tastes. While they can’t control the weather, they can control irrigation and where the vines are planted. And once the fruit is picked and winemaking begins, they get to decide how much time the juice sits in tanks or barrels or bottles, among many other steps!

Throughout most of the old world, there are very specific legal restrictions around wine making practices. In order to legally sell a bottle of wine labeled from a specific region (think Tuscany), it must use certain types of grapes, be grown in a designated region/location, and follow specific/minimum requirements with regard to winemaking and aging.

Throughout most of the new world, it is more like the wild, wild west. Winemakers get to decide for themselves what grapes to use, where they choose to grow them, and don’t have to follow many specifics with regard to winemaking and aging.

The combination of climate and winemaking practices/law generally leads old world wines to taste like they come from THAT region. There are strong similarities across Tuscan wines or Bordeaux wines or Champagne wines, for example. And in the new world, the styles of wine will reflect the climate of the grape-growing region but also reflect the unique choices of the winemaker.

Go out and pick up a bottle of a California Pinot Noir and a French Pinot Noir and see if you can taste these differences for yourelf!

It’s Summer! Drink Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Happy Summer, Winos! Those of us who live in the Phoenix, Arizona area have been experiencing summer for a solid 3 months. From now until September, we accept “Excessive Heat Warnings” of over 110 degrees as just another summer day.

Whether you are experiencing excessive heat or just regular ol’ “hot and humid”, nothing goes better with heat than refreshing alcoholic beverages. And I presume that wine is your alcoholic beverage of choice. One of the most refreshing wines to sip on by the pool or beach is Sauvignon Blanc.

Q: Is “Sauvignon Blanc” a grape varietal or a region?

 

A: Grape varietal.

Wines made from primarily one grape varietal are often referred to by their varietal. E.g. [the bracketed words are not usually stated.] “That bottle of [wine made from] Sauvignon Blanc [grapes] has a lovely balance of fruit flavors and minerality.”

Like many grapes, Sauvignon Blanc can result in a large range of flavor and style in the bottle depending on where it is grown and how it is made. A Sauvignon Blanc from France, for example, has a different flavor profile than that of California. Sure, there are common characteristics across the board, but understanding the differences helps us refine our palates. Here’s a quick look at the different flavor profiles between each of the key regions that produce Sauvignon Blanc.

Note: There are, of course, more regions that make Sauvignon Blanc. For the sake of blog posting length, I’m just covering these primary SB growing areas!

General Characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc:

Dry, white wine that is typically light to medium bodied and has an herbal undertone. From there, the wine can have fruity, floral, and/or smoky characteristics.

France

  • Region: Loire Valley
  • On the Label: “Sancerre” or “Pouilly-Fumé”
  • Typical Flavors: Herbal, Smokey (gunflint)
  • Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Elegant

WINE-KNOW PAUSE: Ok – are you thinking… “Gunflint’?! What the heck kind of flavor is that?!” Well, think smoky, but that sort of metallic smokiness that you can smell after shooting a cap. This is caused by the kind of soil/gravel that the vines grow in!

  • Region: Bordeux
  • On the Label: Graves
  • Note: White wines from Graves are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and another grape called Semillon. This changes the flavor profile quite a bit.
  • Typical Flavors: Honey, Minerals
  • Typical Characteristics: Rich, Round, Bright

Note about “On the Label”: European/French wines don’t always include the grape varietal (“Sauvignon Blanc”) on the label, so look for a white wine with these words on the label. They are regions that make white wine with Sauvignon Blanc.

