What is Wine? Part 2: The Science of Wine (Ep. 2)

What’s inside your glass of wine, scientifically speaking? In this episode you’ll find out why wine has sulfites and how each compound class contributes to wine’s unique acquired taste.

What is Wine: The Science of Wine

If you were to taste Chardonnay grape juice, it would taste nothing like a wine made with the very same grapes. Why is that? Well, the fermentation causes a series of chemical reactions that unlock the grape’s potential as wine. (Honestly, Chardonnay grape juice doesn’t taste as unique as the wine!)

Looking inside a glass of Chardonnay reveals some fundamental facts:

  • Around 85% of the liquid is water.
  • About 13–15% (most of the remaining portion) is ethanol alcohol
  • All of the unique qualities come from a tiny fraction of what remains in the bottle of wine.

The two largest components of the remainder include acids and glycerol.

Wine is an acidic beverage, even more acidic than coffee. Most wines range from about 3 pH (very tart) to 4 pH (smooth and round).

Glycerol is a bizarre flavorless, colorless, viscous fluid with a indescribable sweet taste and an oily texture. Although, science can’t confirm it yet, most believe that glycerol contributes to the body of wine.

Video Contents

  • The different bottle sizes of wine.
  • The proper serving size for wine.
  • Which wines have high calories and carbs (and low-calorie wines too!)
  • Why men can drink more than women.
  • The chemical constituents of wine
  • What sulfites are and how they affect health

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Get The Book

The companion to this series is the new Wine Folly Guide – completely redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up. This one has over two times the content of the first, bestselling book.

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What is Wine? Video Series (Ep. 1)

Explore the fundamentals of wine in the first segment of the learn wine video series. What’s more, you’ll be surprised to discover a few details that most wine lovers don’t know!

What is Wine?

If you simmer down all the many excruciating details of wine, it’s actually quite simple.

“Wine is an alcoholic beverage made with fermented grapes.”

Of course, if you want to nit-pick the details, any fermented fruit can be called wine. It’s just so happens that grapes have unique traits that make them particularly well-suited for making wine.

Video Contents

  • The difference between wine grapes and table grapes.
  • The surprising truth about the majority of wines. (Hint: they’re mostly the same species!)
  • The origin place of most of wine grapes. (Hint: It’s not France or Italy!)
  • What a vintage is.
  • What causes fermentation.
  • The primary types of wine.
  • Unique labels to watch out for including organic, kosher, and biodynamic.

Wine Folly Magnum Edition front cover angle on white background

Get The Book

The companion to this series is the new Wine Folly guide. Completely redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up. Over two times the content of the first, bestselling book.

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

Barolo, Barbaresco, and the “Other” Nebbiolos of Italy

With all the news coming out about Barolo and Barbaresco, it’s the perfect time to brush up on the amazing grape behind these wines. Why? Prices are notching up from these two Nebbiolo regions, so you’re likely to find great values from neighboring areas.

First things first, a little bit about Nebbiolo:

Imagine getting kicked in the face by a ballerina.

Nebbiolo has this exact same kind of elegant brutality.

One the one hand, it’s elegant. Nebbiolo is best drank from a Pinot-shaped glass so that its delicate aromas of roses, raspberry coulis (“koo-lee”), and anise waft into your nose.

On the other hand, it’s brutal. When tasted, Nebbiolo has so much astringency and mouth-drying tannins that your eyes start watering.

It’s a visceral experience. You’ll either love it or hate it. Naturally, we love it.

Many Faces of Italian Nebbiolo

Nebbiolo Wine Regions names including Barolo and Barbaresco wine map by Wine Folly

In truth, not all Nebbiolo has rip-roaringly high tannins. Also, not all Nebbiolo smells like flowers. Each region in Northern Italy has a different expression of the stuff. Here are the ones to know:

Barolo DOCG

The color is pale garnet, which doesn’t really give you any clue of the intensity in this wine. Its rigid tannins, bold flavors, and higher alcohol (usually around 14% ABV) are more like something you’d find in Bordeaux.

Sommeliers love to describe Barolo with two words: “roses” and “tar.” Of course, Barolo is actually the fruitiest and most full-bodied of all the Nebbiolo regions in Northern Italy. Expect flavors of raspberry, red cherry, roses, potpourri, cocoa, anise, licorice, allspice, truffles, and a clay lick.

Barolo wines age at least 18 months in the barrel, with a total of three years aging before release. Even though that sounds like a lot, this wine is really meant to age. Most traditionally-made examples only start to come around at 10+ years (when all the tannins chill out).

  • Riserva Wines labeled Barolo “Riserva” are aged for a minimum of five years.
  • Vigna on a label indicates a single vineyard wine.

There are eleven different communes of Barolo, with two different main taste styles (based on the soil type: limestone vs. sandstone). (Of course, winemaker influence matters too, but that’s a story for another time.)

  • The lighter-tasting wine communes include La Morra and Barolo, with limestone-based soils.
  • The bolder-tasting wine communes include Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, and Castiglione Falletto, with more weathered sandstone-clay soils.
  • Check out this geeky map for the complete list.

Barbaresco DOCG

The mostly fertile limestone-based soils in Barbaresco (along with its slightly milder climate) results in wines with noticeably less tannins than Barolo.

That’s not to say Barbaresco isn’t tannic; it’s still a monster! It’s just a nicer, friendlier sort of beast.

In terms of flavors, Barbaresco delivers amazing red fruit. Aromas of strawberry, raspberry, cherry syrup, and cotton candy all mingle together on top of roses, potpourri, and lighter notes of anise. It’s not quite as “tarry.”

  • Barbaresco must age 26 months (~2 years), with at least 9 months in the barrel.
  • Barbaresco Riserva must age 50 months (~4 years), with about 24 months in the barrel.
great-barolo-and-barbaresco-wines
A taste comparison between Barolo and Barbaresco revealed how similar they taste.

