August 16, 2011 Posted by admin in News

Frequently Asked Questions

Wine FAQ's

For more wine Q&A, click hereIf you have a question that has not been covered in this section,ask us! We'll try to send you a straight answer. Beware that we (actually, my name is Joel Mitchel) have strong opinions and there are many other opinions out there.


What are sulfites? How can I avoid them? Why are they on some wine labels and not on others?

    In its infinite wisdom, the US Government decided in the late 1980's that a warning label should be placed on all wines bottled after 1990 warning the one person in a million who is severely allergic to sulfites. Sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation. The very yeast that convert grape sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide also produce sulfites. (In fact, sulfites are also a natural byproduct of most living organisms. At this very moment, your body is producing some sulfites!). As such, they are present to some extent in every wine. For thousands of years, wine makers have been adding additional sulfites to wines to protect them from spoilage. Most modern wine producers use sulfites twice, first to kill wild strains of yeast and bacteria that might impart off flavors and later in the process to protect young (especially white) wine from spoilage due to oxidation, etc. A few "organic" type winemakers today are not adding any sulfites and so do not have to use the warning labels (the natural occurring stuff dissipates with time) if the levels are below 10 PPM (parts per million). Some of these wines are good and we carry a small selection of them. For more info, click here. If you have drunk wine and are not dead, you are probably not allergic to sulfites! If you do react to some wines, it is probably something else and not sulfites. These reactions are very idiosyncratic and it's nearly impossible to predict which wines will bother you and which will not. In my experience, however, the red wines least likely to cause you problems are Pinot Noirs (also red Burgundies). The white wines least likely to be problematical are Sauvignon Blancs (also Fumé Blanc, Pouilly Fumé & Sancerre).

Want more information on sulfites? Read on:

  1. What are sulfites and why are they used? Sulfur dioxide(SO2) is a naturally occurring type of sulfite. Mined sulfur is heated into a liquid and used to protect wine from oxidizing. The same method has been used to protect wine from oxidization for centuries. Sulfur dioxide is used to protect the wine's character by inhibiting the growth of molds and bacteria and by stopping oxidation (browning) of the wine. In grape juice or wine, sulfur dioxide reacts with water molecules to form sulfites. A sulfiting agent can be added to foods and beverages in the form of sulfur dioxide (a gas) or as potassium bisulfite or metabisulfite (powders). In solution, all forms act the same way, releasing sulfur dioxide.
  2. Is the addition of sulfites to wine a new procedure? No. There is strong evidence that sulfur dioxide was used by Egyptians and has been in regular use since Roman times. European winemakers have used sulfur dioxide to prevent wine spoilage for centuries.
  3. Are there also naturally occurring sulfites in wines? Yes. Wine yeasts naturally produce up to 20 parts per million of SO2 during fermentation. There are also naturally occurring sulfites in other foods. In addition, our own bodies produce about 1,000 mg (!) of sulfites a day through normal biochemical processes.
  4. When did the 'Contains Sulfites' label become mandatory on wines? In 1988, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ruling required all imported and domestic wines, beers and spirits bottled after 1990 must carry the label if they meet or exceed a threshold 10 parts per million sulfites. Because of naturally occurring sulfites, many wines fall under this ruling, regardless of whether sulfites have been added.
  5. Why the Concern? The concern over sulfites in the United States arose with the use of extremely high levels of SO2 (1,000 to 3,000 ppm) on salad bars to prevent browning of fruits and head lettuce. This use of sulfites resulted in asthmatic reactions--some serious. In 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfites on fresh fruits and vegetables while other foods and beverages must now be labeled if they contain sulfites--even those which contain very low levels.
  6. What percentage of the population do sulfites affect? The reaction is a chemical sensitivity found in an extremely small percentage of the population. The majority of sulfite-sensitive people are asthmatic, but represent less than 3% of the asthmatics. In addition, there are a significant number of people with a genedic blood deficiency called G6PD deficiency. These people will have reactions to sulfites that range from minor to life-threatening. They should avoid foods, beverages, and even medications with high levels of sulfites as well as some foods in the legume family. We have sold low/no sulfite wines to sulfite-sensitive people, always asking for their comments, and have received nothing but positive feedback.
  7. What is the sulfite level in Badger Mountain wines? Grape fermentations naturally generate about 8-10 parts per million sulfites, so no other additions are made for four to five months. At the time of bottling, sulfur dioxide levels are adjusted to 20-30 parts per million. In addition they produce a line of wines with only naturally occurring sulfites--no sulfites are added. Wines actually need one of the lowest levels of sulfites to ensure stability.  Because of wine's alcohol content, naturally high acidity, and low pH, only low levels of SO2 need to be added to achieve stability.
  8. How does this level compare with other foods? Dried fruit, such as apples and apricots are typically packaged with 500 to 1,000 ppm SO2.
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Why do I get reactions or headaches to some wines. What can I do?

    The vast majority of people report little or no problems when drinking wine. Some people do, however, and usually falsely blame it on sulfites. Sulfites are rarely the cause. Chemists have found over 300 naturally occurring chemicals in wine so it's not surprising that some of them cause headaches or allergic reactions in some people. The problem is that these situations are very idiosyncratic: different people react to different chemicals. To make matters worse, some of these chemicals are present to a greater degree in some wines but not in others. One usually can't generalize that "white wines" or "California wines" are the culprit. Some people react more to red wines than whites. Histamines are usually present to a greater degree in reds than whites, but so are many other chemicals. Sulfites are more common in white wines than in reds. Anthocyanins, minerals and other organic materials are present in both. Unfortunately, there are no good scientific studies on this subject. Some migraine sufferers react to tannins and should stick to whites or soft reds. (Beaujolais, Dolcetto, most Pinot Noir, less expensive Merlot. Other red wines should be fully mature or aged.) Curiously, in France, people tend to report more problems after drinking white wines. In the U.S., more problems are reported with red wines. It's nearly impossible to predict which wines will bother you and which will not. In my experience, however, the red wines least likely to cause you problems are Pinot Noirs (also red Burgundies). The white wines least likely to be problematical are Sauvignon Blancs (also Fumé Blanc, Pouilly Fumé, & Sancerre). If you suffer from headaches and/or flushed skin when drinking wine, try drinking a cup of black tea before you drink the wine. If you will be drinking over the course of an evening, have another cup or two of black tea during the evening. Quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in black tea, significantly inhibits the headache/flush response (which is an inflammatory effect from histamines), according to Tareq Khan, M.D., a pain expert with St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas. If the problem you suffer from is bloating due to alcohol's dehydrating and water retention effects, try munching on magnesium-rich snacks like dark chocolate and unsalted nuts, according to Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. Headaches and hangovers can be minimized by making sure you 1) eat well before or while you drink, 2) get a good night's sleep the night before drinking, 3) drink a lot of water during the evening, 4) drink good wine, not schlock, and 5) limit the amount you drink. Allergies are allergies, however. There's not much you can do to prevent them except perhaps take allergy medications. Most of these warn against combining with alcohol, so consult your doctor first. Most people with allergies can usually find wines which do not bother them. Experiment with small amounts of various wines, and then stick with the ones that you like and that don't bother you.

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I get reactions to red wines. What can I do?

   "RWH" (red wine headache) can be reduced or even prevented by taking one aspirin one hour before drinking red wine. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprophin are not as effective. Nor is taking the aspirin after a headache has begun. You must take the aspirin an hour before drinking. In 1981 Herbert Kaufman, M.D., reported that the prophylactic ingestion of aspirin prevented the red wine headache syndrome, RWH, (Lancet 1981; 1: 1263). He also noted that once RWH begins, aspirin has little or no effect in altering the headache. Five years later, in a non-controlled study, Kaufman reported that aspirin inhibited the immediate and late phases of RWH, and the proposed mechanism was through interruption of prostaglandin synthetase (Immunology and Allergy Practice; 7: 279-84). In a new controlled study, Kaufman and Dwight Starr, M.D., Mt. Zion Hospital and Medical Center, examined, through blind evaluation, various inhibitors of prostaglandin synthetase (IPS) drugs, aspirin, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprophen, to test if the RWH could be prevented by the prophylactic use of these specific medications. During the first stage, twelve subjects (nine females and three males) with a history of RWH were challenged with red wine, and all experienced RWH. The subjects returned one week later, stage two, and were given inhibitors of prostaglandin synthetase or placebo one hour prior to wine ingestion. The two who received the placebo were not protected. Kaufman and Starr reported that ten of the subjects who were premedicated failed to develop the RWH; two given Acetaminophen developed a "second phase'' RWH 6-10 hours after wine ingestion. Kaufman and Starr conclude that RWH may be due to a metabolic defect and corrected by prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors, but mechanisms of correction remain obscure. If big red wines continue to be a problem for you, switch to lighter reds such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, dry rosés, or (gasp) white wines. For a little more information, click here.

Source: H. Kaufman and D. Starr, Prevention of the Red Wine Headache (RWH); A Blind Controlled Study. In New Advances in Headache Research, 2nd edition, ed. F. Clifford Rose. Smith-Gordon, 1991.
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When is it appropriate to serve a blush wine?

   The wine snob's answer would be that it is never appropriate to serve blush wines. The reality is that many people like these wines and that is fine. My personal view is that blush wines are only an introduction to wine. Good wine is meant to go with food. Blush wines are, for the most part, too sweet to really accompany food (They can be appropriate with hot and spicy dishes, however). Many Americans have been raised on the Coke ethic and expect sweetness (and, gasp, ice cubes!) in their drinks. However, the more one gets into wine and especially into the wine/food synergy, the more one finds out that with just a few exceptions, sweet drinks dull the sense of taste and don't synergize with food. It's the crisp acidity of a dry wine that seems to bring out the nuances of food. If you are still a blush drinker, I would urge you to explore other options. You don't have to go cold turkey into austere, dry, tart, or tannic wines. There are many stops midway. For example, there are some wonderful dry (or softly dry) rosé wines available, although some may be hard to find. Deloach makes a lovely dry White Zinfandel; Simi makes a rosé of Cabernet; Robert Sinsky and Sanford make very special Vin Gris from Pinot Noir grapes; McDowell makes a tasty Grenache Rosé. In addition, there are many very fine dry French Rosé wines such as those from Provence. Prices range from $8 - $20. There are even some quality rosés from Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Cotes du Rhone, Italy, Chile, and Spain that are mostly dry. Browse through our Sort of New section for possibilities. Other wines that you might explore are the Alsatian wines, which are not overly dry (but not sweet). Pinot Blanc is an especially nice and well priced Alsatian varietal, but a Gewürztraminer, Tokay, or Riesling would also be of interest. American Gewürztraminers tend to be a bit too sweet, but there are exceptions. Look for American Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. There are some drier German wines to try. "Kabinet" wines will be just slightly sweet, whereas "halbtrocken" wines will be almost dry. There are some softer style California Chardonnays. Look for Mountain View, Alderbrook, Raymond Reserve or even the Fetzer Sundial. Another possibility is a dry (sec) Vouvray from France's Loire Valley or an American dry Chenin Blanc. Of course we would appreciate your looking for these wines at Beekman's!

