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Wine Trivia and Definitions

Wine BottlesTo help you boldly go even deeper in to our world of pairing wines with Chinese food, besides walking the walk (and hopefully in a straight line), one needs to talk the talk too.  If you talk the talk you can baffle, err dazzle, anyone, or any reader, with your brilliance.  Throw a few of these lines in to your meal time conversation, and your friends will think you are a real Sommelier (which, as if you didn’t know, is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing)!

A “vertical tasting” is not what it might seem (tasting wine while standing up… which is better than being passed out horizontally), but does in fact involves tasting wines from the same vineyards or winemakers but from different years.  It can be extremely difficult to discern the subtle differences from one year to the next in wines by the same winemaker.

When at a restaurant and a small amount of wine is poured to taste, the purpose is to make sure that the wine is not spoiled (better than testing it out on the hired help of course!  For they would have to pay for their healthcare, and for hiring new employees).  The sole purpose of this is to make sure that the wine is not defective. If the wine tastes “off,” but you are not sure if it is spoiled, ask the waiter. If you just do not like the taste of the wine, try it with your food because some wines taste better with food. If you still do not like it, chalk it up to a learning experience.

The reason that you drink dry wines before sweet wines is to prevent the dry wines from seemingly being over dry.  Or, because you get nice and tipsy from the sweet wine, and you don’t even realize that’s not dry wine they just poured you, but you just drank from an empty glass.

The dominant grape in Chianti wines is Sangiovese (sounds gangsta, doesn’t it?…. that would surely dominate any other grape in the vineyard!)

Shiraz is the most common red wine grape in Australia and comes in a variety of styles. Typically, there will be black pepper or spicy qualities when it is young. When it ages, the fruit flavors, like blackberry and plum, become more pronounced.

In France (and many other European countries) the government regulates a designated growing area. The name of the growing area is called an “appellation”.  “Nom” in French means “name”.

“Reducing” the grape crop usually intensifies the flavor of the wine.  If there are too many grapes on the vine, the flavor can become diluted. In many cases it takes severe pruning to make a superior wine. You might see wines with “low yield harvest” on their label since it can greatly improve the wine.

Currently, in the United States, the term “Reserve” has no legal significance. Some producers use this “Reserve” designation to denote their high-quality wines but they are free to market their other, possibly lower quality, wines as “Reserve” as well.  So don’t overpay for “Reserve”!

A grapevine needs three to five years before its grapes are suitable for wine making. In general, grapevines should be able to bear good wine-making grapes for about 40 years.  Cheers!

“Pouilly-Fuissé” is a chardonnay-based white burgundy. Both Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are sauvignon blanc-based white wines from the Loire Valley.  I just like saying “Pouilly-Fuissé”, so you know I had to work this fact in to this article someway!

Red wines are usually aged in oak barrels to improve the wine’s ability to age.  The oak barrels also contain tannins (in addition to those already in the wine), which contribute to the wine’s flavor. These tannins have antioxidants to keep the wine from spoiling. As the wine ages, the tannins will mellow and lose their astringency, making the wine more enjoyable to drink.  Never EVER drink wine before it’s time!

If a wine is described as “hot,” it most likely means it has too high an alcohol content.  Doesn’t EVERYTHING and EVERYONE look better when one is drunk?? 

The tongue can only identify the basic tastes of Sweet, detected on the tip, Sour and Salty, detected on the sides, and Bitter, detected on the back. It is the combination of these that make up the myriad of our perceived tastes.  And it’s the combinations of all these tastes that make our Quest to find the Best Chinese restaurant oh so enjoyable!

Humbly submitted for your consumption,

Mee Magnum  (“Chop!  Chop!”)

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