Roero DOCG

Roero also sits within Alba in Piedmont right in-between Barolo and Barbaresco. This wine continues to fly under the radar even though it was recently elevated to DOCG status in 2004. Nebbiolo wines are every bit as intense and structured as Barolo (but usually at a fraction of the price). They also have Barbaresco’s sweet fruit.

Leave a call-out below if you’re a Somm who’s freaking out (in delight) about Roero. We’d all love to hear what you’re drinking.

Roero Riserva requires at least of 32 months of aging, including six months in the barrel.

What’s a DOCG?

Italian wines follow a classification system indicated on the neck of the bottle. DOCG is technically the highest classification standard for protected designation of origin. (It stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Find out more about how Italian wines are labeled.

Other Nebbiolo Regions

  1. Boca Nebbiolo is called Spanna here and wines also blend in Vespolina and Uva Rara. These are earthy, rustic wines with high acidity, high tannin, and often iron-like aromas from the region’s soils.
  2. Bramaterra Nebbiolo is also called Spanna here and blended with Vespolina and Uva Rara. Wines are lighter in style with simple fresh red berry and rose aromas with medium tannin and ample acidity. Many consider it a sin to open a bottle before 10 years.
  3. Canavese Nebbiolo A single-varietal Nebbiolo with a minimum of 85% Nebbiolo (but often more) coming from Northern provinces in Piedmont where the rare white, Erbaluce, grows. Wines seem to be equally floral and earthy with strong tannins and licorice notes. For quality, seek out those serious examples with around 14% ABV!
  4. Carema Another Northern Piedmontese gem that produces Nebbiolo on the lighter side – imagine roses, violets, truffles, and wild strawberries. Aging must be at least three years and the Riserva bottlings require four!
  5. Fara Nebbiolo is called Spanna in Fara Novarese and wines include Spanna, Vespolina, and Uva Rara. Fara is thought to be a very ancient wine, grown in the hills west of Milan. Wines have rich dried fruit and rustic leather aromas.
  6. Ghemme DOCG and Gattinara DOCG Two neighboring Northern Piemontese regions producing single-varietal Nebbiolo wines with rich dried fruit aromas and rustic earthy notes.
  7. Langhe Nebbiolo Langhe is the region that encompasses Barolo, Barbaresco, and Roero. Vineyards in sites outside of the DOCG regions are positioned in the lower hills or on North-facing plots where it is harder to ripen Nebbiolo. Still, on outstanding vintages, this is a great place to hunt for values.
  8. Lessona The best Lessona is 100% Nebbiolo, although some include a blend of Vespolina, Croatina, and Uva Rara. The region’s sandy soils produce wines of lithe elegance with perfumed floral notes of roses, peonies, and violets. On the palate, Lessona has high acidity and is very structured, making it wise to age them for 10 or so years to reach their peak.
  9. Nebbiolo d’Alba An even larger region that encompasses much of South Central Piedmont produces a great deal of value-driven Nebbiolo wines. Nebbiolo d’Alba ranges in taste from fruity and floral to herbaceous and rustic. This is a wine where the right vintage will really make a difference!
  10. Valtellina, Lombardy In neighboring Lombardy there is a transverse valley that opens to Lake Como. Here, in the south-facing hills, you’ll find Nebbiolo is called Chiavennasca. The region is much cooler and produces wines with tart, earthy berry notes and high acidity. This is where you’ll find the rare Sfurzato or Sfursat wine, which is essentially a Nebbiolo made in the style of Amarone della Valpolicella.

Piedmont Italy Wine Map by Wine Folly 2016 Edition

The More You Know

The complete list of DOC and DOCGs of Piedmont is out now.

Even though there are 59 regions in all, there are just about a dozen grapes to know. Time to dig into Piedmont… Piemonte!

See The List

Sources
Check out this great article extolling the virtues of Barbaresco by Ian d’Agata on Decanter.

The 2012, 2013, and 2014 vintages are under scrutiny for Barolo and Barbaresco. Decanter

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Okanagan Wine Country: The Most Stunning Place You’ve Never Heard Of

This guide to Okanagan Wine country explores the region’s best wines and where they grow. Plus, for those who go, a few travel tips for the wine enthusiast.

You’re about to get frustrated.

You’re about to find out about a unbelievable wine region that you can’t taste unless you go there.

Why? Well, Okanagan wines just don’t travel far from British Columbia. That said, it’s well worth the trip.

(and shockingly affordable too.)

Okanagan Wine Country vineyard view by Wine Folly
Okanagan vineyards are surrounded by stunning scenery, such as this view over Blue Mountain Vineyards in South Okanagan. by Wine Folly

Most wine aficionados think of Canadian wine country as ice wine country. For the most part, they’re right. About two thirds of the world’s ice wine production happens in Canada.

Thus, Okanagan has reputation for being “another ice wine region of Canada.” Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.


Okanagan Valley’s best wines are dry red and white wines.


If you’re love Syrah, GSM Blends, right bank Bordeaux (i.e. Merlot blends) Okanagan will surprise you. On the world scale, Okanagan is a mecca for Chardonnay, Riesling, sparkling wines, and Pinot Gris. (And yes, they make some ice wine too!)

Okanagan Wine Map by Wine Folly

Making wine here is no small feat. Okanagan wine country lies at the outer limits of viticulture. It’s sits right below the 50th parallel (that’s the same as Champagne, btw). Yet unlike Champagne, Okanagan is dry, sunny, and hot.

Still, the growing season is quite short. So, how do they ripen red grapes?

For one, there are long daylight hours in summer months. (It’s light out well after 9pm!) Additionally, the 83-mile long (134 km) Lake Okanagan moderates temperature extremes in the summer and winter.

The best part is the region has a long history in agriculture. Before this area was known for wine, it was famous for peaches, cherries, and apples. This is important because it means there is a solid agricultural foundation which has evolved over time.

