12 Most Asked Questions About Wine
From our exclusive Wine Selector Member events to food and wine shows and our airport Cellar Doors, these are our 12 most asked questions about wine!
1. WHAT IS A BLENDED WINE? ARE BLENDED WINES INFERIOR?
Blended wines are definitely not inferior, in fact, blending can create some of the most interesting and complex wines with the aim to make a whole wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Some grape varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot share a great synergy. On some occasions other unlikely combinations of grape varieties may complement each other beautifully, these wine blends may be exclusive to a single region or even a producer. Sometimes grapes from one region are blended with grapes from different regions to produce a wine of greater balance and complexity.
Australia was one of the first countries in the world to label wines with the variety that it is made from. This differs from the traditional European way of labelling with the region of production.
This small change in labelling was a hit with wine drinkers worldwide and was one of the reasons Australian wines became so popular. One of the results, however, is the Australian wine drinkers became obsessed with wines that were from a single variety – especially now they could easily identify what variety was used. This preference was to the detriment of blended wines which became seen as second-rate wines made from left over parcels.
This could not be further from the truth. Some of Australia’s most famous wines like Penfold’s Bin 60A (Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz) are blended wines and with winemaker innovation and experimentation on the rise, there has never been a better time to explore both white wine blends and red wine blends. In addition, remember next time you’re popping the cork on a premium Australian Sparkling or Champagne, that the chances are about to enjoy a blended wine.
2. WHAT’S BETTER? CORK WINE VS. SCREWCAP?
In current wine making in Australia, screwcap is the preferred closure over the once traditional use of cork. In fact, screwcap closures were first used in the Australian wine industry in the 1970s, but consumers at the time perceived these wines to be of lower quality, and the initiative soon fizzled out.
Fortunately for Australian wine drinkers, the screwcap comeback came in the 2000 vintage when a number of Clare Valley winemakers bottled some of their Rieslings under screwcap to prevent cork-related faults. The most common of these is cork 'taint', caused by a compound known as TCA, which was often present in cork bark. Before the proliferation of screw cap closures in Australia, the level of wines ruined by cork taint was 12-15%. To put this in perspective, for every two dozen you purchased, it was accepted that there would be at least two bottles affected. This relatively high occurrence of cork taint was due largely to cork suppliers providing Australia with (compared to Europe) second rate corks with a higher incidence of taint producing bacteria.
Due to the airtight nature of screwcaps, the problem of premature oxidation has also been eliminated, along with the 'flavour scalping' tendency of the porous cork material, and other potential flavour modifications.
Another advantage now widely recognised by consumers is the convenience factor - screw capped bottles are easy to open and re-seal, especially if you don’t have a cork screw handy!
3. WHY DO YOU AGE WINE?
Ever wondered why we age wine, what makes aged wine so special, or what the best way of ageing wine is?
Even if you’re new to wine, you’ve likely heard that wines get just better with age. While not true for every wine – particularly less expensive wines and most white wines (with the exception of Riesling, Chardonnay and Semillon) – there’s no question that popping a good quality wine in a suitable cellar can help that wine develop secondary characters over time. Cellared correctly, aged wines are well worth the wait, and the investment.
4. IS ROSÉ WINE SWEET?
A style of wine rather than a variety, Rosé has come a long way since those sickly-sweet wines of yesterday to emerge as an anytime, food-friendly tipple. From dry to sweet and everything in between, there’s a Rosé to suit every palate.
Given how many different grape varieties can be used to make Rosé, no two wines taste the same. While most Australian Rosé is made in a dry style, there are off-dry and sweeter examples. However, they’re usually made in the same way, with the biggest differences being variety, where it comes from, residual sugar and alcohol level.
5. ARE THERE PRESERVATIVES IN WINE?
Most wines do contain a preservative, with sulphur dioxide, the preservative most often used in Australian winemaking. Sulphur dioxide is added in the winemaking process to protect the wine from oxidation and bacterial spoilage.
Wines which contain sulphur dioxide have it listed on the bottle label as ‘preservative 220’, ‘minimal sulphur dioxide added’ or ‘contains sulphites’.
“The sulphur dioxide used in winemaking is less than many other products that we consume every day, like dried fruits, some beer, and preserved meats, for instance,” explains Dave Mavor, Tasting Panellist, Winemaker and Wine Show Judge.
6. IS ORGANIC WINE BETTER FOR YOU?
At its simplest, organic wine is wine that has been produced from organically-grown grapes, free from herbicides, pesticides and other chemical agents. So, if you have concerns about the use of some of these products in agricultural or have allergies to them, then yes, organic wine could be a better option for you.
Organic wine is considered by some to be an eco-friendlier style and it’s also closer to the ‘natural’ flavour and character of the grape variety used in the wine.
Another question we get asked about organic wine is “are organic wines sulphite free?”. Just because you buy an organic wine it doesn’t mean it will be preservative-free. For that, you’ll need to seek out a preservative-free wine – often referred to as a wine created through ‘minimal intervention’.
7. HOW LONG DO YOU CELLAR WINE?
Not all wines are made to age, in fact, today most wines are made to drink and enjoy while young. But if you do have some younger wines that you think will benefit from a little age in the bottle here are the points you need to consider.
There are several characters that determine the length of time a wine could or should be cellared for including higher acidity in whites and firmer tannins in reds. The pedigree of the winery in previous vintages can also be a useful guide.