New Zealand

  • Region: Hawkes Bay, Marlborough
  • On the Label: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Typical Flavors: Grapefruit, Limes, Herbs, Melons
  • Typical Characteristics: Crisp, Focused, Sharp

(I know – this is quite a range! But think green fruit and herbs)

California

  • Region: Napa Valley, Sonoma
  • What to look for on the label: “Sauvignon Blanc” or “Fumé Blanc” (<<it’s the same)
  • Typical Flavors: Citrus/Grapefruit, Melon, Herbal
  • Typical Characteristics: Refreshing, Vibrant, Clean

Chile

  • Region: Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley
  • Typical Flavors: Melon, Floral
  • Typical Characteristics: Light, Fresh, Some Minerality
  • Note: Can be made from a different and similar grape called “Sauvignon Vert” or “Sauvignonasse”, but labeled Sauvignon Blanc.

South Africa, Italy, and Austria are also known for producing lovely Sauvignon Blanc.

Go get out there in the hot summer sun and taste the differences between regional Sauvignon Blancs! I think you’ll be quite surprised at how easily you’ll be able to pick up both the commonalities AND the differences. (Of course, Wine Star Services is always happy to help with such comparative wine tastings!)

 

Sauvignon Blanc At A Glance

Sauvignon Blanc At A Glance

 

What Are Tannins?

Happy Friday, Friends! As you frequent your local wine bars this weekend, wow your fellow winos with this bit of Wine Know!

“Tannins”.

It’s one of those words you really only hear while drinking wine. Maybe sometimes among the tea crowd as well. But what the heck are they and how did they get in the wine?

How do you know when you’re tasting tannins?

You know when you drink some red wines that leave you with that mouth-drying feeling? It can feel like a chalky texture on your palate. Well, those are the tannins making themselves known. For some, it is most strongly felt around the gums, but those sensations are also felt throughout your palate along your tongue and cheeks. This is also referred to as having a “dry mouthfeel”. Often times, strong tannins hit you a little after you take the sip of wine (15 seconds or more).

What are tannins?

Tannins are a naturally occurring phenolic compound that are caused by the grape skins, stems, and seeds. It is where those antioxidants come from that make red wine so good for your health! It also serves as a natural preservative which is why some red wines can age for a longer period of time than whites.

Are tannins in all wines?

No! Tannins are only found in red wines.  That’s because red wine is made by macerating (or mixing) the juice of the grape with the skins, stems, and seeds. White wine is only made from the grape’s juice (or must); the skins, stems, and seeds are not mixed with the juice in the winemaking process.

Are there different tannin levels?

Yes! You can have “soft” tannins or “hard” tannins. Red wines with soft tannins are sometimes described as “velvety” or “lush”. Soft tannins are often found in Merlot. Wines with hard tannins are sometimes described as “harsh” or “astringent”. Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc often have hard tannins.

So for my desert friends, think of the affect the desert has on your palate – it dries out your mouth and throat. Well, tannins do pretty much the same thing. And both will leave you with a headache if you don’t stay hydrated!

Tannin Wine Know

Tannin Wine Know

 

 

The Wine Star Journey!

Welcome to the shiny, new Wine Star blog! Some of you may know me from my former blog titled, “from Wino to Wine Know”. If so, you know that over the past few years, I’ve been on an educational wine journey of sorts. This journey has led me from being a casual wine drinker/occasional wine blogger, to becoming a certified sommelier and starting a business based on connecting people and wine! And I never would have thought this is where my love for wine would lead me. Check out the rest of the Wine Star Services website to see more about what we’re up to!

WSS-itsallaboutthejourney

 

I’m so excited to be continuing along this wine journey. I hope you either continue to walk with me or join me on this wonderful path! (Seriously – look at it. Who wouldn’t want to walk along this path!?!) 

What do you want to WINE KNOW?

Here on the Wine Star Blog, I’ll continue to post about all things wine with the intention of continuing to together build our “wine know”. While I know what I like to nerd out on when it comes to wine, what do YOU want to read more about? Fill in this quick survey and give me some guidance!


Blog Administration Comment: All the old Wino to Wine Know posts have been moved over here to the Wine Star blog. If you subscribed to the old one, you’re automatically subscribed to the new and improved one. If you’re not yet subscribed, fill in your email un the “Subscribe” box on the right side of this page!


