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Subject: Wine (the beverage) FAQ, part8 of 10 [LONG]
This article was archived around: 30 Sep 2000 17:19:08 GMT
Copyright: (c) 1995-2000 Bradford S. Brown (Notices/Disclaimers in pt. 10)
U.S. WWW (HTML) Mirror: http://www.sbwines.com/usenet_winefaq [newest]
U.K. WWW (HTML) Mirror: http://www.bath.ac.uk/~su3ws/wine-faq/wine-faq.html
I don't have any affiliation with any of the following. I provide
absolutely no representation about the value, worth or usefulness of any
reference. Most of the information here is the opinion of others. Where
known, I've provided price/publication information. Please feel free to
send me information on these and any other publications.
_*Adventures on the Wine Route*_ by Kermit Lynch. "Lively, somewhat
nonconformist, and passionately devoted to good wine, full of fascinating
characters and interesting insights. A great read, even if you aren't
particularly interested in wine. Warning: Lynch, while American, does not
look kindly on the American emphasis on rating wines and on favoring "big"
wines. But even if you don't agree, it's good to hear a different point of
_*American Wine Society Publications*_. Source for technical wine
publications. In the U.S., call (716) 225-7613.
_*California Wine Atlas*_ by Bob ???. "Considered by many to be the best
reference for California wines."
_*The Game of Wine *_by Forrest Roberts and Gilbert Cross. "Charming,
witty and full of anecdotes, recipes and advice." Sounds like fun reading
about the entire concept of drinking wine, not just another tomb about
_*How and Why To Build a Wine Cellar*_, by Richard Gold.
_*How To Test and Improve Your Judging Ability*_ by ? Marcus. 97 page
booklet. Describes common wine flaws.
_*Assorted books by Hugh Johnson*_. Several classic and well-regarded
works, including the annual Pocket Guide containing varietals, terms,
regions, producers and vineyards, vintages, wine and food, etc. One poster
did mention about the pocket guide: "not recommended for the extremely
myopic." Non-pocket version available at a higher price. "Hugh Johnson's
Modern Encyclopedia of Wine" "is a excellent book talking about all wine
regions around the world. It is very indepth and well written." Also,
"Hugh Johnson's Atlas is a classic, with detailed maps of winemaking areas
around the world."
_*Kellgren's Wine Book Catalog*_, Specialty Books Company, P.O. Box 616,
Croton-On-Hudson, New York, 10520-0616, 1-800-274-4816. Book store or
service. Free catalog may be available at the phone number shown.
_*Masterglass*_, Jancis Robinson. Contains (I'm told) an excellent,
unpretentious list of wine terms.
_*Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide*_, Robert M. Parker, Jr. (Simon and
Schuster/Firestone): Notwithstanding negative comments one might hear
about "Parker," this is an excellent reference. It lists 7500 wines from
around the world and can give you a very good idea of what is good or bad
(though, as always, _you_ may not agree with the tastes of the author).
There is introductory information on, among other things, how to buy and
store wine and aging of the wine. There is an overview of wine growing
areas, ideas about the quality of the wine in recent years from those
areas and commentaries about specific wines. A numerical rating system is
used. Over 1000 pages, my latest copy (1993, 3rd edition) was US $21.00.
_*Sotheby's World Wine Encyclopedia*_ by Tom Stevenson (1988, 480 pages.),
US $40, Bulfinch Press, Little Brown & Company; 25 British Pounds, Dorling
Kindersley UK. Glossy format with colored pictures. Wine regions,
producers, maps, aging, varieties. Comprehensive wine reference. Probably
dated if no new publication since 1988.
_*The Wines of France*_ by Steven Spurrier, Steven. "Great addition to any
library, and his section on the grapes used in wine is excellent,
comprehensive and to be trusted."
*_University of California at Davis Book Catalog_ *contains a number of
books about wine.
_*Vines, Grapes and Wines*_ by Jancis Robinson. Publisher Mitchell Beazly
of London, England. "More concentrated information covering all major wine
producing countries than anything else I have read."
_*Vintage Time Charts*_ by Jancis Robinson. Descriptions of how long to
age particular wines. Described as the "classic" work.
_*Windows on the World Complete Wine Course*_ by Kevin Zaraly. Sterling
Publishing Company. My copy printed 1993, marked at US $22.95. "Helpful
for people getting started."
_*Wine Appreciation Guild Catalog*_. Wine Appreciation Guild, 155
Connecticut Street, San Francisco, California 94107. Large selection of
books; retail and wholesale orders. Catalog has blurb on each book and
therefore is a good reference all by itself.