Okanagan British Columbia Wineries wines - what to try - Wine Folly

The Wines of Okanagan

Syrah

This was a surprise for us. Syrah is known to grow in warm, sunny climates like South Australia, South Africa, and the Northern Rhône Valley. In Okanagan, you’ll find most of the best wines grow in the South around Oliver and Osoyoos (“oh-soy-yoos”). One notable for is on the east side of Oliver on Black Sage bench.

Okanagan Syrah tastes much closer to what you’ll find in cooler parts of the Northern Rhône. The best examples exhibit flavors of red cherry, dried cranberry, sage, and white pepper. Wines have medium-plus tannins, moderate acidity, and a sweet cherry finish. This is not your typical big, bold Syrah. It’s elegant and often smells a bit meaty.

Bordeaux Blends

Another surprise was the Bordeaux blends made with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. While Cabernet Sauvignon seems to have trouble here, Merlot and Cabernet Franc seem to do just fine on the Eastern benches of the lakes.

The Merlot is reminiscent of what you might find in Bordeaux, but slightly leaner and slightly fruitier. Flavors include sweet cherry fruit, black currant, cocoa powder, tobacco and schistous wet gravel.

Lovers of the Loire will appreciate Okanagan Cabernet Franc for its flavors dried pepper flakes, cherry sauce, cocoa powder, and moderate acidity. Though, the wines taste riper and sweeter here with more robust, suede-like tannins.

The view from Maverick Winery in Oliver, British Columbia looking towards Black Sage Bench
In the distance you can see Black Sage Bench in Oliver, BC – a popular spot for red wine varieties in Okanagan.

Other Reds

At the moment, the region is heavily invested in Bordeaux-style red blends. This is no doubt from high demand. That said, the future may tell a different story.

Pinot Noir

Who would think Pinot Noir could grow here? In the North, in East Kelowna, there are a fair amount of powdery, chalk-like soils. The soils are so powdery in fact, that it’s unlikely phylloxera will survive here. The Pinot Noir wines from this area will appeal to those who love pure, elegant, fruity reds. Well-made examples offer sweet raspberry, cranberry, and pomegranate notes with high acidity and crunchy, green tannins (from whole cluster fermentation).

Syrah Blends

The areas granite and volcanic sandy soils in the South and eastern sides of the lake produce red wines with high aromatics. It might actually be well-suited for GSM-blends (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) or multi-faceted CMS blends (Cabernet-Merlot-Syrah) like you might find in Priorat or Eastern Washington.


Okanagan should be known for its outstanding white wines.


Chardonnay

Chardonnay is where Okanagan starting to take world-class strides. It’s a lot like Chablis with the kiss of oak.

In the South, the best plantings are on the east side of the valley to avoid the afternoon sun. These wines offer up aromas of passion fruit, yellow apple, and apricot with toasty notes of creme brûlée and lemon curd. Most notably, they have remarkable, mouth-watering acidity and rarely taste thick.

In the North, Chardonnay does wonders in East Kelowna’s chalk-like soils. Wines are often quite lean, with aromas of green apple, white blossoms, gun flint, and pine needle. Expect sky-high acidity balanced with subtle lanolin and hazelnut notes from aging in neutral oak puncheons.

Riesling

Riesling could be much better known from the Okanagan. The style is much more dry than most, giving Riesling an opportunity to sit alongside other more popular dry white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Some of the best sites for this grape are in East Kelowna or in the South from sheltered vineyards on the west side.

Think kiwis, limes, and leesy richness in your glass of Okanagan Riesling. If looking for a comparison look to Grosse Gewaches (dry German Riesling) from the Rheingau. Or, maybe even a Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace, France.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is a standby in Okanagan. It’s hard to do wrong with this grape. The best examples are some of the most aromatically expressive Pinot Gris out there. Flavors are rich with honeysuckle, orange blossom, and peach with sky high acidity, and a lean, tingly finish.

Other Whites

Even though most enthusiasts opt for red wines, Okanagan should be known for its outstanding white and sparkling wines. The region consistently hits all the marks including high acidity, fruitiness, and floral aromatics.

Sparkling Wines

Given the season is so short, many growers pick grapes with low pH (high acidity) and produce sparkling wines. The sparkling wines from Okanagan have amazing potential given their ability to age 15+ years (when well-made) and develop subtle hazelnut-cream notes.

Sauvignon Blanc

Another surprise. The best examples tend to be from vineyards protected from the afternoon sun. Wines have bold aromas of passion fruit and pasilla pepper with high acidity and a long tingly finish.

Viognier

Where Viognier from Paso Robles and the Northern Rhône is oily and rich with flavors of tangerine and vanilla, Okanagan Viognier is lean and mineral. Imagine flavors of key lime, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and crushed rocks supported with sour-patch acidity.

Aromatic Varieties

They might not be popular but aromatic whites including Muscat and Gewürztraminer are perfectly at home in the Okanagan. If someone figures out how to make a great, semi-bubbly moscato here it will blow up!


Okanagan Wine Country Vineyards in Osoyoos - Black Sage Bench - Mission Hill - by Wine Folly
Vineyards overlooking Osoyoos Lake off of Radio Tower Rd. in Okanagan. by Wine Folly

When You Go to Okanagan Wine Country

What’s surprising about Okanagan is not only is it stunningly beautiful, it’s also shockingly affordable. As a wine country destination, Okanagan is still very much undiscovered. Here are some things to expect when you go.

  • Wine tastings run on average around $5–$10 Canadian ($4–$8 USD!) and everyone waives the fee if you buy a bottle.
  • The majority of Okanagan’s 11,000 vineyard acres are right across the US border around Osoyoos and Oliver.
  • The area is very seasonal. It’s snowy in the winter with very little tourist traffic and jam-packed (and hot-as-hell) in the summer…
  • Late spring and early fall are the ideal times to visit for a wine enthusiast (best way to avoid other seasonal traffic).
  • Many of the wineries also have bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and onsite restaurants.
  • Beyond wine, the region is has amazing hiking, backpacking, cycling, skiing, water sports, and camping.
  • In terms of quality, some wineries are outstanding although many are average. Be sure to do your research.
  • Whatever you do, make sure you bring something to keep your bottles cool.
  • It’s windy at night and there are lots of mosquitos by the lake, so be prepared!