Winos Like Us…. Show Up (#8)

Today is day 8 of the #RuckusMakersChallenge and an 8-day series on how Winos like us connect with the world over a glass of wine…

I MADE IT TO DAY #8 OF THE 8 DAY CHALLENGE!! Thank goodness we got here.  There have been a number of other people posting over the last 8 days – just search #RuckusMakersChallenge and you’ll find some inspiring, motivating, soul-searching, and sincere words being shared out there.

Some of you may have noticed that I go in writing spurts with the W2WK.  I find I’m either consistently posting or not at all. After 8 days of dreaming up content that related to wine and connection with the world around us (for that’s what Winos Like Us are all about), today I find myself wanting to write more about showing up (with or without a glass of wine in hand). I’ve showed up to my WordPress dashboard for the past 8 days. And I’m really happy I have – because it is one way that I connect with people and get to explore random info about wine.

BUT…. I admit that I’ve also used the blogging challenge as an excuse to not show up to other stuff in the past 8 days. And guess what those things are… [the answer is easy.] It’s the stuff that I often (or consistently) avoid because I’m a bit afraid of executing… of leaping. So when my husband or my close friends ask me, “what did you do to make a ruckus today?” (which has happened quite a bit since the Seth workshop), all I’ve been able to say in the past 8 days is “I wrote a blog post.”

Now at the end of the 8-day challenge, I gotta keep some momentum going and show up to that other stuff. Blogging is fun for me.  That hard stuff is far less fun but I imagine a bit more rewarding. As Lindsay said…

“One of the amazing things/ideas that Seth talked about that epic weekend was the idea that the people that have made a ruckus in the world weren’t necessarily the most talented, or the smartest, but they succeeded because of the fact that they SHOWED UP. Everyday they showed up and did the things that they said they were going to do.”

And you gotta keep showing up even when the fear is paralyzing you. As Gayatri said…

“All you can do is dive in again and again until you learn to swim.”

And sometimes when we’re numb to the paralysis, we get in the “Totally Illogical Shame Cycle” (TISC), as coined by Tamara.

“Sometimes we sit idle for so long that we actually forget what it’s like to be actively working towards something.”

I’d say I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat for a while – actively THINKING about working towards something. And it’s been a [slow] journey just getting to that point.

The tagline of my blog is “the educational journey of a wine lover”. I’m pretty good about committing to the educational side. That’s just a matter of reading and understanding material on a topic I like to study. The journey part – that’s the hard stuff. Forcing myself to take the next step on my journey is the challenge I’ve got to stay focused on. I’ve shared some of that journey here on W2WK, but there is more to come.

Join me Winos and Wine Knows. We may not be on the same path, but we will likely face similar challenges. And the challenges seem far less enormous or scary when we face them together. For Winos like us SHOW UP by putting one foot in front of the other on the path we make to form the story of our lives. 

Here’s to having many more (frequent) Wine Know Journey Updates on W2WK.

Where will the journey take us!?

Where will the journey take us!?

Winos Like Us… Love The More We Wine Know (#7)

Today is day 7 of the #RuckusMakersChallenge and an 8-day series on how Winos like us connect with the world over a glass of wine…

I don’t know the general demographic of people who follow W2WK.  But I know that I fall into the category of suburban kid who is now in her mid-30s who grew up playing in the desert, was raised on PBS, and came to love Saved By The Bell (the original), Full House, Golden Girls, Friends, and on occasion, the Bob Newhart Show. I don’t recall which shows were on which stations, but NBC’s public service initiative “The More You Know” permeated my childhood. It seemed like every other commercial (before you could fast forward through them) featured a famous person giving the viewer a message followed by that shooting star that I always confused with the Reading Rainbow logo.

The More You Know

The More You Know

What I didn’t know until looking for the above picture is that this public service initiative has been going on since 1989 – this year it’s celebrating 25 years of sharing important/impactful messages with communities about a wide range of topics. Pretty cool.