_*The Wine Book *_by Oz Clarke.
_*Wine Appreciation Guide Catalog*_. 155 Connecticut Street, San
Francisco, California 94107. From a correspondent: The catalog lists (and
describes) just about every English language book on wine published in the
last 30 years.
_*Wine Spectator's Ultimate Guide to Buying Wine*_, Wine Spectator Press,
a division of M. Shanken Communications. (212) 684-4224 or fax (212)
684-5424. US $19.95.
_*Wine Tasting*_ by Michael Broadbent (Fireside/Simon and Schuster; my
copy reprinted 1990, marked at US $10.95). This pocket sized book is very
nice, small (with tiny print), yet in-depth. It isn't about particular
producers, its about _WINE_. What it looks, smells and tastes like. How to
taste. Color plates to show how wine changes. Nice section on how to put
on a serious wine tasting.
X. LEARNING ABOUT WINE
COURSES ON WINE
_*The University of California at Davis*_ confers college degrees. Their
web site is http://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/.
_*The Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma*_ is recommended to UK
students considering studying for the "Master of Wine" examination.
However the Master of Wine is an international qualification with study
courses and exams run in Boston, Sydney, Montpellier and London. It is
open to any one in the trade who can demonstrate adequate experience and
knowledge as it is a difficult exam to pass. It takes two years with a
dissertation on an aspect of viticulture or vinification in year 1 with
written and tasting exams in year 2. Potential candidates should contact
the Institute of Masters of Wine. Five Kings House, 1 Queen Street Place,
London EC4R 1QS, Great Britain; +44 171 236 4427, fax: + 44 171 329 0298.
Many people have asked for an on-line compendium of every winery in
existence. The best place to get this information is from a book. If you
insist on using the Internet, then you are relying on the talents of some
dedicated compilers or the commercial leanings of the wineries themselves.
(I'm not saying they may not have altruistric motives, the Internet is
cheap, but let's be real.) For some lists of wineries on the Internet, see
the section on Internet Resources. As of this writing, more wine magazines
are setting up web sites. They probably will provide a great deal of
information (perhaps for a fee) on specific wines and wineries.
Wineries are an excellent place to learn about wine when approached with
the proper frame of mind: drunkeness is not a particularly good way to
remember much about what you were drinking. Another very important point
to remember about tasting at wineries is that you probably aren't tasting
the wine the way you would at home. Besides the somewhat crowded,
sometimes rushed situations you face in the winery, the bottle might have
been open for hours or even days. In my mind, however, the most important
thing is that you probably will drink the wine with food at home. The
differences in the way a wine tastes when you are eating can be
momumental. What might be a so-so wine in the winery might be wonderful at
home, and vice-versa. Nevertheless you can usually get a good idea of the
wines you like when tasting a various wineries in a particular area over a
short period of time. Take notes, have a good time, and use the "dump
While traveling through wine areas, you will find that many wineries let
you come in and taste their wines free of charge. Since we aren't really
out to get drunk on these trips, we find ourselves constantly asking the
pourers to "go easy". Purists may say that you need more than we ask for
in order to get enough wine in the glass to swirl and smell. We find that
we get along just fine without a large pour. Makes us feel better about
not "wasting" wine. Perhaps we are naive about the wasting part, since the
wineries know what they are doing when it comes to the promotion and sale
of their wine. But this brings us to the subject of charging for tasting.
There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, so the saying goes, but free
wine tastings seem to come awfully close. Once you're used to the concept,
walking into a place and being charged for the "priviledge" of finding out
whether you want to spend a lot of money on buying something you can't
otherwise personally know anything about seems almost offensive! (Really,
how much more subjective can any subject be than the choice of wine to
Or course it all comes down to supply and demand. Wineries that find that
people will pay may charge. Answer? There are still _lots_ of wineries
making great wine that do not charge. If you are so inclined, tell the
charging winery so and walk out. (We're not going to get into the argument
that charging cuts down on drunkeness; there are enough people that will
pay and get drunk anyhow.) A winery may not often be pouring their best
wines, which, in many cases, are in short supply. However, if you look
like you are somewhat knowledgeable about what you want to drink, know a
bit about the particular winery's wine, and are genuinely interested in
purchasing the more expensive wines (and show up when things aren't so
busy), you may find that you will be allowed to taste them, for the
asking. Sometimes a winery will charge for tasting the better wines. This
seems a fair compromise (so maybe we'll support them on this one, though
perhaps we're still naive). Some wineries, for a price (if not outrageous,
certainly justified, this time), go all out and will pour much older
"library" wines which they have stored and are now again releasing for
sale. Such tastings are very informative, for even if you can't afford to
buy the wine, you can get some idea of how more current wines will "age,"
or just what all the hoopla is about when people talk about drinking wines
that have been around for a long time.