Okanagan terroir soils gravel granite shale rocks by Wine Folly
Nope. This isn’t the Mosel Valley or Priorat. Gravely granite soils in Okanagan Falls, BC. by Wine Folly

Okanagan Terroir

For those who like to talk dirt….

The Okanagan Valley was once a huge glacier. The soils are mostly sandy with white clay-silt on top of gravelly glacial sands with limestone, granite and other gravels of ancient volcanic origin.

What does that actually mean? Well, if you were to sum them up, wines produced on these soils generally have high aromatic intensity, minerality, and more subtle tannins.

The region’s location just under the 50th parallel means it has a short growing season. Grapes rapidly develop sweetness during the day but it’s cold at night. This classic diurnal shift and is one of the reasons why Okanagan wines have mouth-zapping acidity.

Of course, ripeness levels can still get out of hand; we noticed volatile acidity in some winery programs.

Vineyard soils in the Okanagan are a sandy-loam over granite gravels. They're well drained and produce wines with high aromatic intensity
Vineyard soils in the Okanagan are typically sandy-loam or silt over granite gravels. They’re well drained and produce wines with high aromatic intensity. By Wine Folly

As far as winemaking and viticulture goes, the Okanagan is still being figured out. Fortunately, Canada has a history of welcoming winemakers from all over, including places like New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and France. The outside talent brings perspective and wine quality improves with each vintage.

For those moving towards organic and biodynamic wines this area has good potential. The high winds, lack of phylloxera, and extreme seasons deter a lot of pests.

One clever technique commonly employed in Okanagan wine country is picking grapes at multiple points throughout harvest. Then, they’re blended together to create a single, more balanced wine. Wines made with this method display both ripe flavors and high natural acidity.

Tantalus winemaker, David Paterson, shows off his Riesling and Syrah ice wine. by Wine Folly
Tantalus winemaker, David Paterson, shows off his Riesling and Syrah ice wine. by Wine Folly

Another common practice here is the use of larger oak puncheons in the Okanagan Valley. This might be a traditional choice (based on economics) or the fact that wines tend to be more elegant and do not need as much oak. Many producers also enlist the use of American oak for their red wines.

The last quirk of the area is it is near impossible to guesstimate the age of a vineyard. Severe winters periodically kill the vine all the way down to the root. The vines usually survive, but must grow a new trunk. Thus, you won’t see too many gnarly vines (even if they truly are old).

Laura, Johnny and Madeline Puckette pose outside of The Hatch, a negotiant-style winery in East Kelowna, BC by Wine Folly
Laura, Johnny and Madeline snap a shot together outside of The Hatch – a negotiant-style winery in East Kelowna, BC. by Wine Folly

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Wines Listed from Dry to Sweet (Charts)

Any wine – be it Riesling or Cabernet – can be either dry or sweet.

Of course, popular varietal wines and styles tend to share the same sweetness level. Wine sweetness ranges from virtually nothing to upwards of 70% sweetness (like a rare bottle of Spanish PX!).

Here are a couple of simplified charts of popular wines listed from dry to sweet.

Red Wine Sweetness Level Chart by Wine Folly

Since wine ranges in sweetness, you have to do a little recon to figure out the actual sweetness level of a specific wine. You can use wine tech sheets to find the exact number. (So useful!)

When reading a tech sheet:

  • Wines below 1% sweetness are generally considered dry.
  • Wines above 3% sweetness are considered “off dry,” or semi-sweet.
  • Wines above 5% sweetness are noticeably sweet!
  • Dessert wines start at around 7–9% sweetness.
  • 1% sweetness is equal to 10 g/L residual sugar (RS).
  • 1% sweetness equates to a little less than 2 carbs per 5 oz / 150 ml serving.
  • 1% sweetness equals about 6 calories per 5 oz / 150 ml serving.

By the way, the average wine drinker can’t detect sweetness levels below 1.5%. That said, trained tasters guesstimate sweetness within about 0.2% – this is totally learnable!

White Wines Sweetness Chart by Wine Folly

Where does the sweetness in wine come from?

Thousands of years ago, winemakers figured out how to stop fermentation (by various means) to keep a little leftover grape sugar in their wines. This is where sweetness in wine comes from.

Wine geeks call these leftover sugars “residual sugar,” because the sugar comes from the sweetness of grapes. There are, of course, some poor quality wines made with added sugar (called chaptalization), but this is generally frowned upon.

In truth, we humans are not particularly adept at sensing sweetness. For example bitterness, or tannins in wine, reduces the perception of sugar. So does acidity.


Brut Champagne Sweetness Levels

Unlike still wines, sparkling wines are allowed to add sweetness. This is where the term “Brut” comes from. Find out more about:

Sweetness in Champagne

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16 Stylish Wines For Upscale Breakfasts

If you can drink a mimosa for breakfast, then wine for breakfast is fine too. In fact, one could make a pretty strong argument to ditch the OJ altogether and just drink wine.

“Champagne is appropriate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

So, don’t feel bad if you pop a beautiful breakfast bottle with your weekend brunch. There’s no shame in it. Even when someone pokes you with, “Oh, I see you having wine before five!” Raise your eyebrows and say, “I bet you wish you could join me.”

16 Stylish Wines for Upscale Breakfasts

  1. Avocado Toast wine pairing with Sauvignon Blanc illustration by Wine Folly

    Smashed Avocado Toast

    Wine Pairings: Sauvignon Blanc, Picpoul de Pinet, Soave, Grüner Veltliner

    Imagine a thick slice of crusty bread that’s covered with smashed avocado, drizzled with EVO (extra-virgin olive oil), dusted with cumin, salt, and red pepper flakes, and sprinkled with fresh green herbs. Need more protein? Top the whole shi-bang with a poached egg.

