Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Wine or The Woman

Being in Heaven, I am at an impasse with respect to what is more sublime.
The perfect wine or the perfect nymph?
Food and wine compliment one another. Fine wine and sublime sex do also.
I choose all three: fine food, fine nymphs and of course, fine wine which makes it all divine.


Tips for Letting Your Wine Breathe

Aerating Your Wine
The whole concept of letting wine breathe, or aerate, is simply maximizing your wine's exposure to the surrounding air. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine's aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve.

Which Wines Need to Breathe

Typically red wines are the ones to benefit most from breathing before serving. However, there are select whites that will also improve with a little air exposure. In general, most wines will improve with as little as 15-20 minutes of air time. However, if the wine is young with high tannin levels, it will need more time to aerate before enjoying. For example, a young Cabernet Sauvignon will likely require around an hour for proper aeration and flavor softening to take place.

Not that you cannot drink it as soon as it is uncorked, but to put its best foot forward give it more time to breathe. Mature wines (8+ years) are another story all together. These wines will benefit most from decanting and then will only have a small window of aeration opportunity before the flavor profiles begin to deteriorate.
How to Let Your Wine Breathe

Some erroneously believe that merely uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit for a bit is all it takes to aerate. This method is futile, as there is simply not enough room (read: surface area) at the top of the bottle to permit adequate amounts of air to make contact with the wine. So what's a Wine Lover to do? You have two options: Decanter or Wine Glass

Decanter - use a decanter,a flower vase, an orange juice pitcher, whatever - any large liquid container with a wide opening at the top to pour your bottle of wine into. The increased surface area is the key to allowing more air to make contact with your wine. Keep this in mind while setting up proper "breathing" techniques for your favorite wine.

Stacy Slinkard

Serious health stuff

A couple of weeks ago my local newspaper published a guest column titled, "Women at risk: wine and cardiovascular disease." The author was a member of the community who enjoys regularly stirring the alcohol and health pot with irrational and inflammatory rhetoric. This article was filled with factually incorrect health information and personal opinions, and the author grossly misrepresented a variety of otherwise respectable sources of information. I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my concern for the misinformation that was contained in her article, and pointed out some of the more egregious errors.

As a health scientist I have had over 20 years of experience in research and education in the area of alcohol and health, and have amassed a bibliography of hundreds of research articles on both the positive and negative effects of alcohol. I have conducted continuing medical education seminars on the topics, including several in conjunction with the American Heart Association. Because of this background, I was highly disturbed at the way this person, who has no training in the health sciences, cherry-picked bits of information and quotes from reputable sources out of context to try to force her thinly veiled personal anti-alcohol agenda on others.

When discussing alcohol and health issues, it is critical to make sure the information is accurate, current, and balanced. It is absolutely true that alcohol abuse continually causes devastating damage to a certain portion of society. But it is also true that millions of people use various forms of alcohol safely and responsibly every day.

A common tactic of the anti-alcohol faction is to cloak their agenda in grossly misrepresented medical-scientific research data, and by quoting individuals and organizations out of context in an attempt to scare people into accepting their arguments. Individuals and organizations such as the notoriously Machiavellian Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) - which, by the way, does neither science nor works in the true public interest - usually target complex topics with high visibility in the media. Wine and health is one of their all time favorite arenas in which to cause mischief. They make shrill, fear-inducing claims that do nothing to educate and inform, but rather exacerbate and cloud an already confusing, complex, and emotion-laden topic.

I have had the pleasure of confronting representatives of some of these groups face to face, and their bravado usually collapses rapidly like a balloon filled with hot air poked with a sharp needle. For example, when I challenged a spokesperson from CSPI about their misleading approach to health issues related to wine and other consumer goods, rather than arguing from a position of defensible data he justified it by saying that they had to use scare tactics to get through all the media "noise" so they could be heard. Never mind that what they are trying to get people to hear is biased and misleading information. The scary thing was that he and his co-conspirators saw nothing wrong with this tactic and felt completely justified in doing so. They also seem to be oblivious to the fact that their over-zealous and sometimes bizarre approach only serves to marginalize them as the radical fringe.