As a general rule the following is a guide for cellaring your favourite varieties, but remember to also refer to any ageing advice on the wine label or winery website:
Drink now while young and fresh
Moscato, Verdelho and Viognier
Up to two years
Sauvignon Blanc, Arneis, Vermentino and Pinot Gs
Up to five years
Chardonnay, Fiano, Grüner Veltliner, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Montepulciano –
Up to 10 years
Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Semillon, Barbera, Durif, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Nero d’Avola, Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Touriga –
Up to 15 years
Marsanne, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz
8. HOW TO HOLD A WINE GLASS PROPERLY?
When you’re out to dinner or with company, you really need to know the correct way to hold a wine glass, right?
The answer is very simple – hold the stem, towards the base of the glass, between your forefinger and thumb. By holding a wine glass this way, the glass is balanced, and it also limits the contact of your body heat to the wine in the bowl of the glass. This is particularly important if the wine you are drinking is a white wine as you want to keep the wine at the recommended serving temperature and not warm it by holding the bowl.
And while we’re on the subject of glasses, there are also some factors in choosing the right wine glass for each of your favourite wines.
9. IS WINE VEGAN? WHY/WHY NOT?
Why is wine not vegan? Did you know wine sometimes contains traces of animal products? We’re not talking about critters that might get caught up in the crusher; it’s about what happens in the winemaking process. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, this may be an issue for you, but thankfully winemakers have adapted their techniques to cater for all consumers.
When it’s young, a wine usually appears cloudy and includes floaters. These will correct naturally over time, but to speed things up, winemakers usually put them through a manual fining process. When a fining agent is added to a wine, it either binds to the suspended solids and causes them to fall to the bottom, or it absorbs them.
Fining agents come in many guises and some of them are derived from animal products and the most common ones include blood and bone marrow, isinglass (gelatine from fish bladder membranes), egg albumen, fish oil, gelatine, and milk protein. That’s why you often see disclaimers on wine labels such as, “May contain traces of egg white or fish products.” These traces are problematic for vegetarians and for vegans whose diet and lifestyle eliminates anything containing animal products or by-products.
Thankfully, vegans and vegetarians can still enjoy a good drop whilst knowing no animal products have been used in the process. There are vegan wines available for which winemakers have used non-animal derived fining agents such as different types of clay, limestone, and silica gel.
10. HOW TO MAKE ROSÉ WINE?
Up until a few years ago, Australian winemakers made Rosé as an afterthought, but now the wines are being made deliberately, with designated parcels of fruit that are picked specifically to be turned into Rosé.
Basically, there are three ways to make Rosé wine!
The Maceration method
Just like red wine, Rosés pick up their colour from the skin of red wine grapes. The winemaker can determine the depth of colour in the wine by deciding how long to leave the juice in contact with the skins, typically anywhere from two to 24 hours – the shorter the time, the lighter the colour.
The Saignée method
The Saignée (‘san-yay’), or the ‘bleed’ method involves ‘bleeding off’ a portion of the juice – while the remaining goes on to make red wine – into a separate vat to finish fermentation. This technique can result in some lovely examples.
Another way to make Rosé is by mixing white and red wine together, although, this rather crude method is generally frowned upon and doesn’t usually make for a very nice tasting wine.
11. HOW LONG DOES WINE LAST ONCE OPEN?
If you’re like us and love good wine, there’s little chance of a bottle lasting long enough to risk losing its drinkability. However, if you do happen to find yourself with an opened bottle or two at the end of an evening, the below will steer you in the right direction.
When sealed and stored in a cool, dark place or a fridge, red wines like Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot and Malbec can last for around four days. As a rule, red wines with higher tannin and acidity tend to last longer once opened. Late harvest reds can also stay fresh for up to four days.
LIGHTER WHITE WINES
The light-weight whites like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and blends, Riesling, Vermentino and Gewürztraminer should remain fresh for up to two days. Make sure the wine is sealed with a screw cap or stopper and stored in the fridge. You’ll probably notice a change in taste as the wine oxidises and the fruit characters diminish, becoming less vibrant.
FULLER-BODIED WHITE WINES & ROSÉ
When sealed with a screw cap, cork or stopper and stored in the fridge, three days is the use-by for a Rosé or full-bodied white like Chardonnay, Fiano, Roussanne, Viognier and Verdelho. Oaked Chardonnay and Viognier tend to oxidise more quickly because they are exposed to additional oxygen during the pre-bottled ageing process.
Once popped, Champagne, Prosecco, Sparkling Whites and Sparkling Reds quickly lose their carbonation or fizz. Use a Sparkling wine stopper and store it in the fridge for no more than two days.
Find out more about serving and storing wine.
12. HOW DO YOU MAKE MULLED WINE?
Mulled wine is known by many names. Glüwhein, glögg, candola, svařák, vin chaud… wherever in the world you’re from, there’ll likely be a much-loved local mulled wine recipe that is shared when the weather turns cool.
But what is mulled wine, and how do you make it? Put simply, mulled wine – also known as spiced wine – is a warm drink typically made with red wine, combined with mulling spices such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, fruits like oranges, lemons, and sometimes even raisins. It’s the perfect beverage to take turn a winter’s night from chilly to cheery!
Check out our mulled wine recipe, gather your friends and get ready for a fun night by the fire!