    The perfect wine for the avocado ensemble plays up the green theme and adds well-needed acidity – like a squeeze of lemon. Sauvignon Blanc is a great place to start.


  2. Chicken and waffles wine pairing with Lambrusco di Sorbara illustration by Wine Folly

    Chicken & Waffles

    Wine Pairings: Lambrusco di Grasparossa, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Sparkling Shiraz, or Brachetto d’Acqui

    Southern fried chicken deserves a very special kind of waffle:

    • It’s got to be round.
    • It’s got to be spongy.
    • It’s got to have an ice-cream-scoop-sized dollop of butter on top.

     
    The perfect wine plays the roll of a cool refreshing iced tea. Just like iced tea, chilled red wines have tannins. The tannins are very useful in this pairing because tannins help scrape fat from your tongue. You’re going to need it.


  3. Biscuit and Gravy wine pairing with Barbera illustration by Wine Folly

    Biscuits & Gravy

    Wine Pairings: Barbera, Blaufränkisch, or Cabernet Franc (serve slightly chilled)

    Thick, gooey, salty gravy on top of fluffy biscuits: this is the quintessential greasy spoon breakfast. With every bite, you’ll find yourself reaching for something wet to wash it down.

    The ideal wine is going to have a touch of tannin (again, to scrape the fat) and moderate acidity to quench your thirst. Barbera makes an ideal choice. The high acidity in this Italian red is perfect and the flavors of anise complement breakfast sausage perfectly.


  4. Denver Omelette wine pairing with sangiovese rose illustration by Wine Folly

    Denver Omelette

    Wine Pairings: Sangiovese Rosé, Garnacha Rosado, Cabernet Franc Rosé, Saignée-Method Rosé

    You can hate, but the Denver Omelette is still one of the most well-balanced breakfast choices out there. Little sautéed cubes of ham, bell pepper, mushroom, and onion are set into place with a handful of cheese and folded into an egg blanket. Savory food for umami people.

    There is a lot of umami in this dish which means you’re going to need a wine with a little more “oompa” than white, but maybe not as much “oomph” as a red. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yep. The right rosé will do nicely! Go for high-flavor versions.


  5. Blueberry pancakes wine pairing with Moscato d Asti  illustration by Wine Folly

    Blueberry Pancakes

    Wine Pairings: Moscato d’Asti

    Remember Fabienne in Pulp Fiction? When she says “blueberry pancakes?” Those are the ones! They are almost perfect on their own. Until you bite into one and start chewing, and the pancake gets stuck to the roof of your mouth, and there’s not enough syrup, and you feel like you need something to wash it down.

    Thank god (or the Northern Italians) for Moscato d’Asti. It’s the P.P.W. (perfect pancake wine).


  6. French toast and bacon pairing with dry Riesling from Alsace illustration by Wine Folly

    French Toast with Bacon

    Wine Pairings: Dry Riesling

    If you’re going to do French toast, you might as well use thick cut brioche. Otherwise, why make the effort? Also, what better complement than a couple pieces of thick cut bacon. While we’re at it, perhaps a fried egg too to finish it off?

    For this pairing, I’d reach for a dry Riesling in a second. Riesling hams up the bacon and the dryness will help counteract the syrup on the French toast. As a pairing, Riesling acts as a palate cleanser with its sky high acidity, which is really going to help with morning egg breath.


  7. Tofu scramble with soy chorizo wine pairing with zweigelt illustration by Wine Folly

    Soy Chorizo Tofu Scramble

    Wine Pairings: Zweigelt (served chilled)

    There is a small, but growing, number of us who believe breakfast doesn’t need eggs to be great. Enter the tofu scramble. Not only is it healthier, but it tastes so amazing when crumbled with the proper spice blend (turmeric, garlic, cumin, coriander, soy sauce, and chili flakes). For a double dose of flavor, use soy chorizo. The only wonder is why this dish is so hard to find in brunch spots throughout America.

    This flavor-packed dish with intense spicing needs a wine to help quell the burn. For this, we’re leaning towards a light red wine like Zweigelt. This Austrian red tastes great when served slightly chilled and will embellish the flavor profile without making you feel over-spiced.


  8. Eggs Benedict wine pairing with Prosecco illustration by Wine Folly

    Eggs Benedict

    Wine Pairings: Extra Dry Prosecco, Torrontés, Vinho Verde

    Eggs Benedict is an American classic. It’s perfectly toasted english muffin halves topped with crispy Canadian bacon, a perfectly poached egg, and a generous pour of creamy hollandaise sauce. It might actually be the most sophisticated brunch that North Americans can claim as their own. Also, if you find a place that does it well, you should consider yourself very lucky!

    For this pairing you’ll want a wine with a touch of sweetness (like, a teensy touch) to highlight the sweet-savory flavors of Canadian bacon. (Just like pineapple does on pizza!) This is why we opted for and Extra Dry Prosecco (vs. Brut). The sugar levels aren’t noticeable – it’s just enough to bring out the fruit.


  9. Frittata Italian style pairing with Arneis wine illustration by Wine Folly

    Breakfast Frittata

    Wine Pairings: Arneis, Assyrtiko, Gavi

    The word frittata comes from Italy and means “fried.” As you can imagine, there are many variants of the frittata. Whichever variation you choose, the real secret to a great frittata is well-beaten eggs and extremely low heat. For this breakfast wine pairing, the Italian-esque variant almost usually always includes roasted peppers, broccoli rabe, and a couple of great, flavorful Italian cheeses (such as Parmigiano and Provolone).

    This pairing is surprisingly open and allows for a wide number of potential matches. That said, frittatas are definitely guilty of egg-breath, so wine with higher acidity is really a great place to start, which is why we opted for lean white wines. Arneis and Gavi are all great Italian whites worth diving into. And, if you really want to blow your mind, you might try the Greek wine, Assyrtiko, which has both high acidity and salinity. Awesome.