For a more personal look at visiting wineries, check out the section on
Learning About Wine: Starting Out.
Horace Rumpole, aging Old Bailey hack (also known as a barrister
practicing law in the criminal courts in London), attending what
undoubtedly was his first wine tasting after many years consuming the less
than stately Chateau Thames Embankment, given a somewhat more pleasing
claret, found that it was a vintage "Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved
earth, tasting of Flora and the country green." And while he reveled in
drinking the "flavour of Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth,
mixed with a dash of wild strawberries," he was bedeviled by a fellow
taster who demanded: "can't you spit?" [For a fun time, read Rumpole and
the Blind Tasting, in Rumpole's Last Case, by John Mortimer, Penguin
Books. Or read any Rumpole story! Also a popular TV program. Also a
popular audio series, especially when performed (not just read) by Leo
McKern--doing all the voices. OK, so wine isn't the only thing I like....]
Poor Rumpole. All he was trying to do was enjoy a decent wine and he is
reproached for failing to use the expectoration area. Of course the idea
is that you don't _drink_ the wine, you merely _taste_ it. Among other
things, this means that you don't get drunk. The concept of spittoons, or
sandboxes, properly placed, is real factor in "real" tastings. It should
be OK to drink the wine when there aren't many being served and care is
taken. But if there is a large number of wines to sample, drinking them
all is going to become a problem.
On the other hand, you don't have to be all uppity about tasting wine.
Friends gathering to try out a number of wines (in moderation) is a good
way to learn about wine. "Dumping" the glass eventually is a good idea
just to avoid the drunkenness, which, among other things, will prevent you
from learning anything at all.
The really serious also get into "blind tastings" where the participants
(often contestants) must identify not only the type of wine, but the
vintage and producer. There are those who can do that; there are also
those who think the only way you _can_ do that is to practice it 3 or 4
times a week. Having never participated in a blind tasting (and since I
have an abysmal memory, I doubt that I ever will), I cannot attest to how
much fun such a contest is. There are certainly those who take great
pleasure in it. Many people seem to think that you add something to the
wine tasting experience by injecting something like a contest into it. For
many this can be intimidating.
Of course, the best reason for tasting wine under blinded conditions
(meaning where the identity of each wine isn't known until after the
tasting is done) is so that the tasters can judge the wine on its own
merits, uninfluenced by any prejudices or expectations based on where the
wine is from or what year it is. Blind tastings often yield surprising
results, such as when an obscure wine is strongly preferred by the tasters
over the first growth Bordeaux that was also in the tasting. Most people
who taste blind do so in order to evaluate the wine entirely by its taste,
rather than by its label.
A very knowledgeable wine person tells me: "What can be really amusing
when you have a wine snob (not a knowledgeable connoisseur, but one of
those who likes to put on airs and brag about how anything except
first-growth Bordeaux is junk) over for dinner is to decant a bottle of
something good bug cheap into a bottle with a posh label on it. Then,
after the snob has gushed rhapsodic over the wine, show him or her the
other bottle and explain what you did." I'm not necessarily a promoter of
deception, but I certainly don't advocate snobbery; do this at your own
An interesting idea in any event is to taste a "first label" against the
"second label" of a vintner. Some wineries will put out their best wine
under their own name, and then use a different label for wine that they
like but don't think is worthy of their normal production. Tasting between
the two can give a good opportunity to see what the winemaker thinks about
Robert Parker, an attorney who was able to do something which suited his
interests and perhaps to many is a whole lot more fun. He got to become
the ultimate wine expert. Lots of people "don't like Robert Parker." They
miss the point. Robert Parker, like all of us, has his own likes and
dislikes. The fact that "Parker" likes a wine is completely of no
consequence; if _you_ don't like the wine (or vice-versa). If you wish to
follow Parker because you know nothing about a wine and want to know where
to begin, that's certainly fine, and not a bad idea. If you like a wine
and Parker doesn't and you change your mind about it because you believe
Parker over your own palate, then I'll wonder about you. Taste is on the
tongue of the beholder.
The only _true_ problem with Parker is that if he _really likes_ a wine,
don't wait around long trying to find it. It'll be gone before you get a
chance to buy (or the price will increase out of your range). Fortunately
there are quite a few wines that Parker doesn't like that many find
absolutely wonderful and remain bargains. Since wine making is an annual
event, you get to figure this out every year.