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Where can I find general information about wine?

   Much of the info on-line is either very commercial, very slanted, or for wine geeks. For some good basic information on this site, click here. In addition, the following sites should be useful:

I also recommend that you purchase Wine for Dummies and any book by Hugh Johnson. Another great book is Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine. Any two or all three of these books will take you a long way in your search for wine knowledge. Of course, book knowledge alone is insufficient. You must taste. It would be helpful to find other like minded people in your area to get together with. That way you could split the costs of some of the better wines and get to experience a wider range of wines than you could on your own. You will also get other opinions. If you live in the area of Bergen or Passaic Counties in NJ, contact us about tasting groups. If not, your local wine shop may be able to help you. Another source is a good introductory wine course. Check with your local adult schools and community colleges. In Bergen County, NJ, I offer an introductory wine course every September and an "advanced" course in February/March. Good luck on your vinous excursion. Believe me, it is a lot of fun and rewarding if you don't get carried away and don't take sources like the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker too seriously. Most people treat them like Gospel. The only Gospel is YOUR taste, not some expert's. There's an interesting and amusing article on the stages that wine drinkers may go through on this web page. Please remember these key points: 1) There are no right or wrongs regarding taste. Your opinion is just as valid as some "experts." 2) Beware the guru syndrome where people assume that the Robert Parkers and Wine Spectators of the world know all. Wine appreciation is subjective. Don't rely on the so called gurus to tell you what is good. Every "guru" has his or her own taste. It may not match yours. 3) Be open to other possibilities. There are many other worthy experiences besides Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay. 4) A wine's finish and its internal harmony are what separate the women from the girls. The longer the finish (assuming it's a pleasant one), the better the wine. The better wines also have a harmony or balance between their elements, such that no one component stands out above the others. 5) It's easy to appreciate fruit, but serious wine is based on structure first (acidity, alcohol, and tannin) with fruit hanging on the structural support. In analyzing a wine, look at its structure, balance, and finish - not just the fruit!

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Where can I get information about making wine at home?

   I tried to make my own wine many years ago. It was a disaster each time. Terrible stuff! The lesson I learned is that you can buy better and cheaper commercial wine than you can make. However, there are certainly people out there who do it reasonably well (I've never tasted a home-made wine that I would say was really good) and have a lot of fun doing it. I'm afraid I don't have any direct information for you, but there are numerous "How To" books in any good library or bookstore. On the net, check out: 

   If you do decide to go ahead, my advice would be to 1) Be fanatical about cleanliness. It's all too easy to get bacterial spoilage. The alternative is to heavily sulfite your wines and then they will taste like burnt matches. 2) Be very fussy about the grapes you get and pick them over very carefully, discarding those with any sign of spoilage. Make sure they are cool before you press them.

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How long should wine age?

   You've asked a question that is deceptively simple. The basic answer is: "it depends." 95% of all wines are made to be drunk within a year or two of their release and do not require aging. The other 5%, of course, are the better wines. Most whites are ready to drink upon release, but some of them will improve with aging (especially good white Burgundies and a few California Chardonnays such as Chalone, Grgich, and Montelena as well as better German whites). This is an oversimplification, but whites with good acidity tend to age well, while soft, low acid and/or heavily oaked wines do not. There are many benefits to aging the better whites (additional complexity and richness), but there are also some risks. That is part of the fun. Wine is like other aspects of life: no risk, no reward! With reds, it depends on varietal, growing conditions, and winery techniques. Again acidity is very important for ageability, but so is tannin. Cabernet and Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco) generally have lots of tannin, so they tend to require aging. Of course there are exceptions. Zinfandels have a bit less tannin and will age for a few years, but don't over do it, especially if they are high in alcohol. Merlot and Pinot Noir generally have much less tannin (again, there are exceptions), so these wines generally require only short term aging. Generally, less expensive wines (under $15) are made for immediate to near term consumption. Many, but not all, of the more expensive wines will benefit from some bottle age. For a bit more information on this subject, check out "Wine components and aging".

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What does air do to wine? How long should a wine "breathe"?

   Wine exposed to air via a loose or nonexistent cork spoils basically because the fruit components oxidize. Oxidation, as you probably know more than I (it's been 30+ years since I took a chemistry course), involves a chemical reaction where oxygen molecules attach to certain other large and, in this case, organic molecules. Oxidation occurs VERY GRADUALLY when a new wine is maturing in cask as well as in the bottle as a wine ages. These slow changes are beneficial and are part of the maturation process, allowing some of the molecules typical of very young wine to gradually change into molecules more typical of mature wines. But a rapid oxidation, due to too much air getting to the wine, spoils the fruit components of the wine and turns the wine brown. This is why good wineries go to great lengths to minimize air contact with the must (crushed grape skins and juice), the fermenting wine, and wine as it ages in the winery. Some use inert gas such as nitrogen or argon to protect the must/wine from oxygen. How long to let a wine "breathe" is a controversial topic, since there are those who claim it is of no benefit. Most wine lovers, however, believe that it is helpful to aerate the majority of young wines. Basically, aeration artificially speeds up the maturation process. It should only be used if you suspect a wine is not yet at its peak of drinkability (never on a very old bottle). Aeration allows some of the aroma molecules to become airborne, so you can smell them. It also softens a tough, tannic wine to some extent by causing the tannin molecules to clump together, exposing less surface area to your mouth. There may be other subtle, yet beneficial, chemical changes that occur with aeration. Decanting a bottle (pouring it into a container and then perhaps back into the original bottle) is a much more efficient way to aerate a wine than simply pulling the cork. Generally, the further a wine is from its peak drinkability (i.e., the younger it is), the longer it should air. However, if a wine needs more than a few hours of aeration, bad things (serious oxidation) could start to happen and you probably shouldn't have opened it yet. Vintage Port is an exception. It is often beneficial to open and decant a young vintage port the day before you plan to serve it. Most people only think about airing red wine, but I am a firm believer that many white wines (especially young white Burgundies and some California Chardonnays) also benefit from short term aeration.

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I'm bewildered when confronting a wine list in a restaurant. Can you help?

   If it's any consolation, most people share your problem. A little wine knowledge goes a long way to helping you or at least giving you some confidence. Keep in mind that most restaurant people know very little about wine. Sometimes they are told to push certain wines simply because the restaurant makes more money on those. Sometimes they can be genuinely helpful. The more information you can give them about your taste preferences, the more the second type can help you.

  1. The first thing you should do is assess the wine list. There are three types of restaurant wine lists. The first type is found most often. It consists of mostly (boring!) common brands such as Bolla, Woodbridge, Beringer, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, a Beaujolais, and Mouton Cadet. It may include a few French wines from a known shipper such as B & G (very mediocre!), Jadot, Latour, Drouhin, etc. It probably also includes a well known Cabernet and Chardonnay, such as Beringer, Mondavi, or Simi. Not that these are bad wines. They are not. They indicate, however, that the restaurateur knows little about wine and that he/she lets the wine distributor put the list together. Safe, but not exciting. Don't expect much good advice here. The second type will feature big name wines (lots of famous Bordeaux, Burgundy and California names) at high prices. They may have some less expensive wines that are worthy and you may get some good advice. The third type of list is the best: generally small, but very well chosen. It will feature grapes that you may not have heard of, such as Grüner Veltliner and Viognier as well as unfamiliar places, such as Languedoc, Saint Chinian, Chinon, etc. The wines will be in all price ranges, including a reasonable selection in the $20 - $30 range. Many of the wines will come from areas that are off the beaten path, such as the southwest part of France, Provence, Spain, Austria, or Argentina. Take a stab or ask for advice. You will probably get something interesting and different. It will almost definitely go well with the food.

  2. Decide on the price range you are comfortable with. Be honest! One trick is to ask for a glass of the house wine as an aperitif. If it is good you can feel confident in ordering one of the cheaper wines on the list. If not, go for something mid-range. Many advisors suggest that you never order the cheapest or even the second cheapest wine on the list, but this isn't a problem if the list is well chosen.

  3. Ask for help. The sommelier, wine buyer, or someone familiar with the list may well be a wine enthusiast. You'll be able to tell. Wine people thrive on wine talk. State your food choices, wine preferences, dislikes, and price range. Don't be shy. Ask which are the best values! Wine people will appreciate the challenge and steer you to a good choice.

   By the way, many restaurants charge too much money for a bottle of wine. Restaurateurs need to make a profit because they have lots of overhead. But charging double and even triple the retail price of a wine (which itself includes a modest profit) simply discourages patrons from having a bottle of wine with dinner (or a second bottle). In New Jersey, at least they have the excuse that they had to pay a lot of money (often several hundred thousands of dollars) to buy a liquor license plus pay a fee each year, but in most states they just have to pay a modest yearly fee. If you are disgusted by the prices on a wine list, don't order any wine! And tell the owner why you didn't!We all benefit from feedback. Restaurant owners hear plenty about their food and service, but they don't hear enough about their wine prices. The ones who do price their wines realistically should be complimented. If you have a special bottle that you would like to bring to a restaurant that serves wine, call ahead and ask them if it's OK and what their "corkage" fee is. Most good restaurants are accommodating. Since we live in NJ, we can generally avoid the problem by going to BYO restaurants and bringing a wine we have chosen ourselves ahead of time. This way, we get better wine for much less money. We generally bring a back-up wine, just in case. Also, although they don't advertise the fact, may restaurants that sell wine will allow you to bring your own wine and charge you a nominal corkage fee. Call ahead to find out. If you do bring your own wine, please bring an interesting one. There is nothing more disheartening than looking around a restaurant to see that almost everyone has brought a bottle of White Zinfandel or a boring "name brand" wine. Actually, there is something more disheartening: a table with no wine!

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I have an old special bottle I've been saving. How much is it worth?

