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Frequently Asked Questions
Customers often ask, “What’s a good wine?” Our answer: any wine that you enjoy drinking! You don’t have to spend a fortune to find delicious, quality wines that add something special to your meal or event. For answers to other commonly asked questions please see the categories below, or come by and ask in person at your local Fine Wine & Good Spirits store.

Red and White Wine

How long does wine keep after opening the bottle?
A re-corked bottle will last in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Those sealed with a device that removes oxygen from the bottle will last up to a week.

Which wines are good for your health?
In general, red wines are the most beneficial because antioxidants and other components, such as resveratrol, are contained in the grape’s skin.

Why do red wines make my mouth pucker and feel dry?
Red wines contain tannins, which are derived from the grape skins and from the wood used for barrel aging. These tannins act as a drying agent in your mouth.

I am used to white wines. What red wines can I try?
You should start with a light-bodied red. Red wines like Beaujolais feel less dry because they are less tannic. Many of Pennsylvania’s and New York’s red wines are semi-sweet and more enjoyable to someone just starting out in red wines. Beverage wines, like Riunite’s Lambrusco, Carlo Rossi’s Paisano and Franzia’s Chillable Red, have more residual sugar and can be more easily approached by people unfamiliar with red wine. If you prefer something less sweet, try a Chianti, a California Merlot, or a low-alcohol Zinfandel.

I usually drink White Zinfandel. What else can I try?
People who enjoy White Zinfandel usually prefer lighter-bodied white wines such as Riesling and Pinot Grigio.

I am making a wine punch. Do I have to use an expensive wine?
Since you will be adding fruit juices and other mixers to the wine, it isn’t necessary to buy an expensive wine. Bear in mind that you still want the punch to taste good, so while you can be flexible in price, don’t skimp on quality. For punches like Sangria, a burgundy jug wine is a good choice.

What is the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?
They are the same grape variety. Syrah is the original French name for the grape, but the Australians, thinking they had a different variety, called theirs Shiraz. By the time research showed them to be the same, it was too late — the name had already stuck.

What is the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?
They are the same grape variety; Pinot Grigio is the Italian name for the French grape Pinot Gris.

How can Zinfandel be both a red and a pink wine?
Zinfandel is a red grape variety, but like virtually all grapes it has clear pulp and juice. Wines actually gain their color through contact with the grapes’ skins. Therefore, any red wine can be made pink by limiting the amount of time the grapes’ juice spends in contact with their skins.

What does “Meritage” mean?
Meritage (pronounced like heritage) is the trademarked name for a Bordeaux-style blended wine made in America. The red version consists of two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The white Meritages comprise Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.

Why don’t other countries label their wines with the grape names?
Many “Old World” countries label their wines with place names because of laws, tradition and the concept of terroir. For example, in the region of Chablis in Burgundy, France, Chardonnay grows exceptionally well. It does so well, in fact, that any wine labeled as Chablis must be, by French law, made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes.

What does terroir mean?
This is a French term that describes the overall influence the place of origin has on the grapes, and ultimately on the finished wine. This includes, among other things, soil composition, climate, altitude and aspect (for example, a hillside vs. a valley, or a south-facing slope vs. a north-facing one).

I’ve heard references to “Old World,” “New World” and “transitional.” What do these terms mean?
The term “Old World” is attributed to wines that are produced in an elegant, traditional style that is light to moderate in alcohol and displays fair to prominent acidity. These wines are often described as terroir-driven, and are usually from European countries that have stringent production laws. The term “New World” is given to wines that are produced in a fruit-forward and more alcoholic style, with lower perceptible acidity. These wines will usually come from warm-climate areas that produce very ripe fruit. New World wine regions will generally have less stringent wine regulations. The term “transitional” is used for regions that have elements of both Old and New World styles. Typically, these regions are newly established, or have a dramatic split in climatic features that allows for the mix.

Why can’t I find wines from a recently heralded vintage?
Most likely because they haven’t been released yet. Some countries, like France and Italy, have very specific laws that dictate how long and by what method a wine must be aged before it can be sold. Many wine reviews are written by people who get to taste the wine before it is legally able to be released, thus creating excitement and demand for the product.

