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Dear Grape Lady,
I recently attended a wine tasting event and noticed some people holding their wine glasses by the stem, while others held them by the bowl. I’ve always wondered why there’s such a fuss about holding the glass by the stem. Can you enlighten me on the proper way to hold a wine glass and the reason behind it?
Curiously,
Curious Stemster

Dear Curious Stemster,

Thank you for your intriguing question about the proper way to hold a wine glass and the reasoning behind it. The fuss about holding the glass by the stem is not merely wine snobbery; there are four genuine reasons for this practice.

1. Temperature Matters

Wine’s temperature can significantly impact its taste and aroma. When you hold the glass by the bowl, your hands emit warmth that can subtly alter the wine’s temperature. By holding the stem, you prevent unnecessary temperature changes and ensure a more consistent tasting experience.

2. Fingers Off, Aromas On

The delicate aromas of wine are an essential part of the tasting experience. When you hold the glass by the bowl, your fingerprints and hand odors are closer to your nose, potentially interfering with those precious aromas. By grasping the stem, you can fully savor the scents without any distractions.

3. Aesthetic Appreciation

Wine is not just a delightful beverage; it’s also an art form. The color and clarity of wine can be admired through the glass, but when you hold the bowl, your fingers might obstruct the view. Holding the stem allows you to appreciate the wine’s beauty in its entirety.

4. It’s Fancy

Let’s face it, holding a wine glass by the stem exudes a certain level of elegance and refinement. It has become a tradition and a subtle display of wine etiquette, especially in formal settings or wine tasting events.

However, it’s essential to note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with stemless wine glasses. They are practical and have their place, especially for casual gatherings or outdoor events. However, you’ll rarely find them in winery tasting rooms.

In the end, the most important thing is to enjoy your wine. Whether you choose to hold the glass by the stem or the bowl, the pleasure of savoring the wine’s flavors and aromas is what truly matters.

cheers,

There is something romantic about drinking something that is just as old as you are. Caveat: only when it is meant to be aged. If you find a bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay that has been sitting in the back of your mom’s pantry since the 1970s, I do not suggest planning a meal around drinking it. Only about 1% of the world’s wine is meant to be aged. A decent rule of thumb: wines under $30 are meant to be enjoyed right now, most wines over $30 can age for five years or more. Only some wines are meant to be aged for 20-30 years. The wines need to have enough alcohol, acidity, and structure and/or sugar to hold up to the test of time. Reds will get lighter in color, and the fruit aromas will change from fresh to dried. White wines will grow darker in color and develop nutty aromas.

I collect my brother’s birth year: 1996. There is simply more of it available than mine. I have clients who collect their children’s birth years. You don’t even have to collect… that makes it sound like such a chore. Buying a special bottle of Bordeaux to enjoy when your child graduates from college. I will always recommend buying a case of dessert wine to serve at your child’s wedding with cake instead of champagne. One of my favorite gifts I ever put together for a client was a belated wedding gift. For his sister’s five-year anniversary, I found five bottles from the year they got married. Each bottle was tagged with which anniversary they should drink it on. Doesn’t that just make you smile?

If you are interested in sourcing vintage specific wines shoot me a note- we will find you something perfect!

Blind tasting is a major part of many wine certification tests as well as a fantastic way to learn about wines. Leading up to test day you have crammed theory, quaffed dozens of wines and stressed yourself out to the extreme. You have gotten a good night’s sleep (for the love of Dionysus- take the night before off work so you aren’t up till 3am) and eaten breakfast. Now what?

  •  Neutral White Wine Gargle
    •  Especially useful if you are doing a tasting test later in the day and have eaten/had coffee/brushed your teeth. Basically: if you have tried to have a normal day and all of a sudden realize you need to taste professionally you can do a wine gargle to clean up your palette.
  • Don’t use toothpaste when brushing your teeth
    • Minty fresh feel doesn’t really help your tasting ability. I can’t think of any wines that taste like peppermint
  • Bring Your Own Water
    • We have all had water that just tastes… odd. High mineral levels, chlorine, whatever.  I sat down in Boston for a tasting, poured a big glass of water and almost spit it out at the last class I attended. It just tasted weird. Now I just buy a bottle of water from the store down the street. I have a friend who takes it to an extreme. She checks her bag with a full water bottle of Seattle tap water. Don’t let something so basic mess you over
  • Sip on Something High Acid Before
    • Personally I do this every time. First thing in the morning I have a really hard time determining acid level. Everything feels high acid because I haven’t had any wine yet. So I fix it by giving myself something with zinging acidity before going in to test. It sets my palette’s acid-meter for the day.
  • Skip the Coffee
    • Coffee with all of it’s beautiful caffeinated glory is also full of tannins. Or if it is my coffee full of milk and sweeteners that do coat the tongue throwing my palette off in the extreme. Coffee will jack with your palette. But if your brain simply will not operate with out coffee follow it with lots of water to clean out your mouth.
  • Don’t Smoke
    • Smoking dulls your taste buds. It is also bad for you. We won’t have that conversation here but if you don’t smoke, the day before your test is a terrible time to start. Your palate will hate you. If you do smoke, not smoking if you can manage it will sharpen your senses.
  • Mid Test and Your Sniffer stopped working!
    • It happens. Deep breaths and don’t panic. Sniff your skin – your own body smells neutral to your nose- it can be a really good reset.