   The short answer: It doesn't matter. Open it and drink it! Many people are saving a special wine for that special occasion or are just saving it because they think it will get better and better. Often this is a mistake and the wine is shot (well past its peak) by the time it is opened or it ends up getting left to the children. This is especially true if the special wine is a Champagne! Most Champagnes are ready to drink when released and do not improve significantly. They will last a few years. Only the very best Champagnes actually improve with age and even these will improve only for a few years. If well stored, the maximum these sparklers will still be good is 10 years after bottling (14-17 years after the vintage date). All wines have a finite life span. That potential life span is determined by the type of wine it is, the vintage, and the way it was made. That life span is extended if your storage conditions are ideal (constant 55 F., high humidity, no light or vibration), but it is still finite. Many people keep waiting for the perfect occasion (which never seems to come). Don't fall into that trap! If the wine was a gift, you don't know how it was stored before you received it. It's better to drink a wine a little too soon than a little too late. As for value, this is another trap. Some people think that their bottle has become too valuable to drink! Silly!! Wine is meant to be drunk and enjoyed, not collected and bragged about. Or, heaven forbid, resold! People who invest in wine with the thought of selling it later at a profit generally know little about wine and certainly have no appreciation for it. To them I say: "stick to pork bellies (whatever they are), copper, and orange juice futures. Leave our wine alone and stop driving up the prices!"

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What is the proper temperature at which to serve wine?

   Although there is room for individual preference, my strong opinion is that most people drink their red wines too warm and their white wines too cold. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, alcohol molecules become more active relative to the other components in a wine that is too warm. The result is that the wine is thrown off balance: you taste the heat of the alcohol over the fruit and other components. The alcohol then tends to overemphasize any bitterness in the wine. The absolute maximum temperature that red wine should be served at: 67 F. My preferred temperature: 62 - 65 F. Don't be afraid to put a bottle of red wine in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes (especially in the summer) or in an ice bucket for 2 - 3 minutes if your room temperature is 70 - 75 F. Light, fruity, non-tannic reds can take a bit more cooling if desired: upper 50's Most people serve white wine at or near refrigerator temperature (or even colder, if they do the ice bucket routine). At this temperature the fruit is stunted. That's fine if you have a lousy wine. Over-chilling it may make it half palatable by hiding its defects. But it's a shame to do that to a good white wine. Time and again I've noticed that a good white wine gets better as it warms up in the glass. That's because you can taste the components. Absolute minimum temperature that good white wine should be served at: 45 F. My preferred temperature: 48 - 52 F. If you've refrigerated your white wine, just take it out of the refrigerator for, say, 30 minutes before serving. The same is true for Champagne. Ice buckets are great to briefly cool down a wine (red, white, or bubbly) that has gotten too warm on the table, but no serious wine lover should tolerate leaving a bottle on ice.

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I can't finish a bottle in one night. How can I save what's left?

   Wine changes once it is exposed to air. This change is a chemical reaction and may be beneficial in the short run (breathing or decanting), but after 6 hours or so at room temperature, most wines will start to degrade. By the next day the fruit and aroma are generally quite subdued. Within a few days, the wine will be spoiled. This process cannot be stopped, but it can be slowed dramatically, allowing you to finish and enjoy a bottle several days after you opened it. The keys here are air and temperature. More specifically, it is the oxygen in the air that degrades wine. Anything you do to reduce the contact between the wine and oxygen will prolong the life of the wine. Fortunately, there are several things you can try. First, get several bottle stoppers. The cheap ($1) ones are just as good as the $5 ones. We sell the cheapies at Beekman's. Both are better than trying to reinsert the cork.

  1. If you want to spend lots of money, you can buy a nitrogen gas replacement system that forces oxygen out of the bottle and replaces it with nitrogen ($100 - $3000).

  2. I didn't think so. You can spend $10 for a product called Private Preserve. It is a can of inert gas (mostly Argon) that, when sprayed into a partially full bottle of wine, places a layer of gas between the wine and the oxygen in the air, thus preventing the oxygen from contacting the wine. I use this at home with very good results. A bottle will be fine for 2-3 days. The can says it is good for 120 uses. That is a bit optimistic, but a can does last a long time and it's a cheap method. We sell Private Preserve at Beekman's.

  3. Refrigerating a wine slows down the chemical reaction that spoils wine. Both red and white wines should be refrigerated after they are opened. Be sure to let the wine warm up a bit before serving, especially if it is a red. This technique is OK for 1 - 2 days. You can combinerefrigeration with some of the other techniques for even better results.

  4. The Vacu-Vin and other brands are reverse pumps that pump air out of a bottle, leaving a partial vacuum. Many people use these devices and we sell them at Beekman's, but we really don't recommend them. They still leave plenty of oxygen in the bottle because only a slight vacuum is formed. They also tend to suck out the aromatic molecules and any hint of CO2, leaving some wines a bit flat and definitely lacking in aroma. Never use a Vacu-vin on a bottle of Champagne.

  5. Buy a half bottle of wine. Drink it and wash out the bottle. When you next open a regular size bottle, pour half of it immediately into the half bottle. Fill it to just below the top. Seal it and you'll have basically no air in the half bottle. The wine will last 3-5 days, perhaps longer if you also refrigerate it.

  6. Buy marbles. Wash and dry them. After you are finished pouring wine from a bottle, drop marbles into the bottle, until the liquid level comes up just below the top. Again, seal the bottle and you'll have basically no air inside. Of course, be careful not to ingest the marbles when you next open the bottle. The wine will keep for several days. When done with the bottle, wash and reuse the marbles. No, I haven't lost my marbles. This really works! Sorry, we don't sell marbles at Beekman's.

  7. I've heard of putting a bottle in the freezer, but somehow I can't bring myself to recommend (or even try) this method.

   Whatever method(s) you try, don't try to keep a bottle for more than 4-5 days. Tawny Port and sweet Sherries, however, will keep a long time with no special attention. Vintage style Port and dry sherries will keep 2-4 weeks, the more attention the better. Champagne will lose a bit of its sparkle, but it will keep one day in the refrigerator with no special attention.

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chilled several bottles but only used one. Should I keep the cold bottle in the fridge?

Unless you plan to use the chilled (and I presume unopened) bottles in the next week or two, I would strongly suggest that you remove them from the refrigerator and store them in a cellar or at cool room temperature. Refrigerator conditions are too cold and too dry for long term storage of wine. Warming them up won't hurt them.

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Where and how should I store my wines?

   Where and how to store wines depends on how long you expect to keep them and how serious you are about collecting high quality wine. Most good wines (especially reds, but also some whites) will benefit from short to medium term aging (a few years), so I strongly recommend that you age at least some wine. Never, however, store wine or Champagne in a refrigerator for more than a week or two: it's too cold and too dry! The ideal storage conditions for wine and Champagne are:

  1. A constant 55 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. High humidity (around 70%)
  3. No sunlight and not much artificial light
  4. Little or no vibration

   Most of us do not have these perfect conditions. I certainly don't. Just be aware that the further from ideal your conditions are, the faster the wines will age. Also, they will probably not reach the same pinnacle of fabulousness as bottles that are perfectly stored. Don't be discouraged. Even storage under less than ideal conditions will be of great benefit to your wines. I've seen different figures in print. Some report that for every 18 degrees F above the ideal temperature, the rate at which wines age doubles. Others say the rate is 8 times! This means that storing a wine for 15 years at 73 F is the equivalent of aging it for 30 - 120 years at 55 F. There aren't many wines that last that long. Whatever the actual figure, the changes in a bottle of wine as it ages are essentially chemical reactions: the speed of these reactions is a function of the temperature. Above 80 F, however, the fruit is actually degraded and wines tend to really get "cooked." For most of us, a house basement works just fine, especially if it is completely or mostly underground. Temperatures will fluctuate with the seasons, but the changes will be gradual. What hurts wine the most are temperatures much over 75 and rapid fluctuations in temperature. Most basements in the northern part of the country will range from around 50 in the winter to around 70 in the summer with daily fluctuations of 1 degree or less. Good enough!

If you don't have a basement, you have a problem. Even if you air condition in the summer, your average temperatures will probably be on the high side and you will almost certainly have more short term fluctuation in temperature than is desirable. You can still store wine, but don't plan to keep them for years and years. Long term storage will require an investment in a wine storage unit. These start at a 35 bottle capacity and go up to many hundreds of bottles. Prices range from about $400 to several thousand dollars. If you are torn between two sizes, go for the bigger one. It doesn't cost much more and you will probably end up needing it. If you want to get serious about aging wine, have the room, and are fairly handy, you can build your own enclosed, temperature controlled, storage area. The minimum investment will be about $1000 but this will give you substantial storage space, at least several hundred bottles. Back to Top
I rarely spend more than $10 for wine. What do I get if I splurge for an expensive one?

   You certainly can find some good wines around $10. In fact, most of our monthly featured wines are in that neighborhood. But we have to kiss a lot of frogs to find those few princes, and so will you. When you plunk down $15 to $30 (or more), you greatly increase your odds of finding a truly remarkable wine - one with an evocative combination of intense aromas and flavors and a balance between its many elements. Ready to taste what that all means? Buy a good inexpensive, mass-produced wine. At the same time, splurge for a limited wine of the same grape variety from the same producer. This may carry the word "reserve" on the label or a single vineyard designation. Try the wines side by side, beginning with the less expensive bottle. You will see what you're paying for when you step up in price.

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Why do some wines cost $5 and others $50 or even more?

   There are many factors that determine the price of a wine. To make a wine at the low end of the spectrum, one needs economies of scale. We're talking about mass production on a large scale by a sizeable winery. In addition, the vines must be allowed to yield close to their maximum production (often 10-12 tons of fruit per acre, sometimes even more), the maximum juice from eacg grape must be extracted (i.e., the grapes will be pressed several times which releases bitter components into the juice), and they are often situated on cheaper land that is less suited to producing fine wine. For example, the land may be flatter, the microclimate may be too hot, or the soil may drain poorly. In contrast, a top quality wine cannot be mass produced. These wines are made on a small scale, often only a few hundred or a few thousand cases per year. Someone who makes only a few thousand cases a year (and who didn't inherit a fortune) must charge more for his/her wines. In addition, the grapes are often grown on more valuable land, adding to the capital investment. The land is often in a more marginal climate with less fertile soil and steeper slopes. Thus yields are naturally lower. In addition, the grower will reduce yields by severe pruning before the growing season begins and even clipping off grape bunches in the middle of the season. The resulting low production (usually 3 tons per acre or less, rarely more than 4, means the vines pack all their energies into fewer and therefore better grapes. The result is also a much greater cost of raw materials (the grapes).