But there always is a portion of the population that will not see through the hysterical claims and will be taken in by these tactics. People and organizations that engage in this kind of irrational sensationalism do a reckless disservice to and insult the intelligence of the public they claim to care about. If they were truly interested in promoting things like healthy drinking they would be making every effort to give the public balanced and accurate information to help illuminate the issue.

When it comes to alcohol and health, it is like most other aspects of life, and that is moderation, balance, and common sense should be our guiding principles. And for some people with certain conditions or genetic predispositions, exposure to alcohol and many other things from peanuts to penicillin in any quantity can cause severe negative health consequences.

I receive on a regular basis the most current research information on what we know and do not know about how alcohol consumption affects health. But the general public normally only receives disjointed and incomplete information through the mass media, and through junk mail such as that generated by CSPI and other such manipulative organizations that traffic in fear to win over the uninformed.

When a new report comes out that supports the potential benefits or the negative consequences of alcohol consumption it rarely is put into the context of all the other research data and information that has come before it. That is why is it so important to not make any kind of major changes in alcohol consumption for health reason without first getting the facts from reputable sources and checking with your physician.

A good rule of thumb to use when you hear a report on a new study about alcohol and health, whether it is positive or negative, is to be a bit skeptical until you can figure out how it fits with all the other information out there. The same goes for the information disseminated by any organization that seems to be one-sided. If it presents only one side of the issue then it is biased and not to be trusted.

When it comes to human health, there are few absolutes that apply to all people. When it comes to alcohol and health reports, always look to the source of the information and assume there is a hidden agenda at work until you can verify otherwise.

A toast to rationality and common sense.


John Juergens

No Sulfites? Beware. Understand What Sulfites Are

Wine and Sulfites

What is this compound found in most wines?
Sulfur dioxide is a naturally occurring compound. It is formed from sulfur and oxygen during the fermentation process. It is present in very small quantities. Some winemakers will add it to wine.

Sulfur dioxide is the penicillin of wine, preventing and curing all sorts of ills. One of the most important jobs of sulfur dioxide is to prevent the wine from turning to vinegar. It acts as an antioxidant, keeping wines fresh. It does this by preventing bacterial growth. In sweet wines sulfur dioxide prevents the yeast from refermenting in the bottle.

But, a little goes a long way. Wine makers try not to add anything to wine unless absolutely necessary. So, a light hand is used when adding sulfur dioxide to wine.

With the advent of highly complex and highly technical wine making equipment wine makers don't rely on sulfur dioxide as much as in the past. The irony is that labels in the United States contain the phrase, "Contains Sulfites."

In 1988 Congress passed a law requiring that phrase on the label. Sulfur dioxide didn't suddenly appear in wine in the 1980s. It has been present in its natural and added forms long before 1988. There is now less sulfur dioxide in wines than before the labeling requirement.

Why the concern over sulfites in wine? About 5% of asthmatics are extremely sensitive to sulfites. To allow them to make good health choices, Congress required wines containing more than 10 parts per million of sulfites be labeled with "Contains Sulfites." To keep this in perspective, remember that 10-20 parts per million occur naturally in wine. So, almost every wine will be required to carry this phrase. (Studies have been conducted that suggest that some people may be having reactions to other things than the sulfite in wine.)

Sulfite levels in wine range from about 100-150 parts per million (about the same as dried fruit). You can sometimes ingest more sulfites by eating pizza and drinking diet cola. The maximum allowed by law in the United States is 350 parts per million.

When selecting wines you can look for wines that state "No Sulfites Added." Some assume that organic wines will not contain added sulfites. This is not true. Some organic vintners add as much sulfur dioxide as conventional wineries. New laws have clarified labeling requirements.

Paula S.W. Laurita

How to Remove Wine Stains

What is the most effective way to remove wine stains?
Red wine stains are a pain to wine drinkers. How do you effectively remove stains from clothing, carpet, tablecloths, or napkins? Spilt wine has ruined many a cocktail dress. Fear no more! There is good news.