So like I said, I don’t know my blog’s prime demographics. I don’t even know how to find that out. But I’m guessing if you even glance at what I write here, it is for 1 of two reasons:

  1. You’re my friend or family member and you want to avoid having an awkward moment when I see you and ask if you’ve read my latest post.
  2. You actually like random information about wine and sometimes walk away thinking, “Huh!… [shaking your head affirmatively] The More You Wine Know….”.

Therefore, I assert that Winos Like Us… love the more we Wine Know. (You may have to read that twice – it’s a bit of a mouthful.) It’s such a fun topic with endless opportunities for learning.  Every grape, every vineyard, every hillside, every region, every vintage has a story. It’s like a history book of the environment – of the terroir – of that year. And the story comes out in the characteristics of what we pour in a glass and sip on while unwinding from the day. I know there’s a crowd of us who loves to learn random tidbits of wine knowledge. Whether they are facts or stories, there’s something about knowing a little something extra that helps you connect with that bottled art. It doesn’t always mean you retain that knowledge, but it does mean you retain the memory and the experience.

Wine Know just enhances those moments. When you Wine Know a little more about the history, the culture, the terroir, the grapes – the artistry – that went into that wine, you gain an appreciation for each and every sip.

So here’s to sharing more Wine Know through blog posts, tastings, dinners, and gatherings long after this 8-day challenge is completed!!

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PS: Don’t forget to join the #NoWineFear challenge this week! Post what you try on Twitter, Facebook, or comment here.  If you do, I’ll post about that wine to share extra Wine Know...

Winos Like Us… Still Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Beer (#6)

Today is day 6 of the #RuckusMakersChallenge and an 8-day series on how Winos like us connect with the world over a glass of wine…

Is there really a wine for St. Patrick’s Day? (I ask this after working at a St. Patrick’s Day wine tasting event this evening.) Quite frankly, it doesn’t feel right to celebrate the fine Irish holiday with stemware in hand.  Instead, it’s an opportunity to try another form of liquid art – BEER!  I know very little about beer, but I do know there’s as much passion in making beverages from grains as there is from grapes. And anything with passionate work behind it is worth exploring.

So I hope you are celebrating this evening with a mug in hand… For Winos like us occasionally enjoy other forms of art as vehicles for connection. 



Winos Like Us… We Know It’s Personal (#5)

Today is day 5 of the #RuckusMakersChallenge and an 8-day series on how Winos like us connect with the world over a glass of wine…

One of my least favorite phrases ever said is, “it’s business, not personal.”  In my old life, someone told me that once. They told me that to attempt to soften the blow of a position change they knew I would perceive as a demotion. Instead, it made me blow up. Because to me, it was all personal. I had spent hours well beyond the “clock” working to make connections with my professional community, working to make a story worth listening to. At that point, I hadn’t even considered the fact there was a “clock” – just that I was committed to the story and building a tribe. Those hours were spent away from my family and my friends and the life I could have otherwise been having. Instead, they were spent at the office or on a flight – usually in front of PowerPoint. It was absolutely personal. And the thing is – I was absolutely ok with that because I cared about that story a lot.  I wanted to make that work personal. Until someone told me that it was “business” and not “personal”.

That was just one person in a large community. But at that point, I realized that I could either keep working to convince people that it was personal, or I could choose to surround myself with a community of people who recognize and acknowledge that fact from the start.

I can’t imagine working in a field that is more personal than wine. It is a sensory overload at every point of the process. From wine making to wine tasting. The wine is there to enhance a celebration, to keep us company when we mourn, or more simply – to improve a Monday night. Each bottle of wine has a built-in personal story of a passionate wine-maker, and that story transfers to Winos like us, who create our own stories while connecting with the world around us – often over a glass of wine.

Cheers!