To make a top wine also requires a larger investment in materials, time and often equipment. Expensive oak barrels must be purchased (the best must be imported from France at a cost of $600 per barrel!). In addition, the wine must be aged, so a larger facility is required and the winery generally isn't paid until 2-3 years after the harvest. Mass produced wines yield cash in less than a year. These are some of the many factors that determine the cost of a particular wine. In addition, there is the "what the market will bear" factor. The reality is that prices beyond the $25 - $30 range are based on the prestige and track record of the wine, not the cost of production.
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How can I remove red wine stains?

Red wine stains are easiest to remove if they are still wet. If you can't deal with the problem immediately, lay a wet towel over the carpet area or put the affected clothing to soak until you can treat it. The following methods work almost all of the time:

1. Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover - This is by far the most effective product we have found. It not only works almost every time on red wine stains, but it is also extremely effective on coffee, grape, grape juice, blueberry, pizza sauce, urine and grease stains! The Food & Wine editors said it “makes red-wine stains disappear - even from white linens, as we discovered for ourselves...” The Good Housekeeping Institute reported that “Wine Away works great on upholstery & carpet (even white fibers). ...it gets the red out of cotton and linen tablecloths too...” We sell a 12 oz bottle for only $10.99.

2. Blot stain with paper towel. Dowse stain area with club soda or seltzer. Blot again. Repeat dowsing and blotting. 3. Keep cheap white wine around. Blot stain with paper towel. Dowse stain area with white wine. Blot again. Repeat dowsing and blotting. This works because red and white wine have the same proteins (not to mention alcohol). 4. Blot stain with paper towel. Build a mound of salt over the stain. Let sit overnight. Vacuum in the morning. 5. Use spray (pump) carpet cleaner such as Resolve or Woolite. Soak for 3-5 minutes. Then dab with paper towels or clean rags, but don't rub. 6. Use Dri-Clean, an automotive product sold in many automotive departments. Results are impressive. 7. Use Quick & Brite, a product sold on many late night cable stations. Unlike the knives and other junk sold this way, this product works. 8. Other commercial products that work well are Spot Shot, DidiSeven and Dev-Tec . 9. The following home remedy from Consumer's Report works well on all materials except wool:
  • Make a paste using 1 part grated Fels-Naptha soap to 10 parts water. Using a white paper towel, blot the stained area with the paste. Move the towel to a clean section until no more of the stain transfers to it.

  • If necessary, do the same with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water.

  • If necessary, do the same with a solution of 1 tsp clear or white liquid dishwashing detergent to 1 cup water.

  • If necessary, do the same with a solution of 1 tsp enzyme detergent such as Tide with Bleach Alternative to 1 cup water.

  • Rinse with water.
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Do I really need different wine glasses for different wines?

     Absolutely not! You definitely need two types of glassware: one for Champagne and one for everything else. If you really want to knock yourself out, get three types, a flute for Champagne, a medium sized glass for white wine and a larger glass for red wine. Avoid the new stemless glasses that are being advertised. They look awful, and they will warm the wine too much. All glasses should be clear, plain glass. Colors, metal, and fancy cut crystal are not only unnecessary, they get in the way. Avoid them. Thin glass is much better than thick glass. The champagne glasses should be tall flutes, never the flat "sherbet" kind which dissipate the bubbles and leave no room for the aroma molecules to concentrate. Wine glasses should have a large bowl with the lip curved inward and a stem. The larger the bowl (up to a point), the more room to concentrate those aroma molecules. The Riedel Bordeaux glass is a great all around glass, but you needn't spend that much money (and they break very easily). There are numerous imitators that make a very competent glass. Remember, it should be large, thin, and unadorned. Also, never fill a wine glass more than 1/3 full (Champagne glasses can be filled 3/4 full, however).

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Why are there two different shapes of Champagne glasses, one tall, one short?

    The short, wide "sherbet" type of glass is beyond passé! Never use them for anything but dessert. They 1) dissipate the bubbles quickly so the Champagne goes flat; 2) they don't display the beautiful bubbles well; and 3) they leave no room for the aroma molecules to concentrate so you can smell the bouquet as well. Use the tall, thin "flute" shaped Champagne glass. It works beautifully to preserve and display the bubbles. In addition it leaves room so you can smell the wine better. Fill the flute 3/4 full. A trick to prevent the bubbles from foaming up and over the top of the glass is to pour a small amount in the glass, wait for the foam to subside, then pour the rest of the Champagne in. For you history buffs, the origin of the "sherbet" shaped glass is France where a glass blower honored Marie Antoinette, but creating the "sherbet" glass in the shape of her breast. I kid you not! I couldn't make this stuff up

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What is meant by a "dry" wine?

Technically, dryness in a wine is simply the absence of sugar. Hence, the opposite of a dry wine is a sweet wine. Many people commonly (and mistakenly) use the term to refer to wines whose naturally occurring acidity is apparent. People who generally drink sweet wines often refer to wines showing crisp acidity as "too dry." Acidity is present in all wines, but its extent varies. Generally, the riper the grapes were when harvested, the lower the acidity will be. Unripe grapes will be very high in acid. There is an ideal range for acidity. Too low and the wine will taste too soft and flabby and it will have very little finish. Too high and it will taste tart to the point of distinct sourness. That may be acceptable in a few very young wines such as Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, but generally real sourness is not a good sign. Sugar tends to mask acidity. That is, all wines have acidity, but sweet wines appear lower in acid than they really are.

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What does the phrase "table wine" on a bottle mean?

The term "table wine" does not imply quality or the lack thereof. Chateau Lafite Rothschild is a table wine that will set you back $200-$300 or more. Almaden Chablis is a table wine that costs around $4. (Of course, to some extent, you get what you pay for.) The term refers to the way the government taxes wines. There are only three categories: table wine, dessert wine, and sparkling wine. Within the table wine category, those wines with an alcohol listing of 14% and higher are taxed at a higher rate than other table wines.

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Are French wines better than California wines?

    Sweeping generalities are usually inaccurate. Certainly French wines have the image of being the world's best. Certainly many of the best wines in the world are French. That does not mean that all French wines are wonderful. In fact, there are many mediocre French wines and many outstanding wines from other countries, including the US, Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia and South Africa. Part of the problem is that people "raised" on the wines of a certain country take the style of that country's wines as the standard of comparison and all other wines suffer somewhat. For example, people raised on French wines often find American wines too soft and too fruity. That is because growing conditions in America are generally sunnier and warmer than in France. The grapes get riper and lower in acid and the wines reflect that difference. In addition, California wine makers tend to use oak to a greater extent than the French do, so many American wines appear "oaky" to the French palate. Conversely, those raised on American wines often find the French wines austere (less fruit filled) and "dry" (when they really mean higher in acidity). French wines usually age better because of their higher acidity and they thus develop the complexities that come with maturity. California wines generally have sufficient fruit to show well when they are relatively young and many don't improve with age. Some are more "French" in style and will greatly improve with age. Of course we are talking here about the better wines. Both inexpensive French and California wines are meant to be drunk young.

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Where can I get wine racks and other wine accessories? Try http://www.amazinguniverse.com Back to Top
What's with those warning labels on the back of every bottle?

Look at any bottle of wine made in the last 10 years or so and you will see a back label with the following information.

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems. The US government decided that we needed protection from ourselves. But why stop there? I’m sure there are additional warnings that would be even more helpful to an unsuspecting public. Here are a few suggestions. Write your congressperson! E-mail me additional suggestions.
  • Do not drink and ski.
  • Do not hit anyone over the head with a bottle.
  • Never use the neck of a bottle to clean out your ears.
  • Never use a bottle of wine as a ladder.
  • Do not drink alcohol while parachuting.
  • Do not drink alcohol while donating whole blood, platelets, or vital organs.
  • Never attempt to plug a bottle into an electrical outlet.
  • Never throw a bottle at the TV because a show is terrible.
  • Do not stick bottles into each nostril and your mouth at the same time. Suffocation may occur.
  • Do not spill red wine on clothing, furniture, pets, or large zoo animals.
  • Never boil wine and then place it between your legs while driving.
  • Never drink wine while you are driving a car, motorcycle, bicycle, tricycle, motor home, snowmobile, or a jet-ski.
  • Do not attempt to inhale wine.
  • Do not put wine in your mouth faster than you can swallow it.
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I'm interested in your wine club program, but your featured wines aren't familiar. Why?

I'm actually pleased that you don't recognize many of our featured wines. There are two reasons why. 1) The familiar wines you tend to see in supermarkets and discount stores are name brands that are designed to appeal to the masses. Their producers take no chances. They don't want to offend anyone. What you get is bland! What you get are the Chevy's, Budweisers, and Coors of the wine world! We search for wines with character. 2) Most people who subscribe to our newsletter, order our wine selections for themselves, or are the recipients of our wine selections as gifts are interested in trying new and interesting wines, not wines that they can find anywhere!

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What's with Brandy/Cognac? I heard that it's related to wine.

     Indeed it is. Brandy is made from distilled wine. Whereas whiskey, gin, and vodka are made by distilling fermented grains, brandy is made by distilling fermented grape juice. The best brandies come from two different regions in France: Armagnac (the original district, where the wine goes through the still only once) and Cognac (a newer, but better-known region, where the wine is distilled twice). The young, rough, raw brandies cannot be drunk when they come off the still. They require aging in oak barrels to tame and smooth them. The longer they are aged, the smoother and more complex (and more expensive) they will become.      Cognac is graded by age, but many of the best producers don't use the official grades, because their standards are so much higher than the legal minimums. VS stands for "very special," but it's not at all special. VS Cognacs must be aged a minimum of 2 1/2 years, which still leaves them pretty rough. This is the lowest grade of Cognac and is really only suitable for mixing. VSOP stands for "very superior old pale." It must be aged a minimum of 4 1/2 years. These are light and fresh and a big step up from the VS. This is entry-level sipping Cognac, but only the best of the VSOPs are good enough for sipping. XO stands for "extra old." These must be aged a minimum of 6 1/2 years, but most of them are older, some of them much older (20 years or more). These are sipping Cognacs. The term "Napoleon" has no meaning and can be applied to the cheapest or the best brandies.

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How much wine do you get out of a barrel? From an acre of land?

One Small (barrique) = 60 gallons which is approximately 25 cases or 300 bottles (750ml) One Ton of Grapes = approximately 700 bottles of wine One Acre of a low yield (high quality) Vineyards = 2-4 tons (116-233 cases or 1400 to 2800 bottles), sometimes even less  One Acre of high yield (for less expensive wines) Vineyards = 10 tons (583 cases or 7000 bottles)  sometimes even more

For more wine Q&A, click hereIf you have a question that has not been covered in this section,ask us! We'll try to send you a straight answer. Beware that we (actually, my name is Joel Mitchel) have strong opinions and there are many other opinions out there.