In 2001 a study was conducted by the University of California, Davis, on wine stain removal. The Red Wine Stain Removal study was conducted by Natalie Ramirez, a participant in a special summer high school research program supported on campus by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The study compared eight cleaners, from commercial wine-stain removal products to folk remedies. These included:
3% hydrogen peroxide mixed with an equal volume of Dawn liquid soap
Camco’s Erado-sol laboratory cleaning solution
Gonzo “Wine Out” Red Wine Stain Remover
“Wine Away” Red Wine Stain Remover
Salt (applied only to 2 minute-stains, as it was used to absorb the liquid out of the fabric)
Sauvignon blanc white wine
A solution of vinegar and Dawn liquid followed by rubbing alcohol
Spray ‘n Wash, a pre-laundry spot remover made by Dow Corning
These cleaners were tested on cotton, a polyester-cotton blend, nylon, and silk. They were applied at two different times after "spill." One testing at two minutes after and the other 24 hours later. After the fabrics were washed the residual stain was precisely measured with a colorimeter.

Silk was the hardest fabric to clean, with none of the cleaners completely removing the stains. Cotton was the easiest to clean. Some cleaners worked better on different types of fabric. Many of the cleaners just didn't work as promised. The commercial wine stain removers were among the least effective on any type of fabric. White wine or salt didn't work at all, with the exception of white wine on nylon.

The best stain remover? It was an equal blend of hydrogen peroxide and Dawn liquid soap. The next best was Erado-sol, it was the most effective on silk. Erado-sol is a commerical cleaner, mostly sold to health-care facilities.

While red wine stains remain a problem, if you wear cotton, there is hope.

Paula S.W. Laurita

How To Clean Your Wine Glasses

What?! There really is a methodolgy to cleaning wine glasses that will improve your wine tasting experience.
For a premium wine experience your glasses should not have dust, odors, stains, invisible layers of dried detergent, or previous wines. With the advent of stemless glasses this has never seemed easier--Just pop the glasses into the dishwasher. No! No! No!

If you wash your wine glasses in the dishwasher you must also rinse them by hand in hot water. This will remove soap residue left by the machine. If you wash your dishes by hand you must also give them an extra rinse. When washing wine glasses the less soap used the better.

Many serious wine drinkers use no soap at all. I'll admit I can't do it. I have to use soap in order to 'know' my glasses are clean. It's not always logical, but it's my personal quirk. If you opt to use no soap be certain your hands are clean and oil free. I have a friend who uses a glass sponge that is dedicated to her wine glasses. No soap ever touches the sponge and the sponge is never used on anything except her wine glasses.

You may want to use your wine glasses for other beverages (e.g., water, juice, etc.). Just be certain your glasses are completely clean of any other liquid. This includes water. Heavily chlorinated water can leave a residue that will change the taste of your wine. I use only filtered water to wash my wine glasses. I have friends who keep distilled water just for this purpose. They've been known to take a bottle of water with them to restaurants to rinse suspect wine glasses.

Taking a few extra minutes to properly care for your wine glasses can mean the difference between a quality wine experience and a poor one.

Paula S.W. Laurita

Drinking Lighter Reds in Heat

My blood is thinning in this heat, but I must continue to drink.
The lighter wines are working fine. They tell me blood thins with the heat, which is true. Mind you, the drinking must continue. I continue to drink vine juice, but with the change of time, I must adapt so I don't collapse.


Do you change your wine-drinking patterns for the summer?

Yes: 69.8%
No: 30.2%
If yes, what will you savor as the temperature soars?

Riesling: 29.7%
Chardonnay: 17.2%
Other: 16.1%
Pinot Gris: 12.3%
All of the above!: 8.8%
Gewurztraminer: 4.7%
Champagne/Sparkling: 4.6%
Sauvignon Blanc: 2.2%
Grenache: 1.4%
Gamay: 0.9%
Merlot: 0.6%
Pinot Blanc: 0.6%
Pinot Noir: 0.6%
Zinfandel: 0.6%

When the heat rises, about two-thirds of you turn to lighter wines. Those who change their wines for summer top the list with Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. This question picked up a very high number of write-in votes, most of whom will pour rosé or "cold whites in general."

Wine Spectator Poll