ANSWERS – Back To School Wine Quiz

Thank you for participating in the Wine Star Back To School Wine Quiz! (If you haven’t taken it yet, go take it and then come read this.) I hope you all rewarded yourself with a nice glass of something for getting in the school spirit.  Here’s a little wine-know about each of the 15 items on the quiz.  Overall, we have some super Wine Knows following this blog!! I’m impressed!!

Cabernet Sauvignon (93% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Cabernet Sauvignon is a well-known grape that often is used to make single-varietal wines (wines that only use this grape). It originates from Bordeaux, France where it is one of the major blending grapes used in red Bordeauxs.


Pinot Noir (100% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

I guess I don’t even need to explain this one since everyone got it right. But Pinot Noir is also often made as a single-varietal wine. It has some significant characteristic differences from its varied producing regions – fun to taste one from Oregon, from France, from New Zealand, etc!


Bordeaux (96% answered correctly!)


Bordeaux is a region in France that produces some of those most important – or influential – wines. There are several major blending grapes used in Bordeaux wines – for red they include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.


Super Tuscan (67% answered correctly!)

This one was tricky… it would be more accurate to answer this one as “neither” a grape varietal or a region/appellation. But it is more closely aligned with a designated appellation than anything.

Basically, “Super Tuscan” refers to a wine made in Tuscany, Italy that most typically includes the grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, and/or Canaiolo. These wines have a lower “quality” designation based on Italian wine laws but only because they don’t follow all the rules in order to be labeled at the higher quality classification step. However, the original Super Tuscan wines are made by some of the most well known producers and have an innovative touch to them – especially when these first started to appear in the the 1970s. So while they are down a step on the classification scale, they are often up a step on price point (especially the more famous Super Tuscans such as Sassicaia, Tignanello, or Ornellaia). You won’t see “Super Tuscan” on a label, but you may see “Toscana IGT” (the appellation). Many restaurants refer to these wines as a “Super Tuscans” on their menu.


Chardonnay (81% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

This is a grape varietal – it is one of the most widely planted white wine grapes and is often used to produce wine made with 100% Chardonnay. Chardonnay originated in Burgundy, France – so if you’re buying a bottle of white Burgundy, it is Chardonnay!


Barolo (74% answered correctly!)


Barolo is a designated region within the northwestern part of Italy in Piemonte. You will see “DOCG” after “Barolo” on a label, which is indicative of its quality classification. Barolo is made with the Nebbiolo grape and is one of the few wines that can usually be aged for over 20 years!


Burgundy (81% answered correctly!)


This is a region in France that produces wines primarily made with Pinot Noir in reds and Chardonnay grapes in whites. So if you buy a red Burgundy, it is most likely Pinot Noir. (But will have some distinct differences from Pinot Noirs made in Oregon, for example!)


Riesling (96% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Riesling is a grape that is often thought as one of the most food-friendly white wines. While many times it is used to produce sweet wines, there are plenty of dry or off-dry Rieslings as well!


Barbaresco (56% answered correctly!)


Like Barolo, Barbaresco wines come from the Piemonte region in northwest Italy and are made with the Nebbiolo grape. You’ll also see these wines with a quality designation of “DOCG” after “Barbaresco” on the label. It’s an indication (or confirmation) that the nebbiolo grapes are grown in this little zone of the Piemonte region and made according to the required practices.


Barbera (52% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Barbera is another grape from Piemonte, Italy. These often make delightful, fruity wines that are great with food. You’ll often see “Barbera d’Alba” on the label.


Sangiovese (81% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

Sangiovese is one of Italy’s – specifically, Tuscany’s – most famous red grapes. If you’re drinking Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or Brunello di Montalcino, it is made with mostly Sangiovese. Interestingly, I’ve had several lovely Arizona Sangiovese wines as well!


Moscato (89% answered correctly!)

Grape Varietal

This is a grape that produces the well known “Moscato d’Asti” – a sweet sparkling, or fizzy, wine. If you have tried a $6 bottle of Moscato (as they are often available at that price point) and hated it – try one in the $15+ range. You’ll notice a difference.


Chianti (81% answered correctly!)


Chianti is a region in Tuscany that primarily uses Sangiovese grapes. It can also be blended with Canaiolo and some others, but generally, when you’re drinking a Chianti or a Chianti Classico (a more specific region), you’re having mostly Sangiovese.