What are sulfites? How can I avoid them? Why are they on some wine labels and not on others?

    In its infinite wisdom, the US Government decided in the late 1980's that a warning label should be placed on all wines bottled after 1990 warning the one person in a million who is severely allergic to sulfites. Sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation. The very yeast that convert grape sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide also produce sulfites. (In fact, sulfites are also a natural byproduct of most living organisms. At this very moment, your body is producing some sulfites!). As such, they are present to some extent in every wine. For thousands of years, wine makers have been adding additional sulfites to wines to protect them from spoilage. Most modern wine producers use sulfites twice, first to kill wild strains of yeast and bacteria that might impart off flavors and later in the process to protect young (especially white) wine from spoilage due to oxidation, etc. A few "organic" type winemakers today are not adding any sulfites and so do not have to use the warning labels (the natural occurring stuff dissipates with time) if the levels are below 10 PPM (parts per million). Some of these wines are good and we carry a small selection of them. For more info, click here. If you have drunk wine and are not dead, you are probably not allergic to sulfites! If you do react to some wines, it is probably something else and not sulfites. These reactions are very idiosyncratic and it's nearly impossible to predict which wines will bother you and which will not. In my experience, however, the red wines least likely to cause you problems are Pinot Noirs (also red Burgundies). The white wines least likely to be problematical are Sauvignon Blancs (also Fumé Blanc, Pouilly Fumé & Sancerre).

Want more information on sulfites? Read on:

  1. What are sulfites and why are they used? Sulfur dioxide(SO2) is a naturally occurring type of sulfite. Mined sulfur is heated into a liquid and used to protect wine from oxidizing. The same method has been used to protect wine from oxidization for centuries. Sulfur dioxide is used to protect the wine's character by inhibiting the growth of molds and bacteria and by stopping oxidation (browning) of the wine. In grape juice or wine, sulfur dioxide reacts with water molecules to form sulfites. A sulfiting agent can be added to foods and beverages in the form of sulfur dioxide (a gas) or as potassium bisulfite or metabisulfite (powders). In solution, all forms act the same way, releasing sulfur dioxide.
  2. Is the addition of sulfites to wine a new procedure? No. There is strong evidence that sulfur dioxide was used by Egyptians and has been in regular use since Roman times. European winemakers have used sulfur dioxide to prevent wine spoilage for centuries.
  3. Are there also naturally occurring sulfites in wines? Yes. Wine yeasts naturally produce up to 20 parts per million of SO2 during fermentation. There are also naturally occurring sulfites in other foods. In addition, our own bodies produce about 1,000 mg (!) of sulfites a day through normal biochemical processes.
  4. When did the 'Contains Sulfites' label become mandatory on wines? In 1988, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ruling required all imported and domestic wines, beers and spirits bottled after 1990 must carry the label if they meet or exceed a threshold 10 parts per million sulfites. Because of naturally occurring sulfites, many wines fall under this ruling, regardless of whether sulfites have been added.
  5. Why the Concern? The concern over sulfites in the United States arose with the use of extremely high levels of SO2 (1,000 to 3,000 ppm) on salad bars to prevent browning of fruits and head lettuce. This use of sulfites resulted in asthmatic reactions--some serious. In 1986 the FDA banned the use of sulfites on fresh fruits and vegetables while other foods and beverages must now be labeled if they contain sulfites--even those which contain very low levels.
  6. What percentage of the population do sulfites affect? The reaction is a chemical sensitivity found in an extremely small percentage of the population. The majority of sulfite-sensitive people are asthmatic, but represent less than 3% of the asthmatics. In addition, there are a significant number of people with a genedic blood deficiency called G6PD deficiency. These people will have reactions to sulfites that range from minor to life-threatening. They should avoid foods, beverages, and even medications with high levels of sulfites as well as some foods in the legume family. We have sold low/no sulfite wines to sulfite-sensitive people, always asking for their comments, and have received nothing but positive feedback.
  7. What is the sulfite level in Badger Mountain wines? Grape fermentations naturally generate about 8-10 parts per million sulfites, so no other additions are made for four to five months. At the time of bottling, sulfur dioxide levels are adjusted to 20-30 parts per million. In addition they produce a line of wines with only naturally occurring sulfites--no sulfites are added. Wines actually need one of the lowest levels of sulfites to ensure stability.  Because of wine's alcohol content, naturally high acidity, and low pH, only low levels of SO2 need to be added to achieve stability.
  8. How does this level compare with other foods? Dried fruit, such as apples and apricots are typically packaged with 500 to 1,000 ppm SO2.
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Why do I get reactions or headaches to some wines. What can I do?

    The vast majority of people report little or no problems when drinking wine. Some people do, however, and usually falsely blame it on sulfites. Sulfites are rarely the cause. Chemists have found over 300 naturally occurring chemicals in wine so it's not surprising that some of them cause headaches or allergic reactions in some people. The problem is that these situations are very idiosyncratic: different people react to different chemicals. To make matters worse, some of these chemicals are present to a greater degree in some wines but not in others. One usually can't generalize that "white wines" or "California wines" are the culprit. Some people react more to red wines than whites. Histamines are usually present to a greater degree in reds than whites, but so are many other chemicals. Sulfites are more common in white wines than in reds. Anthocyanins, minerals and other organic materials are present in both. Unfortunately, there are no good scientific studies on this subject. Some migraine sufferers react to tannins and should stick to whites or soft reds. (Beaujolais, Dolcetto, most Pinot Noir, less expensive Merlot. Other red wines should be fully mature or aged.) Curiously, in France, people tend to report more problems after drinking white wines. In the U.S., more problems are reported with red wines. It's nearly impossible to predict which wines will bother you and which will not. In my experience, however, the red wines least likely to cause you problems are Pinot Noirs (also red Burgundies). The white wines least likely to be problematical are Sauvignon Blancs (also Fumé Blanc, Pouilly Fumé, & Sancerre). If you suffer from headaches and/or flushed skin when drinking wine, try drinking a cup of black tea before you drink the wine. If you will be drinking over the course of an evening, have another cup or two of black tea during the evening. Quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in black tea, significantly inhibits the headache/flush response (which is an inflammatory effect from histamines), according to Tareq Khan, M.D., a pain expert with St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas. If the problem you suffer from is bloating due to alcohol's dehydrating and water retention effects, try munching on magnesium-rich snacks like dark chocolate and unsalted nuts, according to Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. Headaches and hangovers can be minimized by making sure you 1) eat well before or while you drink, 2) get a good night's sleep the night before drinking, 3) drink a lot of water during the evening, 4) drink good wine, not schlock, and 5) limit the amount you drink. Allergies are allergies, however. There's not much you can do to prevent them except perhaps take allergy medications. Most of these warn against combining with alcohol, so consult your doctor first. Most people with allergies can usually find wines which do not bother them. Experiment with small amounts of various wines, and then stick with the ones that you like and that don't bother you.

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I get reactions to red wines. What can I do?

   "RWH" (red wine headache) can be reduced or even prevented by taking one aspirin one hour before drinking red wine. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprophin are not as effective. Nor is taking the aspirin after a headache has begun. You must take the aspirin an hour before drinking. In 1981 Herbert Kaufman, M.D., reported that the prophylactic ingestion of aspirin prevented the red wine headache syndrome, RWH, (Lancet 1981; 1: 1263). He also noted that once RWH begins, aspirin has little or no effect in altering the headache. Five years later, in a non-controlled study, Kaufman reported that aspirin inhibited the immediate and late phases of RWH, and the proposed mechanism was through interruption of prostaglandin synthetase (Immunology and Allergy Practice; 7: 279-84). In a new controlled study, Kaufman and Dwight Starr, M.D., Mt. Zion Hospital and Medical Center, examined, through blind evaluation, various inhibitors of prostaglandin synthetase (IPS) drugs, aspirin, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprophen, to test if the RWH could be prevented by the prophylactic use of these specific medications. During the first stage, twelve subjects (nine females and three males) with a history of RWH were challenged with red wine, and all experienced RWH. The subjects returned one week later, stage two, and were given inhibitors of prostaglandin synthetase or placebo one hour prior to wine ingestion. The two who received the placebo were not protected. Kaufman and Starr reported that ten of the subjects who were premedicated failed to develop the RWH; two given Acetaminophen developed a "second phase'' RWH 6-10 hours after wine ingestion. Kaufman and Starr conclude that RWH may be due to a metabolic defect and corrected by prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors, but mechanisms of correction remain obscure. If big red wines continue to be a problem for you, switch to lighter reds such as Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, dry rosés, or (gasp) white wines. For a little more information, click here.

Source: H. Kaufman and D. Starr, Prevention of the Red Wine Headache (RWH); A Blind Controlled Study. In New Advances in Headache Research, 2nd edition, ed. F. Clifford Rose. Smith-Gordon, 1991.
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When is it appropriate to serve a blush wine?

   The wine snob's answer would be that it is never appropriate to serve blush wines. The reality is that many people like these wines and that is fine. My personal view is that blush wines are only an introduction to wine. Good wine is meant to go with food. Blush wines are, for the most part, too sweet to really accompany food (They can be appropriate with hot and spicy dishes, however). Many Americans have been raised on the Coke ethic and expect sweetness (and, gasp, ice cubes!) in their drinks. However, the more one gets into wine and especially into the wine/food synergy, the more one finds out that with just a few exceptions, sweet drinks dull the sense of taste and don't synergize with food. It's the crisp acidity of a dry wine that seems to bring out the nuances of food. If you are still a blush drinker, I would urge you to explore other options. You don't have to go cold turkey into austere, dry, tart, or tannic wines. There are many stops midway. For example, there are some wonderful dry (or softly dry) rosé wines available, although some may be hard to find. Deloach makes a lovely dry White Zinfandel; Simi makes a rosé of Cabernet; Robert Sinsky and Sanford make very special Vin Gris from Pinot Noir grapes; McDowell makes a tasty Grenache Rosé. In addition, there are many very fine dry French Rosé wines such as those from Provence. Prices range from $8 - $20. There are even some quality rosés from Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Cotes du Rhone, Italy, Chile, and Spain that are mostly dry. Browse through our Sort of New section for possibilities. Other wines that you might explore are the Alsatian wines, which are not overly dry (but not sweet). Pinot Blanc is an especially nice and well priced Alsatian varietal, but a Gewürztraminer, Tokay, or Riesling would also be of interest. American Gewürztraminers tend to be a bit too sweet, but there are exceptions. Look for American Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. There are some drier German wines to try. "Kabinet" wines will be just slightly sweet, whereas "halbtrocken" wines will be almost dry. There are some softer style California Chardonnays. Look for Mountain View, Alderbrook, Raymond Reserve or even the Fetzer Sundial. Another possibility is a dry (sec) Vouvray from France's Loire Valley or an American dry Chenin Blanc. Of course we would appreciate your looking for these wines at Beekman's!