Take a deep breath. You are a cork dork and you can do this! Good Luck.

Dear Grape Lady,

I love red wine. But I when I drink it my mouth turns purple. My lips, my teeth, my tongue. It makes me crazy, it feels clownish. It seems like my staining is so much worse than my husband’s. Why? I’m so sick of looking at pictures and seeing my stained mouth!

-Mrs. Stained & Bothered

Dear Mrs. Stained and Bothered,

It is not just you! I don’t have scientific proof but I have noticed that women tend to have more red wine staining around the mouth than men, I think it may have to do with our lipstick’s ability to hold on to the pigment in wine. Listerine or blotting your lips and teeth with a paper towel will generally get rid of the worse of it for pictures. Personally when I switched to a lip stain instead of lipstick I noticed a decrease in the staining. Also the heavier a wine is the more staining it well be. A light bodied Pinot Noir or Gamay will give you less additional color than a heavy bodied Syrah or Malbec. I’m not saying don’t drink heavier wines, Syrah is one of my favorite grapes. But if you are going to do a family portrait at dinner, maybe do it before opening the newest bottle of Napa Cabernet. 

The reason you get staining is a reaction at the molecular level. When you take a sip of wine, the molecules of pigment and tannins, protein molecules in wine that come from the skin of the grape, interact with salivary proteins in your mouth. This meeting results in a bonding between the proteins forming larger proteins that are more visible to the human eye especially when landing on our white teeth. Proteins like to bond together. It is the same polymerization that causes tannins and pigments to form solids that look similar to coffee grounds in some red wines.  

Enjoy your wines no matter the staining, it all comes out in the end,

The Grape Lady

Dear Grape Lady,

I’m sick of being stuck at home. I’m sick of my usual wines, not that it matters because I’m running low on options in the home cellar. My wife pulled out a bottle of German Riesling we were given as a gift and said before we go back to the store we really should drink it. So… What do we do with this oddball bottle?

-Irate with a side of Riesling

Dear Irate,

It sounds like this bottle of Riesling has caused undue tension. Since it was given as a gift it may actually be a great bottle. Depends on who gave it to you. Riesling is a really fantastic grape, and most people love it – they just haven’t met the Riesling they love yet. Sommeliers love recommending them- if it’s on their wine list it is there because they love it. 

Riesling developed a terrible reputation as a candy-sweet, low quality wine from the 1980s and the ban of the Blue Nun. For years the Riesling was the step up from Pink Zinfandel on the average restaurant’s by the glass list. The grape’s homeland is Germany where the grapes are generally planted on steep hillsides near rivers. Riesling barely reach ripeness with the cold temperatures which is countered by the reflection of the sun back on to the grapes. Workers wire into harnesses in some places, belaying down the slopes to hand harvest the grapes. All this work is done for a reason. The wines are fantastic. Wines here are labeled by ripeness level so how much sugar was in the grapes when harvested, and thus how much sugar will be in your final wines. From least amount of sugar to highest:

  • Kabinett
  • Spätlese
  • Auslese
  • Beerenauslese
  • Trockenberrenauslese
  • Eiswein

Kabinett and Spätlese can be bone dry or slightly sweet. It depends on multitude of factors. The grapes are qualified by the sugar levels at harvest. If the yeast converts all of the sugar to alcohol then the wine will be bone dry, if the yeast only converts some of the sugars the wine will have a touch, or more, of sweetness. This touch of sweetness can be good! It counters spice in food when paired makes each bite more enjoyable than the last. Grilled shrimp and a pineapple, jalapeno  slaw with a glass of dry Riesling is amazing. Rieslings are great with spicy foods, especially within Asian cuisine.

Auslese is moderately sweet and is lovely with desserts in general but Beerenauslese, Trockenberrenauslese and Eiswein are lusciously sweet. They can be dessert on their own. The grapes for these wines are allowed to hang on the vines for a longer period of time thus accumulating more sugars. The Eiswein grapes actually freeze on the vines before picking, so when the grapes are pressed the water in the grape floats to the top of the juice as ice, resulting in a sweeter final product. If your bottle is one of these- have it with cookies, cake or crème brûlée depending on how adventurous you are cooking in quarantine. 

Why don’t you order some Thai, Sushi or Chinese food tonight and crack open that bottle? Personally I keep a bottle of Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington in my fridge at all times for when we order Thai food at home. It’s generally under $14 at the grocery and it elevates even really inexpensive takeout. It’s also the most lovely aperitif, crisp and refreshing as Texas summer creeps up on us. 

Cheers, 

The Grape Lady