    Note: For those who really want to dig in this breakfast, check out the Spanish version called tortilla de patatas with potato!


  10. Quiche pairing with un-oaked Chardonnay illustration by Wine Folly

    Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Quiche

    Wine Pairings: Chardonnay, Chablis, Grechetto, Grenache Blanc
    The French do it right when it comes to cooking: few ingredients without overwhelming the palate. Take French onion soup. It’s so simple, and yet so unbelievably good. Yes, French preparation is hard, but your ingredient list is relatively simple. Although there is one secret ingredient to this quiche recipe that makes is amazing: a pinch of nutmeg.

    For this pairing, going with a French classic seemed like the only right answer. Chardonnay does magical things to your mouth when paired with gruyère. The unoaked styles, such as Chablis have tingling high acidity too, which will help with “egg breath.” Of course, there are many great places around the world to find terrific Chardonnay so you don’t have to stick to Burgundy if you don’t want to foot the bill!


  11. Breakfast burrito wine pairing with Gamay Noir illustration by Wine Folly

    Breakfast Burrito

    Wine Pairings: Gamay, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Valpolicella, Earthy reds

    The only thing wrong with a breakfast burrito is that eating the whole thing at once can result in a “food coma.” To avoid this, cut it in half (and hide the other half somewhere out of view). Cutting it has the added bonus of revealing all the delicious layers of eggs, cheese, beans, potatoes, meat and other goodies. Imagine yourself sitting there, hot sauce in one hand, burrito in the other… anyone who’s lived in the Southwest knows that this is the combination for happiness.

    For this pairing, go for an earthy red wine. You don’t really need something as fancy as Gamay, but the crunchy earthy finish of this wine (particularly those from Beaujolais) will take your breakfast burrito to a whole new level. If you want to give your pairing a little more Spanish appeal, try a Tempranillo, you will not be disappointed.


  12. steel cut oatmeal illustration wine pairing with tawny port illustration by Wine Folly

    Steel-Cut Oatmeal

    Wine Pairings: Tawny Port, PX Sherry, Muscat de Rivesaltes

    One of the few breakfasts on this list that that you can eat every morning and never feel guilty.

    For this pairing, we decided to re-imagine the wine as one of the typical ingredients that top oatmeal. So, you would take a bite of oatmeal and follow-up with a little sip of Tawny port. The Tawny would take on the roles of sugar, cinnamon and raisins all at once! You won’t need a lot, maybe just a 3–4 oz of wine to make this magical pairing.


  13. yogurt bowl wine pairing with gewurztraminer illustration by Wine Folly

    Yogurt Bowl with Bananas, Sliced Almonds & Honey

    Wine Pairings: Gewürztraminer, Alsatian Muscat, Austrian Muskateller

    Yogurt bowls are the latest craze popping up all over the US. On the positive side, it’s really made us think differently about the importance of quality ingredients. You can’t make good yogurt without good dairy!

    For this pairing, we really wanted to focus on a wine with strong aromatics. This is because yogurt offers very little in the way of aromas, and thus, aromatic wines can really add more perceived flavor to the scene. Gewürztraminer with it’s intense aromas of lychee, rose, grapefruit and allspice will really take your everyday yogurt bowl to the next level. Because of the tropical fruit notes in this wine, it really lends to the toppings of bananas and almonds.


  14. Strawberry and ricotta crepe wine pairing with cremant d alsace rose illustration by Wine Folly

    Crepe with Strawberry & Ricotta

    Wine Pairings: Crémant d’Alsace Rosé, Crémant de Loire Rosé, Sparkling Malbec Rosé

    Imagine fluffy ricotta cheese with a drizzle of honey rolled into a warm crepe and then topped with strawberries and powdered sugar. It’s one of those items you want to eat as soon as it hits the plate.

    For this pairing, a rosé bubbly wine is the perfect choice. Not only will the color of the rosé complement this breakfast, but the carbonation will create a burst of creaminess after each bite.


  15. Peach Bourbon Bread Pudding wine pairing with Vin Santo illustration by Wine Folly

    Bourbon Peach Bread Pudding

    Wine Pairings: Vin Santo, Vinsanto, Moscatel de Setúbal, Moscatel-based Sherry

    This could be dessert, but if you add some breakfast sausages (maybe Jimmy Dean sage?) it suddenly becomes an all-American breakfast feast.

    For this pairing, we exchanged the typical caramel topping for a glass of Vin Santo. Vin Santo offers all the same caramel-like notes along with some more complex flavors of pecan, white cherries and vanilla. Fantastic!


  16. peanut butter and jelly wine pairing with oloroso sherry illustration by Wine Folly

    Grilled PB&J

    Wine Pairings: Oloroso Sherry

    Thick-cut slices of grilled bread slathered with a healthy smear of roasted peanut butter and berry jam make the best sandwich. Why this isn’t a common item on brunch menus is a still a mystery to us. Even kids love it. Someone please steal this idea.

    For this pairing, we wanted to let the sweetness of the jam speak for itself. So, instead of the typical dessert wine pairing of Ruby Port (which would still be great) we chose a unique wine oddity called Oloroso Sherry. This is a type of dry Sherry that spends extended periods in oak. The oak aging gives it additional smoky, roasted nut aromas over a lean, salty palate. It’s fantastic and honestly, there’s really nothing quite like Oloroso Sherry. Well worth trying.

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The Pagan Origins of Toasting (Really?)

You mean to tell me that toasting (a highlight of wedding celebrations) is pagan?

Pre-Christian yes, but calling it pagan seems a bit heathen.

Here’s a brief history of the tradition of toasting.

The pagan origins of toasting

The tradition of toasting hails back to ancient Georgia. (The Country!) The discovery of a bronze tamada, or “toastmaster,” places the practice back to around 500–700 BC. This was before the development of the Georgian written language (Kartvelian). Back then, the Colchis Kingdom ruled a large chunk of Georgia. These people were talented metal smiths, particularly with gold, which is likely why the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece took place here.