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Where can I find general information about wine?

   Much of the info on-line is either very commercial, very slanted, or for wine geeks. For some good basic information on this site, click here. In addition, the following sites should be useful:

I also recommend that you purchase Wine for Dummies and any book by Hugh Johnson. Another great book is Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine. Any two or all three of these books will take you a long way in your search for wine knowledge. Of course, book knowledge alone is insufficient. You must taste. It would be helpful to find other like minded people in your area to get together with. That way you could split the costs of some of the better wines and get to experience a wider range of wines than you could on your own. You will also get other opinions. If you live in the area of Bergen or Passaic Counties in NJ, contact us about tasting groups. If not, your local wine shop may be able to help you. Another source is a good introductory wine course. Check with your local adult schools and community colleges. In Bergen County, NJ, I offer an introductory wine course every September and an "advanced" course in February/March. Good luck on your vinous excursion. Believe me, it is a lot of fun and rewarding if you don't get carried away and don't take sources like the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker too seriously. Most people treat them like Gospel. The only Gospel is YOUR taste, not some expert's. There's an interesting and amusing article on the stages that wine drinkers may go through on this web page. Please remember these key points: 1) There are no right or wrongs regarding taste. Your opinion is just as valid as some "experts." 2) Beware the guru syndrome where people assume that the Robert Parkers and Wine Spectators of the world know all. Wine appreciation is subjective. Don't rely on the so called gurus to tell you what is good. Every "guru" has his or her own taste. It may not match yours. 3) Be open to other possibilities. There are many other worthy experiences besides Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay. 4) A wine's finish and its internal harmony are what separate the women from the girls. The longer the finish (assuming it's a pleasant one), the better the wine. The better wines also have a harmony or balance between their elements, such that no one component stands out above the others. 5) It's easy to appreciate fruit, but serious wine is based on structure first (acidity, alcohol, and tannin) with fruit hanging on the structural support. In analyzing a wine, look at its structure, balance, and finish - not just the fruit!

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Where can I get information about making wine at home?

   I tried to make my own wine many years ago. It was a disaster each time. Terrible stuff! The lesson I learned is that you can buy better and cheaper commercial wine than you can make. However, there are certainly people out there who do it reasonably well (I've never tasted a home-made wine that I would say was really good) and have a lot of fun doing it. I'm afraid I don't have any direct information for you, but there are numerous "How To" books in any good library or bookstore. On the net, check out: 

   If you do decide to go ahead, my advice would be to 1) Be fanatical about cleanliness. It's all too easy to get bacterial spoilage. The alternative is to heavily sulfite your wines and then they will taste like burnt matches. 2) Be very fussy about the grapes you get and pick them over very carefully, discarding those with any sign of spoilage. Make sure they are cool before you press them.

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How long should wine age?

   You've asked a question that is deceptively simple. The basic answer is: "it depends." 95% of all wines are made to be drunk within a year or two of their release and do not require aging. The other 5%, of course, are the better wines. Most whites are ready to drink upon release, but some of them will improve with aging (especially good white Burgundies and a few California Chardonnays such as Chalone, Grgich, and Montelena as well as better German whites). This is an oversimplification, but whites with good acidity tend to age well, while soft, low acid and/or heavily oaked wines do not. There are many benefits to aging the better whites (additional complexity and richness), but there are also some risks. That is part of the fun. Wine is like other aspects of life: no risk, no reward! With reds, it depends on varietal, growing conditions, and winery techniques. Again acidity is very important for ageability, but so is tannin. Cabernet and Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco) generally have lots of tannin, so they tend to require aging. Of course there are exceptions. Zinfandels have a bit less tannin and will age for a few years, but don't over do it, especially if they are high in alcohol. Merlot and Pinot Noir generally have much less tannin (again, there are exceptions), so these wines generally require only short term aging. Generally, less expensive wines (under $15) are made for immediate to near term consumption. Many, but not all, of the more expensive wines will benefit from some bottle age. For a bit more information on this subject, check out "Wine components and aging".

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What does air do to wine? How long should a wine "breathe"?

   Wine exposed to air via a loose or nonexistent cork spoils basically because the fruit components oxidize. Oxidation, as you probably know more than I (it's been 30+ years since I took a chemistry course), involves a chemical reaction where oxygen molecules attach to certain other large and, in this case, organic molecules. Oxidation occurs VERY GRADUALLY when a new wine is maturing in cask as well as in the bottle as a wine ages. These slow changes are beneficial and are part of the maturation process, allowing some of the molecules typical of very young wine to gradually change into molecules more typical of mature wines. But a rapid oxidation, due to too much air getting to the wine, spoils the fruit components of the wine and turns the wine brown. This is why good wineries go to great lengths to minimize air contact with the must (crushed grape skins and juice), the fermenting wine, and wine as it ages in the winery. Some use inert gas such as nitrogen or argon to protect the must/wine from oxygen. How long to let a wine "breathe" is a controversial topic, since there are those who claim it is of no benefit. Most wine lovers, however, believe that it is helpful to aerate the majority of young wines. Basically, aeration artificially speeds up the maturation process. It should only be used if you suspect a wine is not yet at its peak of drinkability (never on a very old bottle). Aeration allows some of the aroma molecules to become airborne, so you can smell them. It also softens a tough, tannic wine to some extent by causing the tannin molecules to clump together, exposing less surface area to your mouth. There may be other subtle, yet beneficial, chemical changes that occur with aeration. Decanting a bottle (pouring it into a container and then perhaps back into the original bottle) is a much more efficient way to aerate a wine than simply pulling the cork. Generally, the further a wine is from its peak drinkability (i.e., the younger it is), the longer it should air. However, if a wine needs more than a few hours of aeration, bad things (serious oxidation) could start to happen and you probably shouldn't have opened it yet. Vintage Port is an exception. It is often beneficial to open and decant a young vintage port the day before you plan to serve it. Most people only think about airing red wine, but I am a firm believer that many white wines (especially young white Burgundies and some California Chardonnays) also benefit from short term aeration.

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I'm bewildered when confronting a wine list in a restaurant. Can you help?

   If it's any consolation, most people share your problem. A little wine knowledge goes a long way to helping you or at least giving you some confidence. Keep in mind that most restaurant people know very little about wine. Sometimes they are told to push certain wines simply because the restaurant makes more money on those. Sometimes they can be genuinely helpful. The more information you can give them about your taste preferences, the more the second type can help you.

  1. The first thing you should do is assess the wine list. There are three types of restaurant wine lists. The first type is found most often. It consists of mostly (boring!) common brands such as Bolla, Woodbridge, Beringer, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, a Beaujolais, and Mouton Cadet. It may include a few French wines from a known shipper such as B & G (very mediocre!), Jadot, Latour, Drouhin, etc. It probably also includes a well known Cabernet and Chardonnay, such as Beringer, Mondavi, or Simi. Not that these are bad wines. They are not. They indicate, however, that the restaurateur knows little about wine and that he/she lets the wine distributor put the list together. Safe, but not exciting. Don't expect much good advice here. The second type will feature big name wines (lots of famous Bordeaux, Burgundy and California names) at high prices. They may have some less expensive wines that are worthy and you may get some good advice. The third type of list is the best: generally small, but very well chosen. It will feature grapes that you may not have heard of, such as Grüner Veltliner and Viognier as well as unfamiliar places, such as Languedoc, Saint Chinian, Chinon, etc. The wines will be in all price ranges, including a reasonable selection in the $20 - $30 range. Many of the wines will come from areas that are off the beaten path, such as the southwest part of France, Provence, Spain, Austria, or Argentina. Take a stab or ask for advice. You will probably get something interesting and different. It will almost definitely go well with the food.

  2. Decide on the price range you are comfortable with. Be honest! One trick is to ask for a glass of the house wine as an aperitif. If it is good you can feel confident in ordering one of the cheaper wines on the list. If not, go for something mid-range. Many advisors suggest that you never order the cheapest or even the second cheapest wine on the list, but this isn't a problem if the list is well chosen.

  3. Ask for help. The sommelier, wine buyer, or someone familiar with the list may well be a wine enthusiast. You'll be able to tell. Wine people thrive on wine talk. State your food choices, wine preferences, dislikes, and price range. Don't be shy. Ask which are the best values! Wine people will appreciate the challenge and steer you to a good choice.

   By the way, many restaurants charge too much money for a bottle of wine. Restaurateurs need to make a profit because they have lots of overhead. But charging double and even triple the retail price of a wine (which itself includes a modest profit) simply discourages patrons from having a bottle of wine with dinner (or a second bottle). In New Jersey, at least they have the excuse that they had to pay a lot of money (often several hundred thousands of dollars) to buy a liquor license plus pay a fee each year, but in most states they just have to pay a modest yearly fee. If you are disgusted by the prices on a wine list, don't order any wine! And tell the owner why you didn't!We all benefit from feedback. Restaurant owners hear plenty about their food and service, but they don't hear enough about their wine prices. The ones who do price their wines realistically should be complimented. If you have a special bottle that you would like to bring to a restaurant that serves wine, call ahead and ask them if it's OK and what their "corkage" fee is. Most good restaurants are accommodating. Since we live in NJ, we can generally avoid the problem by going to BYO restaurants and bringing a wine we have chosen ourselves ahead of time. This way, we get better wine for much less money. We generally bring a back-up wine, just in case. Also, although they don't advertise the fact, may restaurants that sell wine will allow you to bring your own wine and charge you a nominal corkage fee. Call ahead to find out. If you do bring your own wine, please bring an interesting one. There is nothing more disheartening than looking around a restaurant to see that almost everyone has brought a bottle of White Zinfandel or a boring "name brand" wine. Actually, there is something more disheartening: a table with no wine!

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I have an old special bottle I've been saving. How much is it worth?

