How Does A Vineyard’s Region Affect A Wine?

Great wines start with great grapes from great places. With substandard raw ingredients, there is no way to produce anything other than a substandard wine. This being the case, there are a few specific conditions, which make grape growing impeccable. Let’s take a look at these conditions and what other influences different regions have on their wines.


Vineyards, more importantly the grapes in those vineyards, need a certain set of conditions to grow optimally. These conditions include a cool breeze off the ocean, infrequent rainfall, rocky soil for good draining, and plenty of sunshine. This is one of the reasons you will hear wine experts talking about a good vintage year due to the seasonal conditions, because ultimately, the body and taste of the wines are based on the conditions the grapes are grown in.

The combination of land, seasonal weather and soil used to produce wines, even has a French designation – terroir. Pronounced [tear-wah], this term is the origin of the word terrain. While you can have the same type of wine, Pinot Noir for example, from three different regions – New Zealand, Burgundy, and California – you can expect to have three different tastes due to the terrain in which the grapes grow.

Regional Differences

How did the community you grew up in shape and mold who you are today? Your appearance, accent, and palate were formed by your exposure to your community, or region, as it were. The same is true for grapes and wine. Each region has people with different techniques for growing grapes and producing wine, usually passed down from generation to generation.

Take, for instance, Champagne. This sparkling beverage was originally produced in Champagne, France with special grapes and innovative techniques. The only true “Champagne” is from this region in France. Any other bubbly wine is actually Sparkling Wine and must be labeled so. This is a case where a community took such pride in protecting the land and developing the traditions used in their specific form of wine making, that no other sparkling wine may be labeled Champagne.

Proud Regions

Since each region has climate differences and commitments to tradition, it’s easy to study the grapes and growing conditions for each region to make categorizations about exactly what regions can produce certain types of wine.

An example is Port from Portugal, where the growers have been producing fortified vineyards for centuries. The region Port comes from, in Douro, has extremely rocky soil with desert like conditions. Port is only made by humans stomping the grapes, which adds to the uniqueness and allows only wine from that region to be called Port.

The regional impact on wines makes a big difference in how a wine tastes and feels. Knowing the conditions the grapes were grown in, how they were processed, and the time-honored traditions of the vintners, allow the consumer to know exactly what to expect with each type of wine. Know the region and know the wine!


How To Correctly Read A Wine List

If you relax and don’t stress out over it, a restaurant wine list can be easy, even fun, to read. Even the most complicated wine list can be easily read when you know how most are organized. The wine list or ‘menu’ is typically broken down into sections, and possibly by classifications of wine.

No matter how the wine list is organized, there should be basic points covered, such as an item number, name of the wine, vintage and sometimes a brief description of how the wine tastes.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible ways in which a wine list can be organized to help familiarize you with typical wine lists.

Standard Categorization

A typical categorization of wines on a wine list is by type; Champagne, sparkling wine, white wines, red wines, and dessert wines. Sometimes the reds and whites are divided between sweet and dry, but this isn’t always the case.

Further subdivisions could be by country or region, especially as applied to red and white wines. You may see, for instance, classifications for Italy, Germany, France, California, New Zealand, Washington State, or Oregon State.

Progressive Lists

While every wine list is categorized in some form, there are modern, wine-conscious restaurants which display their wines with more of a neo-style list. This type of wine list may have wines within a category additionally listed in order of specific characteristics of the wine, generally from lightest to boldest.

Categories of wines by variety or region may be excluded entirely by a restaurant in favor of a list developed solely by taste and characteristics. You will see categories with descriptors suggesting a wine is “Fresh and Crisp” or “Full-bodied and Serious.”

Wine List Basics

If a restaurant prides itself on their wines, they will more likely provide more information about the wine they have in their cellars. These menus will have a bin number, also called an item number, which refers to the location of the bottle of wine in the cellar. This information is more for the waiter than for you, but it does look very fancy, indeed, conjuring up images of a big, dark wine cellar full of classic vintage wines.

Every wine list should include the name of each wine. This is not to be confused with the different varieties of wine. This is the name of the vineyard where the grapes are grown and the wine is bottled. This could be as simple as Coturri, or as elegant as Chateau Montelena. By displaying the name of the wine, you know exactly which winery is represented by each wine.

The vintage tells you which type of grape is used in making the wine. If the wine is a blend of several years, the menu may denote a NV, for non-vintage. Other notations are VV, which means the wine vintages change each year. Descriptions are usually only present if there are fewer wines on the menu, but you may find a couple descriptors after the variety of wine even on longer wine lists.

As you can see, a wine list or menu offers basic information to help you make your decision. Recognizing how a wine list is organized should save you some distress and you should now be feeling a bit more relaxed. Next time you go to a nice restaurant, ask to see the wine list and have fun ordering!