But wait, there’s more!

tamada-georgia-wine-artifact Georgian National Museum/Mirian Kiladze

Georgian wines were drunk from horns called kansti. photo Georgian National Museum/Mirian Kiladze

What’s cool, is the toasting artifacts are from the very same area where wine is thought to have originated. So, these guys were toasting with wine. Not beer.

The Toastmaster or Tamada

Toastmasters are still an important facet of modern Georgian and Azerbaijani gatherings. In particular, the tamada is the keystone of the Georgian feast, supra, which means “table cloth.” By the way, a supra that keeps with tradition almost always includes a table cloth. (Even if there is no table!)

georgia-supra-Batsara-Babaneuri-Scott-McDonough

A outdoor supra at the Batsara Nature Preserve in 2009. by Scott McDonough

The tamada’s role is like the “hype guy” of the feast. The person who plays the role of tamada should possess exceptional oratory skills and the ability to read the audience. Their primary goal is to create shared experiences with captivating toast speeches.

Georgians know how to start a party by Vladimir Varfolomeev

Georgians have known how to party hardy for a looooong time. by Vladimir Varfolomeev

A proper Georgian toast goes something like this:

  • The tamada proposes a toast and then drinks their entire glass of wine.
  • Then, the next guest proposes a toast to someone else and subsequently, drains their glass.
  • Partakers in the toasting hold their glasses high and drink after each toast.

It may sound like a drunken affair, but in most settings it’s considered disgraceful for a tamada to become drunk. Of course, how a tamada actually pulls this off is still a mystery to us!

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So, how does one give a perfect toast?

Naturally, this intriguing historical finding made us wonder: what makes a great toast? And, why are we not toasting – like – all the time?

See the guide to toasting –>


Sources
Highly recommended: “Wine and Georgian Identity” by David Lordkipanidze on National Geographic Georgia.
More about the golden treasures unearthed at Vani on GeorgiaAbout.com
Details about the modern toastmaster tradition in Azerbaijan.
A basic history of the Colchis Kingdom

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The Magic of Moscato d’Asti

Who can resist those brilliant blue bottles?

It’s hard not to fall in love with Moscato d’Asti. This perfumed, sweet Italian white wine is well-loved by wine drinkers of all kinds. Why? Simple: it’s so easy to drink! Of course, if you go beyond the blue bottle bling, you’ll find Moscato d’Asti is much more sophisticated than you might think.

Moscato d'Asti Blue bottle illustration with Sparrow Tattoo by Wine Folly

Moscato d’Asti has Italy’s top DOCG wine classification and is made with Muscat Blanc (aka Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) – a grape that’s thousands of years older than Cabernet Sauvignon!

Moscato d’Asti Taste and Flavors

Moscato d’Asti typically has sweet aromas of peaches, fresh grapes, orange blossoms, and crisp Meyer lemons. The flavor tingles on your tongue from acidity and light carbonation. The half-sparkling style (in Italian frizzante) gives the perception that Moscato d’Asti is just lightly sweet. However, the typical bottle of Moscato d’Asti has around 90–100 g/L of residual sugar (comparatively, a can of Coke has about 115 g/L of RS).

Moscato Wine Flavors by Wine Folly

Alcohol levels are surprisingly low, as well. Most Moscato d’Asti are just under 6% alcohol by volume (ABV). To put that into perspective, the average bottle of wine has 12% ABV. For this reason, Moscato d’Asti is a great choice for light drinkers.

Serving Recommendations

“Nutrition” Facts

  • Average Calories: 102 calories (from alcohol and sugar – per 5 oz. serving)
  • Average Carbs: 13.5 g (from sugar – per 5 oz. serving)
  • Recommended Serving Size: 5–10 oz.

Note: Technically, wine isn’t nutritious. Recommended serving size is based on what the National Cancer Institute recommends to maintain a moderate drinking lifestyle.


Moscato d’Asti Brands to Try

We asked several amazing sommeliers (aka “kickass wine picker-outers”) for recommendations of great Moscato d’Asti wines to try. You will love these wines.

  1. moscato-d-asti-michele-chiarlo-nivole

    Michele Chiarlo “Nivole” Moscato d’Asti

    “Bursting with bright peach and white blossom notes, sky high acidity, light effervescence, and sweetness that lies perfectly in balance. Moscato with cheeses and quince, a fruit salad drizzled with maple syrup, or even for breakfast in lieu of that mimosa… an iconic producer, Michele Chiarlo makes Nivole, a single vineyard expression of pure joy in a perfectly sized 375mL bottle. Cin cin!”

    –Haley Mercedes, Blue Blood Steakhouse, Toronto, Canada

  2. moscato-paolo-saracco-d-asti

    Paolo Saracco Moscato d’Asti

    “Unfortunately, Moscato d’Asti is an eno-Rodney Dangerfield (It just doesn’t get no respect). Frequently confused with the fully bubbled, volume produced, and often soapy tasting Asti (the wine formerly known as Asti Spumante), this lightly bubbled (frizzante) take on Moscato Bianco a is the pace car in the race for what great Moscato should be—impeccably balanced, and replete with intoxicatingly effusive notes of peach, lychee, and ripe tangerine. Tickling the tongue with a gentle fizz, this offering from Paolo Saracco, Piedmont’s “Maestro of Moscato”, is sublime and considered a benchmark.”

    –Evan Goldstein, Full Circle Wine Solutions, San Francisco, CA

  3. Elvio-Tintero-Sori-Gramella-Moscato-Asti

    Elvio Tintero “Sori Gramella” Moscato d’Asti

    “A delightful wine to drink, this slightly frizzante wine is one of the driest moscatos out there- bursting with gobs of peaches, apricots and white flowers. Based in Margo, the heart of moscato country, Marco Tintero is the fourth generation to make wines at the family estate that has been organic since the 1930s! Their moscato is all estate fruit, from their sun-soaked vineyard of sori gramella which is incredibly steep and must be farmed by horse and hand. The resulting wines are a perfect combination of irresistibly cheerful and staunchly traditional.”