   The short answer: It doesn't matter. Open it and drink it! Many people are saving a special wine for that special occasion or are just saving it because they think it will get better and better. Often this is a mistake and the wine is shot (well past its peak) by the time it is opened or it ends up getting left to the children. This is especially true if the special wine is a Champagne! Most Champagnes are ready to drink when released and do not improve significantly. They will last a few years. Only the very best Champagnes actually improve with age and even these will improve only for a few years. If well stored, the maximum these sparklers will still be good is 10 years after bottling (14-17 years after the vintage date). All wines have a finite life span. That potential life span is determined by the type of wine it is, the vintage, and the way it was made. That life span is extended if your storage conditions are ideal (constant 55 F., high humidity, no light or vibration), but it is still finite. Many people keep waiting for the perfect occasion (which never seems to come). Don't fall into that trap! If the wine was a gift, you don't know how it was stored before you received it. It's better to drink a wine a little too soon than a little too late. As for value, this is another trap. Some people think that their bottle has become too valuable to drink! Silly!! Wine is meant to be drunk and enjoyed, not collected and bragged about. Or, heaven forbid, resold! People who invest in wine with the thought of selling it later at a profit generally know little about wine and certainly have no appreciation for it. To them I say: "stick to pork bellies (whatever they are), copper, and orange juice futures. Leave our wine alone and stop driving up the prices!"

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What is the proper temperature at which to serve wine?

   Although there is room for individual preference, my strong opinion is that most people drink their red wines too warm and their white wines too cold. Because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, alcohol molecules become more active relative to the other components in a wine that is too warm. The result is that the wine is thrown off balance: you taste the heat of the alcohol over the fruit and other components. The alcohol then tends to overemphasize any bitterness in the wine. The absolute maximum temperature that red wine should be served at: 67 F. My preferred temperature: 62 - 65 F. Don't be afraid to put a bottle of red wine in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes (especially in the summer) or in an ice bucket for 2 - 3 minutes if your room temperature is 70 - 75 F. Light, fruity, non-tannic reds can take a bit more cooling if desired: upper 50's Most people serve white wine at or near refrigerator temperature (or even colder, if they do the ice bucket routine). At this temperature the fruit is stunted. That's fine if you have a lousy wine. Over-chilling it may make it half palatable by hiding its defects. But it's a shame to do that to a good white wine. Time and again I've noticed that a good white wine gets better as it warms up in the glass. That's because you can taste the components. Absolute minimum temperature that good white wine should be served at: 45 F. My preferred temperature: 48 - 52 F. If you've refrigerated your white wine, just take it out of the refrigerator for, say, 30 minutes before serving. The same is true for Champagne. Ice buckets are great to briefly cool down a wine (red, white, or bubbly) that has gotten too warm on the table, but no serious wine lover should tolerate leaving a bottle on ice.

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I can't finish a bottle in one night. How can I save what's left?

   Wine changes once it is exposed to air. This change is a chemical reaction and may be beneficial in the short run (breathing or decanting), but after 6 hours or so at room temperature, most wines will start to degrade. By the next day the fruit and aroma are generally quite subdued. Within a few days, the wine will be spoiled. This process cannot be stopped, but it can be slowed dramatically, allowing you to finish and enjoy a bottle several days after you opened it. The keys here are air and temperature. More specifically, it is the oxygen in the air that degrades wine. Anything you do to reduce the contact between the wine and oxygen will prolong the life of the wine. Fortunately, there are several things you can try. First, get several bottle stoppers. The cheap ($1) ones are just as good as the $5 ones. We sell the cheapies at Beekman's. Both are better than trying to reinsert the cork.

  1. If you want to spend lots of money, you can buy a nitrogen gas replacement system that forces oxygen out of the bottle and replaces it with nitrogen ($100 - $3000).

  2. I didn't think so. You can spend $10 for a product called Private Preserve. It is a can of inert gas (mostly Argon) that, when sprayed into a partially full bottle of wine, places a layer of gas between the wine and the oxygen in the air, thus preventing the oxygen from contacting the wine. I use this at home with very good results. A bottle will be fine for 2-3 days. The can says it is good for 120 uses. That is a bit optimistic, but a can does last a long time and it's a cheap method. We sell Private Preserve at Beekman's.

  3. Refrigerating a wine slows down the chemical reaction that spoils wine. Both red and white wines should be refrigerated after they are opened. Be sure to let the wine warm up a bit before serving, especially if it is a red. This technique is OK for 1 - 2 days. You can combinerefrigeration with some of the other techniques for even better results.

  4. The Vacu-Vin and other brands are reverse pumps that pump air out of a bottle, leaving a partial vacuum. Many people use these devices and we sell them at Beekman's, but we really don't recommend them. They still leave plenty of oxygen in the bottle because only a slight vacuum is formed. They also tend to suck out the aromatic molecules and any hint of CO2, leaving some wines a bit flat and definitely lacking in aroma. Never use a Vacu-vin on a bottle of Champagne.

  5. Buy a half bottle of wine. Drink it and wash out the bottle. When you next open a regular size bottle, pour half of it immediately into the half bottle. Fill it to just below the top. Seal it and you'll have basically no air in the half bottle. The wine will last 3-5 days, perhaps longer if you also refrigerate it.

  6. Buy marbles. Wash and dry them. After you are finished pouring wine from a bottle, drop marbles into the bottle, until the liquid level comes up just below the top. Again, seal the bottle and you'll have basically no air inside. Of course, be careful not to ingest the marbles when you next open the bottle. The wine will keep for several days. When done with the bottle, wash and reuse the marbles. No, I haven't lost my marbles. This really works! Sorry, we don't sell marbles at Beekman's.

  7. I've heard of putting a bottle in the freezer, but somehow I can't bring myself to recommend (or even try) this method.

   Whatever method(s) you try, don't try to keep a bottle for more than 4-5 days. Tawny Port and sweet Sherries, however, will keep a long time with no special attention. Vintage style Port and dry sherries will keep 2-4 weeks, the more attention the better. Champagne will lose a bit of its sparkle, but it will keep one day in the refrigerator with no special attention.

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chilled several bottles but only used one. Should I keep the cold bottle in the fridge?

Unless you plan to use the chilled (and I presume unopened) bottles in the next week or two, I would strongly suggest that you remove them from the refrigerator and store them in a cellar or at cool room temperature. Refrigerator conditions are too cold and too dry for long term storage of wine. Warming them up won't hurt them.

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Where and how should I store my wines?

   Where and how to store wines depends on how long you expect to keep them and how serious you are about collecting high quality wine. Most good wines (especially reds, but also some whites) will benefit from short to medium term aging (a few years), so I strongly recommend that you age at least some wine. Never, however, store wine or Champagne in a refrigerator for more than a week or two: it's too cold and too dry! The ideal storage conditions for wine and Champagne are:

  1. A constant 55 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. High humidity (around 70%)
  3. No sunlight and not much artificial light
  4. Little or no vibration

   Most of us do not have these perfect conditions. I certainly don't. Just be aware that the further from ideal your conditions are, the faster the wines will age. Also, they will probably not reach the same pinnacle of fabulousness as bottles that are perfectly stored. Don't be discouraged. Even storage under less than ideal conditions will be of great benefit to your wines. I've seen different figures in print. Some report that for every 18 degrees F above the ideal temperature, the rate at which wines age doubles. Others say the rate is 8 times! This means that storing a wine for 15 years at 73 F is the equivalent of aging it for 30 - 120 years at 55 F. There aren't many wines that last that long. Whatever the actual figure, the changes in a bottle of wine as it ages are essentially chemical reactions: the speed of these reactions is a function of the temperature. Above 80 F, however, the fruit is actually degraded and wines tend to really get "cooked." For most of us, a house basement works just fine, especially if it is completely or mostly underground. Temperatures will fluctuate with the seasons, but the changes will be gradual. What hurts wine the most are temperatures much over 75 and rapid fluctuations in temperature. Most basements in the northern part of the country will range from around 50 in the winter to around 70 in the summer with daily fluctuations of 1 degree or less. Good enough!

If you don't have a basement, you have a problem. Even if you air condition in the summer, your average temperatures will probably be on the high side and you will almost certainly have more short term fluctuation in temperature than is desirable. You can still store wine, but don't plan to keep them for years and years. Long term storage will require an investment in a wine storage unit. These start at a 35 bottle capacity and go up to many hundreds of bottles. Prices range from about $400 to several thousand dollars. If you are torn between two sizes, go for the bigger one. It doesn't cost much more and you will probably end up needing it. If you want to get serious about aging wine, have the room, and are fairly handy, you can build your own enclosed, temperature controlled, storage area. The minimum investment will be about $1000 but this will give you substantial storage space, at least several hundred bottles. Back to Top
I rarely spend more than $10 for wine. What do I get if I splurge for an expensive one?

   You certainly can find some good wines around $10. In fact, most of our monthly featured wines are in that neighborhood. But we have to kiss a lot of frogs to find those few princes, and so will you. When you plunk down $15 to $30 (or more), you greatly increase your odds of finding a truly remarkable wine - one with an evocative combination of intense aromas and flavors and a balance between its many elements. Ready to taste what that all means? Buy a good inexpensive, mass-produced wine. At the same time, splurge for a limited wine of the same grape variety from the same producer. This may carry the word "reserve" on the label or a single vineyard designation. Try the wines side by side, beginning with the less expensive bottle. You will see what you're paying for when you step up in price.

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Why do some wines cost $5 and others $50 or even more?

   There are many factors that determine the price of a wine. To make a wine at the low end of the spectrum, one needs economies of scale. We're talking about mass production on a large scale by a sizeable winery. In addition, the vines must be allowed to yield close to their maximum production (often 10-12 tons of fruit per acre, sometimes even more), the maximum juice from eacg grape must be extracted (i.e., the grapes will be pressed several times which releases bitter components into the juice), and they are often situated on cheaper land that is less suited to producing fine wine. For example, the land may be flatter, the microclimate may be too hot, or the soil may drain poorly. In contrast, a top quality wine cannot be mass produced. These wines are made on a small scale, often only a few hundred or a few thousand cases per year. Someone who makes only a few thousand cases a year (and who didn't inherit a fortune) must charge more for his/her wines. In addition, the grapes are often grown on more valuable land, adding to the capital investment. The land is often in a more marginal climate with less fertile soil and steeper slopes. Thus yields are naturally lower. In addition, the grower will reduce yields by severe pruning before the growing season begins and even clipping off grape bunches in the middle of the season. The resulting low production (usually 3 tons per acre or less, rarely more than 4, means the vines pack all their energies into fewer and therefore better grapes. The result is also a much greater cost of raw materials (the grapes).