Mr. Parker has been found on the Prodigy service at EXP42B@prodigy.com.
(A note: Posts indicate that Mr. Parker has an investment in a winery
(with his brother-in-law) in Oregon; that he does not review the wine, nor
mention the name of the wine in his writings and reviews. Posts generally
liked the Pinot.)
XI. PHYSIOLOGIC NOTES ON WINE_
Alcohol can damage your liver. On the other hand, there has been much
suggestion that the drinking of wine is somehow "good for you." While it
might calm your nerves a bit, what many want to say is that, for whatever
reason, it can protect you from heart disease, perhaps by lowering
cholesterol. Some point to those parts of the world where people eat high
fat diets, drink lots of wine, and live to a very old age.
Some of the problems here are statistics. A good statistician can prove
black is white, more or less. There may be other factors that are
The bottom line is that, at this stage of knowledge, it probably isn't a
good idea to _start_ drinking to obtain hypothetical protective effects.
Whether it helps you if you are drinking is controversial. Most people
will agree that if you drink "too much," it is _not_ good for you (for a
variety of reasons).
_ALLERGIC REACTIONS TO WINE_
The biggest complaint here is that some people develop headaches from
drinking wine. There are several proposed causes. One is that sulfites
added by the producer (or can be naturally present in lesser amounts)
cause the allergic reaction. Furthermore, it has been suggested that
cheaper wines are likely to have more sulfites as a cheap substitute for
careful grape selection and winemaking. Some people say that it is only
red wine that causes them a problem. Sulfites are present in both red and
white wines. Another possible cause is anthocyanin pigments which are what
makes "red" grapes red. These are also present in blue cheese. If both
cause you problems, maybe you've found a reason?
While there are wines that claim to be sulfite free, most people will tell
you that this is not possible, as sulfites exist in nature on the grape.
However, the amount would be less if not artificially introduced. But
since sulfur dioxide is used to control how the wine is produced (getting
rid of unwanted yeasts, molds and bacteria), some feel that you may not
get as good a wine. United States law requires that wine with over 10
parts per million of sulfites state that the wine "contains" sulfites.
Solutions suggested by some (but not recommended or approved by me in any
way) are: Drink lots of water before drinking the wine. Take a pain-killer
first. The problem with this last one is that is known to enhance the
alcoholic affect. The best answer is, if this is a problem, don't drink
wine. Some suggest wines not made from grapes.
I have received notes (and welcome more) from people indicating that the
following wineries may produce wine that claim to be "sulfite free." If
this is important to you, you should directly with these producers:
+ Organic Wine Works, Felton, California. Entire line of reds and whites
+ Chateau Le Barradis, Monbazillac, France.
_CALORIES IN WINE_
Most of the calories in wine come from alcohol, though some additional
calories come from the "food" that came from the fruit (proteins,
carbohydrates [like sugar], etc.). Since some wines are more dry than
sweet (that is, they have less sugar), those wines would have a little
less calories. Also, wines vary in alcohol content, which would, of
course, also affect the number of calories from alcohol. The United States
Department of Agriculture says that 100 grams of "table wine" (12.2
percent alcohol by volume) has 85 calories while 100 grams of "dessert
wine" (18.8 percent alcohol by volume) has 135 calories.
In any event, a pretty good rule of thumb is that table wine has
approximately 25 calories per ounce. When cooking with wine, you can end
up boiling out the alcohol. The result is that the calorie impact from the
wine is drastically reduced.
_PREGNANCY AND WINE_
Heavy alcohol use in pregnancy can lead to birth defects. Some doctors
feel that the safest course is not to drink any alcohol at all during
pregnancy. Others feel that light, occasional drinking has not been shown
to be harmful. Check with your doctor!
_WINE AS A SLEEPING AID_
The general consensus is that alcohol might help you fall asleep
immediately but that you'll be up in the middle of the night. A warm glass
of milk seems to be a better idea.
_LEAD IN WINE_
Some people are concerned about high levels of lead in wine. A possible
reason is that the high acidity levels in wine help to cause lead to leach
out of things that it touches. Lead "capsules" (the foil at the top of the
bottle) have all but disappeared from new bottles of wine for this reason.
You can wipe the top of a bottle with a damp cloth before pouring if you
have an older bottle with a lead capsule. There is some reason to believe
that lead can be leached out of lead crystal glasses. Whether this occurs
in significant numbers in the short run I do not at this time know, but I
have read some material that indicates it is not a good idea to store an
alcoholic beverage in crystal decanters for long periods of time.