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WineSpectator.com: Q&A's

Can alcohol be removed from wine by using alcohol dehydrogenase? (Wine Spectator)
Dear Dr. Vinny, Can alcohol be removed from wine by using alcohol dehydrogenase? —Elahee, Mauritius Dear Elahee, Alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH) are a group of enzymes that break down alcohol into other compounds that can be removed from the human body. Our bodies create several types of this enzyme in our stomach and liver, and when we take a drink and ethanol enters our body, it encounters ADH, which converts toxic ethanol into acetaldehyde. The bad news is that acetaldehyde is also toxic, but the good news is that it’s quickly converted to acetate and other molecules that can be absorbed rather harmlessly by aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH2). Even better, ALDH2 may be associated with some of wine's cardiovascular benefits. Speaking of, if you read up on ALDH2 (and really, who wouldn’t?), you might see that its presence can vary. Some people have a genetic deficiency of the enzyme, meaning that they accumulate acetaldehyde, which can cause a red flush on their face (sometimes referred to as "Asian flush" or "glow"). Women also tend to have less of this enzyme per unit of body mass, which is one of the reasons that recommended alcohol allowances differ by gender. It sounds like you’re asking if you could use ADH outside of our bodies to remove ethanol from wine. If you’re into theoretical chemistry, then … sort of? My chemistry professor friend tells me there is some experimental research out there looking at this process as a tool in the future. But for now there are a couple problems, starting with the fact that you can’t exactly go out and buy the enzyme. Even if you could, the enzyme works at the cellular level, in our body’s mitochondria, and not so well in a wineglass. Finally, there’s another molecule in the equation, a co-enzyme that’s found in living cells with the totally made-up-sounding name of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which helps break the ethanol down completely. You’d need to add that to the mix as well, and my research indicates that this stuff is really bitter. I’m sorry to say the science isn’t quite there yet. —Dr. Vinny
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What does it mean to say a wine is made in the “New World” style? (Wine Spectator)
Dear Dr. Vinny, What does it mean to say a wine is made in the “New World” style? —Richard, Richmond, U.K. Dear Richard, The terms “Old World” and “New World” have been shorthand to describe Europe/Asia/Africa and everywhere else (respectively) for hundreds of years. It’s relatively new to refer to wine in these terms, but they became useful as the wine world became more globalized. As far as a “style,” New World wines (think California, Australia, South Africa) are typically grown in warmer climates and have become known for their riper, more fruit-forward styles. Old World wines, typically from cooler climates, classically showed off more savory, structured styles. These days, the terms are a bit of a relic. There is much more crossover, and more regions and styles than ever before. There are savory, cool climate wines made in the New World, and some vintages in Europe that show off riper flavors. I don’t really hear the terms used as broadly as they were 20 years ago, and these days you might hear about a Bordeaux made in a New World style, or a Napa Cabernet made in an Old World style. —Dr. Vinny
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What are the similarities between red and white wines? (Wine Spectator)
Dear Dr. Vinny, What are the similarities between red and white wines? —Adekunle, Lagos, Nigeria Dear Adekunle, All wine, by definition, is made from fermented grapes, and that’s what both reds and whites have in common. Well, that and being wet. There are a lot of different types of wine grapes out there: Some are dark red, purple or nearly black in color, with highly pigmented skins, and those make the red wines; and lighter colored "green" grapes make the white wines. But you can take red wine grapes and limit the skin contact and make pink or rosé wines, and you can take white wine grapes and extend the contact with the skins and create those “orange” wines all the cool kids are talking about. Red wines and white wines tend to be made differently. Most typically, when making white wine, the grapes are pressed and just the juice is fermented, while with red wines, the skins are left in with the juice (a process called "maceration"), and sometimes even whole clusters of grapes are left intact during the process. That gives red wine both its darker color, higher level of tannins and fuller body and structure. —Dr. Vinny
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Can an aerator serve the same role as a cork in an open bottle of wine? (Wine Spectator)
Dear Dr. Vinny, Can an aerator serve the same role as a cork in an open bottle of wine? —Dave, Terrell, Texas Dear Dave, I think you’re referring to plastic aerators that also work as pourers. You insert a rubber stopper into the neck of a bottle, and as the wine is poured through the long stem of a pouring spout, you can see it bubbling away, aerating. There are also hand-held aerators, and they work by pouring the wine through it into your glass. For the record, I’m not a huge fan of these products. They claim to provide the “optimal” amount of air to a wine to make them most expressive, but in my experience the ideal amount of air varies from wine to wine. I’m happy simply swirling my glass, or using a decanter if the occasion calls for it. Adding another variable into the equation doesn’t help me. But some people love them. By definition, an aerator serves the opposite function of a cork or any other closure—closures keep oxygen out, aeration exposes the wine to oxygen. Even though these particular aerators have a rubber stopper, they will not seal a bottle of wine and protect it from further exposure to oxygen, which will probably cause the wine to fade after a day or two. I’d recommend putting the cork back in, and storing the wine in the fridge to slow down the oxidation. —Dr. Vinny
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How do you ensure the consistency of blind wine reviews from one flight of wines to the next? (Wine Spectator)
Dear Dr. Vinny, You’ve written that for Wine Spectator blind tastings, the wines are organized into flights by varietal, appellation and/or region, and that the ratings reflect “How highly our taster regards each wine relative to other wines.” My question is, does the rating reflect each wine relative to other wines for each flight? If yes, how do you compare wines from different flights related to the same appellation or region? —Sergei Dear Sergei, Good question. Let me take a step back and make sure you can picture the tasting process in its entirety. Each reviewer has his or her own "tasting beats," or wine categories, like Bordeaux, or New Zealand, or Port. That gives our tasters a chance to develop expertise in their regions. When they sit down to a flight of wines that the tasting coordinators have arranged, they're bringing all of their experience with that category to the table. The wines are tasted in what is called a single-blind tasting, in which the reviewer knows the varietal, vintage and/or appellation of the wine, but not the producer or the price. We stand behind this process because we believe that the very best wines reflect where they’re from. The wines are disguised in bags, to keep this process as fair and objective as possible. I like to say it’s a very democratic way of reviewing wine, where everyone has an equal chance at a great score. But we go a step further. Two, actually. First, each flight begins with a benchmark wine, which has already been reviewed. That’s the only wine that’s not bagged, and the score the wine had been given is marked clearly on the bottle. That’s a really helpful reference tool for the taster to use throughout the flight as a way to calibrate. Finally, each flight also has at least a ringer somewhere in there. A previously rated wine is hidden among all the others, and the taster doesn’t know which wine it is until all of the scores are locked in and the bags are removed. They can check and make sure they are on track with how they previously rated something. It’s a helpful tool to make sure we are being consistent with our scores from flight to flight. —Dr. Vinny
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