Choosing A Wine For Ham Or Turkey – Tricky Pairings

Holiday meals are special occasions which usually call for a festive bottle of wine. Traditional holiday meals often include either ham or turkey, which causes some debate, and confusion, over what wine should be served.

Pairing wines with these two main dishes can be a little tricky. Let’s take a look at these holiday meals and see if we can break them down and determine which wines would pair well.

Ham – Glazed or Smoked

Many holiday hams are cooked using a heavy sauce of some sort, glazed to form a crispy crust, which makes them sweet to the taste. There are also hams with more of a smoky flavor, the type that are cured and aged. In general, the heavier flavors of a glazed ham should be paired with a wine that has higher acidity levels, such as a Riesling, or a simple White Zinfandel. Lighter hams, those that have a smoky flavor usually go well with a Pinot Noir or a Vouvray.

The reasons these different flavors go well together is that the meal becomes more balanced. The acidity of the Riesling will help cut through the sweet, sugary flavor of the glazed hams, while the fruity undertones of the Pinot Noir will help taper off the smoky flavor of the cured or smoky ham. Heavier wines will drown out the flavors of the ham by overpowering them with either heat from the alcohol or too much pizzazz from the rich flavors.

Turkey – White or Dark

The white meat of a turkey has a drier texture than dark meat. In order to balance out the texture of white meat, it would not be wise to serve a dry wine as this would not help to quench that need for moisture. Sweeter wines are generally the go-to for white meat as they force the palate to salivate. Any light, sweet wine will do. You may wish to try a sweet German wine.

Dark meat of a turkey retains more moisture when cooking. Because it is a more tender, juicy meat, it pairs well with a drier wine which helps cleanse the palate. Wines like Riesling and White Burgundy have a dry, oakey flavor that pairs well. You may want to try a Gewurztraminer which will also pair well with dark meat.

Let Common Sense Prevail

The most important thing to remember when selecting wines for a party is to know your guests. What do they prefer? Having a variety of wines available for your guests to choose from may be the simplest answer.

Sample a few different types of wine a few weeks before the big event. While wines can help enhance the experience of a meal, it all comes down to individual tastes. Stop worrying about the wine and enjoy the company!


Reasons To Explore Your Local Wineries

The current wave of excitement in the “Go Green” movement is to “eat local.” This movement advocates eating food grown locally to help support farmers in a “farm-to-table” cuisine.

This movement sometimes fails to recognize the “drink local” portion of the equation. However, for those of us who like to have a great glass of wine with a meal, drinking wines from local vineyards and wineries is a worthy cause, as well.

By no means does this say we should completely forget about that Port or Champagne and only request to be served local wine. However, a subtle change in attitude to begin incorporating these local wineries into our search for great wines makes sense, both economically and environmentally. Let’s take a look at why choosing wine from a local winery is a good idea.

Terroir – Celebrating Uniqueness

Pronounced tear-wah this French term is used to describe the terrain in which something is grown. In this case, the “something” is the wine you are about to enjoy. Exploring local vineyards and wineries allows you to know exactly what type of climate the grapes were grown in, which gives you a great understanding of what to expect when it comes to flavor.

The climate and area in which the grapes were grown create the unique flavor of the wine. By enjoying a local wine with local food, you get the full experience of really living in your area. Many smaller wineries are trying to preserve a sense of unity and territory, along with the farmers. When you purchase a local wine, and eat locally grown food, you are helping to sustain your region’s way of life.

Travel Weary Wine

A bottle of wine from across the country or world may have traveled thousands of miles to get to your door. During this travel, your bottle of wine had to withstand difficult elements. However, a bottle of wine you just uncorked from a local winery has fewer miles to travel, perhaps even just across the vineyard. Chances of deterioration from the long travels and uneven conditions increases the further away you go for your wine. Proper storage is less of an issue when the wine is delivered to your table from across the street instead of from across the globe.

Your Price, Your Community, and Your Planet

Ordering from local wineries can also stretch your dollar. Generally speaking, local wineries are not rated by top critics, so they go largely unnoticed. In order to compete with the larger names in the industry, these smaller vintners keep their prices down to get noticed. Also, since there is not a large shipping cost involved, the consumer doesn’t get the additional charge added into the price of the bottle of wine.

Don’t forget the number of jobs the local vineyards create within your community. This helps to keep the local economy stable. Don’t you feel better knowing you are supporting your neighbor while you enjoy sipping your favorite local wine?

Consider the waste of precious fuel resources shipping a bottle of wine around the world when a perfectly lovely bottle of wine may be waiting for you right around the corner. Conserving resources is a very large part of the movement to buy products locally.

Giving more of your wine dollars to local vineyards and wineries just feels good. This will keep your money in the local community, help to provide much-needed jobs, and help you stay within your budget. Everybody wins when you buy locally. Why not give your local wineries a little support by enjoying the fruits of their labors!