Champagne (96% answered correctly!)


We all know you can’t call a bottle of sparkling wine “champagne” unless it comes from Champagne, France. That is because it is a specific appellation that has very specific rules for how the wine is made. Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and/or Pinot Noir.


Beaujolais (74% answered correctly!)


Beaujolais is a region in France that uses the grape, Gamay. Almost all the production from this region is for red wine. We often see “Beaujolais Noveau” in the fall – it is a young wine meant to be enjoyed immediately. But it is far more simple than a Beaujolais (non-noveau), so give them both a chance!


We’ll eventually explore all of these in more detail… are there any you’d like to know more about sooner than later?!

Thoroughly Wino Thursday: Bubbles!

So in just a handful of hours, the world will be getting ready for parties, midnight kisses, counting down from the fine number, 10 (hopefully starting at 11:59:50 on December 31st), and…. you guessed it, drinking some sparkling wine!  Sparkling wine is something I have enjoyed on many celebratory occasions – usually on New Year’s, graduations, weddings, Sunday brunch, etc. And while I enjoy the dry or sweet bubbly delight, I don’t know much about it.  So here in this educational journey about wine, I thought I’d start the New Year with a little info regarding sparkling wine.

So, there is a pretty wide selection of sparkling wines – some are known by the region they are from, and others are just referred to as “sparkling wine”.  But not only do they just have different names, there are generally different qualities about them – all have bubbles, but that’s about where the similarity ends.


So we’re all comfortable saying, “I’ll take a glass of champagne” in our best snobby wannabe French accents that really are more like bad Queen Elizabeth-esque accents.  You may have guessed that Champagne is the mother of all sparkling wine.  It represents approximately 8% of the world’s sparkling wine industry and is from the north eastern region of France.  Now here’s what surprised me – common grapes used for making champagne are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Huh… Doesn’t that surprise you!? I guess I just figured it was it’s own fancy grape, but I guess not. So anyway, there’s the skinny on champagne.


Aaahhh, cava.  I have a special relationship with this Spanish sparkling wine.  After spending a few months in this beautiful country, I spent many a night drinking many a glass of cava.  Cava is made in the “traditional” method of sparkling wine making, which is to say that it is made like champagne (from Champagne).  Most cava – 95% in fact –  is produced in Cataluña, which is the northern region of Spain.  While cava is enormously popular, its production is only about a third of that of champagne.  One of the biggest cava-makers is Freixenet – you may recognize it from the black bottle that you can typically find in your local grocer for somewhere around $8-12.  I have had the pleasure of visiting the Freixenet winery in Cataluña, so you’d think that I would know they are one of the biggest producers of cava.  But hey, they were speaking Spanish, and I was drinking cava samples, so I didn’t pick up on that fun fact.  Here’s a little pic of the winery….

Cork Truck at Freixenet Winery

Super Awesome Cork Truck at Freixenet Winery

Soviet Sparkling Wine

Hold up.  I know what you’re thinking.  Soviets and sparkling wine?  You thought they just drank vodka, right?  Well you’re wrong!  Apparently “Soviet Sparkling Wine” has come to be the PC term for “Soviet Champagne” aka “champanskoe”.  I like that.  Soviet sparkling wine basically came about because some Russians really liked champagne (like the real stuff, from Champagne, France), but it became expensive to import, so those the people of Russia (late 19th century) started making their own bubbly wine.  Soviet sparkling wine primarily uses grapes grown in Crimea and Ukraine.  I can’t really tell from my resource guide here if this is still made… I’m guessing it is, but I’ll have to hit that up on a future blog post.


Asti is Italian sparkling wine… one many of us may have tried in our earlier sparkling wine years because it is delightfully sweet.  (And we all know college kids love sweet booze.)  It is made from a variety of grapes, including Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Grignolino, Malvasia, and Moscata d’Asti.  (Don’t worry – I haven’t heard of most of those either.)  As I started reading about Italian sparkling wine, I realized there is quite a bit to know – too much for this post.  So I’ll leave it at that for Asti, for now.

While there are many other types of bubbly out there, I’ll call it quits on this initial sparkling wine “research” to go enjoy a glass.  May you enjoy a delightful sparkling wine as you end 2011 and turn to 2012.  Here’s to hoping that 2012 is a great year for discovering wine!

(The majority of the data points in this post were from  The Oxford Companion to Wine).