Winos Like Us… Experience Fear of the Unknown Wine (#4)

Today is day 4 of the #RuckusMakersChallenge and an 8-day series on how Winos like us connect with the world over a glass of wine… 

I know the feeling well.  Standing there in a long aisle of wine… perhaps in a warehouse with lots of long aisles of wine.  And you feel completely overwhelmed by the options available in front of you. While you want to explore and taste something new, you don’t want any wine store peeps to stop and ask you what they can help you find. Because, quite frankly, you have no idea. That and you don’t want to spend your $10 or $15 or $30 on a wine that you end up disliking. So, you resort to that bottle that you’ve had a dozen times before.  It’s a safe choice – in your price range and you know you like it. So you pick it up and walk to the checkout to get out of there so you can stop feeling like such a ninny.

Yes… I know this feeling well.  So well that I started a blog to help me (and all my favorite Winos) make more informed choices! (One might say, choices based on a little extra Wine Know.) When people learn that I’m “into wine”, they typically comment on their own lack of Wine Know – “I love wine, but I just don’t know what to get!” or, “I love wine, but I don’t really know much about it.” Hell, I do that when I meet people who I perceive as having more knowledge on the topic than I do.  I’m realizing that’s what we do to ourselves with most things in our lives. We minimize what we bring to the table – we minimize what we know and what we do.

During the workshop I attended with Seth Godin and 80 Ruckusmakers, we talked a lot about fear and how fear holds us back from leaping and doing the things we really want to do. That might be fear based on not knowing enough; not having enough money; not knowing if you’ll succeed or any number of reasons we create in our own minds about how we are not enough. The crazy thing though is that most (all?) people don’t know enough, have enough money, or know that they’re going to succeed with something. But some people leap anyway. They’re the ones who go in knowing “this might not work.” They face the fear and create experiences. They live the life they want to live. They drink new wines they may not like. And in that process, they are making connections with others in moments of vulnerability that they’d otherwise not experience. I’m guessing they learn a lot more along the way than those of us who always play it safe.

I realize this is a bit of a stretch. Talking about selecting wines and making leaps in life.  But I’d like to think it is a small example of how we can practice doing something that makes us feel the discomfort. The discomfort of doing something that might not work or choosing something you might not like. Selecting a wine we’re unfamiliar with may not seem like a big deal, but it’s practice. Practice for trying new things. For setting ourselves up for new experiences and for new opportunities to connect with the world around us…

So let’s take this little wine leap together. I hereby challenge you this week to try a wine you’ve never had before! Especially if you’ve been drinking the same type of wine over and over again for the past few months. Pick up a bottle of the one with the label you don’t understand, or the one that makes you wonder whether its noting the grape or the region, or the one that you can’t tell from the bottle if it is a white or red wine. Accept this challenge knowing “I might not like this wine, but I’m going to try it anyway”.  Why? Because it will help you refine your palate – to learn more about what you do or don’t like. And you might just find a wine that you fall in love with! And maybe it will become a practice that helps you make other leaps in life…

Here’s a few steps to help:

  1. Go to your local wine store (not the grocery store). Here in the Valley of the Sun, I recommend AZ Wine, Tarbell’s Wine Store, Brix, Wedge & Bottle, Wine Warehouse. (Disclaimer: I sell wine as a distributor to most of these wine shops, but not all. They all have knowledgable Wine Knows on staff!)
  2. Talk to the associate and don’t worry about sounding stupid. You don’t.
  3. Tell them how much you’re willing to spend. Don’t feel the need to bump up your budget just because you’re talking to the wine store associate. Be honest! They’re happy you’re buying wine!
  4. Tell them about a wine you recently had and enjoyed (grape or region), but that you’re looking to try something new.
  5. OR tell them what you’re going to eat with this bottle of wine and that you want a pairing suggestion.
  6. Tell us what you tried!! Comment here, or post on Twitter or Facebook #NoWineFear

Final comment: I put all this out there knowing that I struggle immensely with taking leaps. Every day. Even when selecting wines. So to me, this isn’t silly at all.