Does Germany produce any red wines?
Pinot Noir is called Spätburgunder in Germany, and is made in several regions, most notably in Ahr, Rheingau and Baden.

What are fortified wines?
These are wines to which grape spirit has been added. This process stops fermentation, increases alcoholic strength and provides microbiological stability. Well-known fortified wines include Port, sherry, Vermouth and Madeira.

What is the difference between Napa and Sonoma and is it really important?
Napa and Sonoma are two regional American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) located side by side inside the larger North Coast AVA in California. Because it is closer to the ocean, parts of the Sonoma Valley are cooler than the Napa Valley. There are also differences in soil type, rainfall and exposure to the elements that separate Napa and Sonoma into distinct wine-growing areas. Napa is particularly well known for boutique Cabernet Sauvignon, while Sonoma’s recent reputation relies on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

My California wine is a “reserve.” Does this have any significance?
There is no legal definition of the word “reserve” for wines made in the United States. However, in 1999, Washington State defined the term for wine produced there. Reserve wines can represent no more than 10 percent of the winery’s total production, and less than three thousand cases can be made. By using the word reserve, the winemaker is stating that the wine is of a higher quality than other wines made at the winery.

I’ve been hearing the word “biodynamic” a lot lately. What does it mean?
Biodynamic principals are based upon the agricultural theories of Rudolph Steiner. They include basic organic principles, but go further, recognizing the entire universe as an ecosystem that has direct effects on the vineyard. For example, the scheduling of certain tasks or chores is done according to the alignment of the planets and the phases of the moon.

The label on the wine I had last night had the word “unfiltered” on it. What does that mean?
An unfiltered wine is just that: a wine that has not been filtered during the winemaking process. Filtering removes solid particles from the wine, but some believe it also removes complexity and color.

I see many Zinfandels that claim to be from “old vines.” What does that mean?
The United States does not legally define this term, but vines that are at least 20 years old will begin to have lower yields and more concentrated grape flavors.

The white wine I had last night had “crystals” floating around in it. What are they, and are they harmful?
These are tartaric acid crystals and are completely harmless.

Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Is all sparkling wine called Champagne?
No, only sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France are true Champagne. The term méthode champenoise refers to the single-bottle fermentation process rather than the area.

What is drier, Extra Dry or Brut?
Brut is the drier designation.

Is Champagne only for celebrations?
Absolutely not. Because Champagne and sparkling wines are incredibly food-friendly, they can be served at any time.

What’s the best sparkling wine to use in Mimosas and other punches?
Since you will be adding juice or other mixers, it isn’t necessary to buy something expensive. California, Washington, Spain and many other regions produce quality sparkling wines in very economical price ranges. Bear in mind that you still want the punch to taste good, so while you can be flexible in price, don’t skimp on quality.

Why is some Champagne so expensive?
The complicated and lengthy méthode champenoise accounts for most of the expense of high-quality sparkling wines. Other factors include the reputation of the producer, the amount of wine produced, and the types of grapes used in its production.

Wine and Food Pairing

What kind of wine should I cook with?
Cook with the same type of wine you plan to serve with the food. A jug or boxed wine also is appropriate, provided it is one of the higher-quality varieties. Our 4-packs of small bottles are also popular choices for this purpose. Marsala and sherry are flavorful and add to the taste of many foods.

Is it OK to have red wine with fish?
Most red wines will leave a metallic taste in your mouth when paired with fish. (Imagine holding a penny on your tongue or biting down on tinfoil.) For most types of seafood, especially light-bodied fish and shellfish, you are better off sticking with a lighter-bodied white wine. Exceptions to this rule include heavier-bodied fish like tuna or salmon, which will often pair well with Pinot Noir.

Can I serve red wine with chicken/white meat?
Yes, particularly when the meat is roasted. Some compatible red wines are Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.

What red wines can I serve with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner?
Some favorites are Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Sangiovese.

I am going to dinner and my host is serving Italian food. What wine should I bring?
Italian cuisine is a great example of the classic rule: “What grows together, goes together.” Italian wine paired with Italian food is really difficult to improve upon. If the meal is made with a red sauce, consider Chianti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Barbera. For a white sauce, try Chardonnay, Gavi, Soave or Verdicchio.

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