To make a top wine also requires a larger investment in materials, time and often equipment. Expensive oak barrels must be purchased (the best must be imported from France at a cost of $600 per barrel!). In addition, the wine must be aged, so a larger facility is required and the winery generally isn't paid until 2-3 years after the harvest. Mass produced wines yield cash in less than a year. These are some of the many factors that determine the cost of a particular wine. In addition, there is the "what the market will bear" factor. The reality is that prices beyond the $25 - $30 range are based on the prestige and track record of the wine, not the cost of production.
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How can I remove red wine stains?

Red wine stains are easiest to remove if they are still wet. If you can't deal with the problem immediately, lay a wet towel over the carpet area or put the affected clothing to soak until you can treat it. The following methods work almost all of the time:

1. Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover - This is by far the most effective product we have found. It not only works almost every time on red wine stains, but it is also extremely effective on coffee, grape, grape juice, blueberry, pizza sauce, urine and grease stains! The Food & Wine editors said it “makes red-wine stains disappear - even from white linens, as we discovered for ourselves...” The Good Housekeeping Institute reported that “Wine Away works great on upholstery & carpet (even white fibers). ...it gets the red out of cotton and linen tablecloths too...” We sell a 12 oz bottle for only $10.99.

2. Blot stain with paper towel. Dowse stain area with club soda or seltzer. Blot again. Repeat dowsing and blotting. 3. Keep cheap white wine around. Blot stain with paper towel. Dowse stain area with white wine. Blot again. Repeat dowsing and blotting. This works because red and white wine have the same proteins (not to mention alcohol). 4. Blot stain with paper towel. Build a mound of salt over the stain. Let sit overnight. Vacuum in the morning. 5. Use spray (pump) carpet cleaner such as Resolve or Woolite. Soak for 3-5 minutes. Then dab with paper towels or clean rags, but don't rub. 6. Use Dri-Clean, an automotive product sold in many automotive departments. Results are impressive. 7. Use Quick & Brite, a product sold on many late night cable stations. Unlike the knives and other junk sold this way, this product works. 8. Other commercial products that work well are Spot Shot, DidiSeven and Dev-Tec . 9. The following home remedy from Consumer's Report works well on all materials except wool:
  • Make a paste using 1 part grated Fels-Naptha soap to 10 parts water. Using a white paper towel, blot the stained area with the paste. Move the towel to a clean section until no more of the stain transfers to it.

  • If necessary, do the same with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water.

  • If necessary, do the same with a solution of 1 tsp clear or white liquid dishwashing detergent to 1 cup water.

  • If necessary, do the same with a solution of 1 tsp enzyme detergent such as Tide with Bleach Alternative to 1 cup water.

  • Rinse with water.
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Do I really need different wine glasses for different wines?

     Absolutely not! You definitely need two types of glassware: one for Champagne and one for everything else. If you really want to knock yourself out, get three types, a flute for Champagne, a medium sized glass for white wine and a larger glass for red wine. Avoid the new stemless glasses that are being advertised. They look awful, and they will warm the wine too much. All glasses should be clear, plain glass. Colors, metal, and fancy cut crystal are not only unnecessary, they get in the way. Avoid them. Thin glass is much better than thick glass. The champagne glasses should be tall flutes, never the flat "sherbet" kind which dissipate the bubbles and leave no room for the aroma molecules to concentrate. Wine glasses should have a large bowl with the lip curved inward and a stem. The larger the bowl (up to a point), the more room to concentrate those aroma molecules. The Riedel Bordeaux glass is a great all around glass, but you needn't spend that much money (and they break very easily). There are numerous imitators that make a very competent glass. Remember, it should be large, thin, and unadorned. Also, never fill a wine glass more than 1/3 full (Champagne glasses can be filled 3/4 full, however).

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Why are there two different shapes of Champagne glasses, one tall, one short?

    The short, wide "sherbet" type of glass is beyond passé! Never use them for anything but dessert. They 1) dissipate the bubbles quickly so the Champagne goes flat; 2) they don't display the beautiful bubbles well; and 3) they leave no room for the aroma molecules to concentrate so you can smell the bouquet as well. Use the tall, thin "flute" shaped Champagne glass. It works beautifully to preserve and display the bubbles. In addition it leaves room so you can smell the wine better. Fill the flute 3/4 full. A trick to prevent the bubbles from foaming up and over the top of the glass is to pour a small amount in the glass, wait for the foam to subside, then pour the rest of the Champagne in. For you history buffs, the origin of the "sherbet" shaped glass is France where a glass blower honored Marie Antoinette, but creating the "sherbet" glass in the shape of her breast. I kid you not! I couldn't make this stuff up

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What is meant by a "dry" wine?

Technically, dryness in a wine is simply the absence of sugar. Hence, the opposite of a dry wine is a sweet wine. Many people commonly (and mistakenly) use the term to refer to wines whose naturally occurring acidity is apparent. People who generally drink sweet wines often refer to wines showing crisp acidity as "too dry." Acidity is present in all wines, but its extent varies. Generally, the riper the grapes were when harvested, the lower the acidity will be. Unripe grapes will be very high in acid. There is an ideal range for acidity. Too low and the wine will taste too soft and flabby and it will have very little finish. Too high and it will taste tart to the point of distinct sourness. That may be acceptable in a few very young wines such as Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, but generally real sourness is not a good sign. Sugar tends to mask acidity. That is, all wines have acidity, but sweet wines appear lower in acid than they really are.

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What does the phrase "table wine" on a bottle mean?

The term "table wine" does not imply quality or the lack thereof. Chateau Lafite Rothschild is a table wine that will set you back $200-$300 or more. Almaden Chablis is a table wine that costs around $4. (Of course, to some extent, you get what you pay for.) The term refers to the way the government taxes wines. There are only three categories: table wine, dessert wine, and sparkling wine. Within the table wine category, those wines with an alcohol listing of 14% and higher are taxed at a higher rate than other table wines.

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Are French wines better than California wines?

    Sweeping generalities are usually inaccurate. Certainly French wines have the image of being the world's best. Certainly many of the best wines in the world are French. That does not mean that all French wines are wonderful. In fact, there are many mediocre French wines and many outstanding wines from other countries, including the US, Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia and South Africa. Part of the problem is that people "raised" on the wines of a certain country take the style of that country's wines as the standard of comparison and all other wines suffer somewhat. For example, people raised on French wines often find American wines too soft and too fruity. That is because growing conditions in America are generally sunnier and warmer than in France. The grapes get riper and lower in acid and the wines reflect that difference. In addition, California wine makers tend to use oak to a greater extent than the French do, so many American wines appear "oaky" to the French palate. Conversely, those raised on American wines often find the French wines austere (less fruit filled) and "dry" (when they really mean higher in acidity). French wines usually age better because of their higher acidity and they thus develop the complexities that come with maturity. California wines generally have sufficient fruit to show well when they are relatively young and many don't improve with age. Some are more "French" in style and will greatly improve with age. Of course we are talking here about the better wines. Both inexpensive French and California wines are meant to be drunk young.

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Where can I get wine racks and other wine accessories? Try http://www.amazinguniverse.com Back to Top
What's with those warning labels on the back of every bottle?

Look at any bottle of wine made in the last 10 years or so and you will see a back label with the following information.

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems. The US government decided that we needed protection from ourselves. But why stop there? I’m sure there are additional warnings that would be even more helpful to an unsuspecting public. Here are a few suggestions. Write your congressperson! E-mail me additional suggestions.
  • Do not drink and ski.
  • Do not hit anyone over the head with a bottle.
  • Never use the neck of a bottle to clean out your ears.
  • Never use a bottle of wine as a ladder.
  • Do not drink alcohol while parachuting.
  • Do not drink alcohol while donating whole blood, platelets, or vital organs.
  • Never attempt to plug a bottle into an electrical outlet.
  • Never throw a bottle at the TV because a show is terrible.
  • Do not stick bottles into each nostril and your mouth at the same time. Suffocation may occur.
  • Do not spill red wine on clothing, furniture, pets, or large zoo animals.
  • Never boil wine and then place it between your legs while driving.
  • Never drink wine while you are driving a car, motorcycle, bicycle, tricycle, motor home, snowmobile, or a jet-ski.
  • Do not attempt to inhale wine.
  • Do not put wine in your mouth faster than you can swallow it.
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I'm interested in your wine club program, but your featured wines aren't familiar. Why?

I'm actually pleased that you don't recognize many of our featured wines. There are two reasons why. 1) The familiar wines you tend to see in supermarkets and discount stores are name brands that are designed to appeal to the masses. Their producers take no chances. They don't want to offend anyone. What you get is bland! What you get are the Chevy's, Budweisers, and Coors of the wine world! We search for wines with character. 2) Most people who subscribe to our newsletter, order our wine selections for themselves, or are the recipients of our wine selections as gifts are interested in trying new and interesting wines, not wines that they can find anywhere!

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What's with Brandy/Cognac? I heard that it's related to wine.

     Indeed it is. Brandy is made from distilled wine. Whereas whiskey, gin, and vodka are made by distilling fermented grains, brandy is made by distilling fermented grape juice. The best brandies come from two different regions in France: Armagnac (the original district, where the wine goes through the still only once) and Cognac (a newer, but better-known region, where the wine is distilled twice). The young, rough, raw brandies cannot be drunk when they come off the still. They require aging in oak barrels to tame and smooth them. The longer they are aged, the smoother and more complex (and more expensive) they will become.      Cognac is graded by age, but many of the best producers don't use the official grades, because their standards are so much higher than the legal minimums. VS stands for "very special," but it's not at all special. VS Cognacs must be aged a minimum of 2 1/2 years, which still leaves them pretty rough. This is the lowest grade of Cognac and is really only suitable for mixing. VSOP stands for "very superior old pale." It must be aged a minimum of 4 1/2 years. These are light and fresh and a big step up from the VS. This is entry-level sipping Cognac, but only the best of the VSOPs are good enough for sipping. XO stands for "extra old." These must be aged a minimum of 6 1/2 years, but most of them are older, some of them much older (20 years or more). These are sipping Cognacs. The term "Napoleon" has no meaning and can be applied to the cheapest or the best brandies.

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How much wine do you get out of a barrel? From an acre of land?

One Small (barrique) = 60 gallons which is approximately 25 cases or 300 bottles (750ml) One Ton of Grapes = approximately 700 bottles of wine One Acre of a low yield (high quality) Vineyards = 2-4 tons (116-233 cases or 1400 to 2800 bottles), sometimes even less  One Acre of high yield (for less expensive wines) Vineyards = 10 tons (583 cases or 7000 bottles)  sometimes even more