    Victoria James, Cote, New York City, NY

  4. elio-perrone-moscato-d-asti-sourgal

    Elio Perrone “Sourgal” Moscato d’Asti

    Best panna cotta pairing ever. Fizzy sweet with creamy delicious. Trust me, just try it.
    –Matt Stamp, Compline Wine Bar, Napa, CA


official-docg-label-italian-wine-winefolly

Moscato d’Asti Is An Important Italian Wine

Moscato d’Asti was classified a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in 1993. DOCG status certifies a wine comes from a specific place, is made in a specific way, and uses Italy’s classic grapes. Of the Italian wine classification tiers (there are 4 in all), DOCG is the highest. There are a total of 73 DOCGs throughout Italy.


Piedmont Wine Map by Wine Folly

Piedmont Region of Italy

Moscato d’Asti means “Moscato of Asti” and the Asti region can be found in Piedmont, Italy. This region produces several Moscato-based wines worth checking out.

  • Moscato d’Asti Vendemmia Tardiva: A rare late-harvest style of Moscato d’Asti with higher alcohol and sugar content (a minimum of 11% ABV).
  • Asti DOCG: the fully sparkling or “spumante” (“spoo-mon-tay”) version of Moscato d’Asti. Bubbly and sweet!
  • Loazzolo DOC: A 100% Moscato wine that’s available in a late-harvest style (aka Vendemmia Tardiva) and that’s sweetened from noble rot. Late-harvest Loazzolo has higher alcohol and sugar content (a minimum of 11% ABV).
  • Strevi DOC: Another unique sweeter style made with partially dried grapes in a technique called “passito.” This wine is rich and sweet!
  • Colli Tortonese Moscato DOC: A minimum of 85% Moscato Bianco (aka Muscat Blanc) from the far eastern side of Piedmont.
  • Piemonte Moscato DOC: Decent base-model Moscato that’s made throughout Piedmont.

Despite the prevalence of Moscato in Piedmont, it doesn’t get as much attention as the dry red wines of the region. More fanfare goes to the wines of Barolo – high-tannin reds made with Nebbiolo grapes. Still, it’s nice to know that many of the top Barolo producers also make great Moscato. So, even if Moscato doesn’t get talked about by most pros, it’s actually taken quite seriously by Northern Italy’s top producers. The more you know!


The best sweet wines for people who are serious about sweet wine

9 Serious Sweet Wines

Love sweet wines? So do we! Here are 9 sweet wines that prove this style is not just a phase for beginners.

> Read More About Sweet Wines

Sources
Moscato d’Asti DOCG production rules
minimum alcohol potential: 11%
alcohol range: 4.5–6.5% ABV
minimum total acidity: 4.5 g/l
minimum dry extract: 15.0 g/l

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4 Things White Wine Lovers Have To Put Up With

You’re the only one of you in the room

White Wine Lovers Illustration

If you’re a wine enthusiast that prefers white wine then you’re a rare bird. A word to the wise, be careful with mixed company! Admitting you’re a fan of white wines to other wine people is a risky thing to do – it’s like being a skier in a group of snowboarders. It’s like being a vegetarian at an Austin Barbecue joint. (You better be ready to eat some plain white bread.)


White wine is cheap therefore you have cheap taste

association-fallacy-winefolly

This slippery slope of a logical fallacy is a favorite choice of red wine lovers. They’ve undoubtably noticed that many white wines are less expensive than red wines and it leads to the assumption that white wines are lower quality. Not true. Here’s some ammo next time this happens to you:

  • Firstly, the advancement of wine technology has made white winemaking more cost effective. There are now super high-end tools (like uber-fancy specialized pneumatic white wine presses, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, etc) that make processing white wine grapes easier and faster than ever before. In many ways, technology for white wines is leaps and bounds ahead of red wines.
  • Secondly, most white wines do not require extra time in cellar for aging, nor do they require oak aging. Time is costly, and so is oak.
  • Finally, the popularity of white wines is lower on the high end (remember that 3 to 1 estimation above?), making the supply-demand economics different. (This is fantastic news for white wine lovers, if you look at the positive side.)

Actually. On second thought. You shouldn’t say anything at all. More for us.


You’re obviously not that serious about wine

white-wine-illustration-winefolly
Ever read wine descriptions? Why do red wines get all the best ones? Why can’t a white wine be “rich,” “brooding,” and “thoughful?”

Just because a wine is light-bodied and fun to drink doesn’t mean it’s not serious. This is the same backward logic that allows crappy dramas into the Oscars while outstanding comedies don’t even get nominated. It takes a great deal of talent to make delicious Mosel Riesling, Albariño, and Chenin Blanc. Also, pour one out for comedy. We need that sh*t right now.


White wines don’t age, thus they’re low quality

red-wine-white-wine-aging-winefolly

Besides the fact that this statement is just flat-out wrong, ageability isn’t always a prerequisite for quality. Certainly there are many red wines that reach their peak after a decade or so of aging. But, some wines are meant to be fresh! That said, if you’re being hounded on this point, here are a few examples of white wines that age longer than most reds:

  • Rioja Blanco (crazy-kickass white from Spain lives up to 20 years)
  • Vintage Champagne (upwards of 50 years)
  • PX (aka Pedro Ximinez – not a guy’s name. This wine is sweet and starts tasting great at around 30 years and gets even better after that)
  • Boal Madeira (~100 years)

Honestly, there were at least 4 more points to make, but then a delicious bottle of Riesling melted the frustration away. Wine doesn’t solve problems, but it does put them in time out.

So now it’s your turn.

You don’t have to be quiet anymore. #whitewinelover

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