12 Most Asked Questions About Wine
Our Wine Selectors Promotion Teams are a busy tribe, travelling the country to share their passion with Aussie wine lovers far and wide. They get to speak to an amazingly diverse range of people from dedicated wine collectors to newbies just starting out on their wine journey.
Here are the top 12 questions they regularly get asked about wine.
1. ARE BLENDED WINES NOT AS PREMIUM AS STRAIGHT VARIETALS?
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 blends may be exclusive to a single region or even a producer. Sometimes grapes are blended with other fruit from other 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 wine 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 obsession was to the detriment of blended wines which have since been 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 blends and with winemaker innovation and experimentation on the rise, there has never been a better time to explore wines, both white and red, made from multiple varieties. In addition, remember next time you’re popping the cork on a premium Australian Sparkling or Champagne, that the chances are you about to enjoy a blended wine.
Learn more about Shiraz blends here
2. WHY DO PREMIUM AUSTRALIAN WINES COME IN SCREW CAP?
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.
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 was also 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!
Find out more a about cap vs cork here.
3. ARE OLDER VINTAGES BETTER QUALITY AND MORE EXPENSIVE THAN YOUNGER VINTAGES?
The answer to this question comes down to individual taste. Do you enjoy older wines over younger wines? Your personal preference will guide your answer.
Not all vintage seasons are equal – some are hugely successful and others are difficult. The great vintages are considered so because the fruit quality was at a premium – wines from those years will be in higher demand and generally be a higher price category.
Age does not bear as much influence on price of a wine, rather it comes down to the quality of the vintage. Young wines from fantastic vintage years can command much higher prices than older wines from lesser vintages.
Learn more about how wines age here.
4. ARE ALL DARKER COLOURED ROSÉ’S SWEET?
Versatile, refreshing and absolutely delicious, there’s so much to love about Rosé! A style of wine rather than a variety, it’s come a long way since those sickly-sweet wines of yesterday to emerge as an anytime, food-friendly tipple.
Grapes are crushed with their skins on then left to macerate for two to 24 hours, then the juice is strained from the solids. The longer the juice touches the grape skins, the darker it becomes.
The colour of Rosé can range from the lightest shades of pale onion skin pink to salmon, coral, hot pink, and ruby red; traditionally Rosé was dark in colour and sweet-in-style. In modern Australian winemaking, however, colour cannot guarantee sweetness levels, rather the darker with wine the more robust and fuller-bodied the Rosé.
Primary fragrances and flavours of Rosé depend on the type of grape, or grapes, used, but will typically sit along the spectrum of red fruits and florals, melons and zesty citrus. Sometimes, you’ll find pleasant green characters, like rhubarb or strawberries with their leafy green tops still on.
Find some new Rosé favourites with our latest Rosé State-of-Play.
5. ARE ALL ORGANIC AND VEGAN WINES PRESERVATIVE FREE?
Just because you buy an organic wine 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’.
Find out more with our Beginners Guide to Organic Wine
6. HOW LONG CAN YOU CELLAR WHITES AND REDS?
If you can resist opening them, certain wines will reward you deliciously with some time spent ageing. The first consideration when ageing wines is storage, so to make sure you’re keeping your wine in optimum condition, check out Tasting Panellist Adam Walls’ tips on the best ways to store your wine.
But before you start squirrelling away random bottles, it helps to know what to expect and which wines are the best to cellar.
7. DO ALL WINES GET BETTER WITH AGE?
The short answer is NO! Today, most wines are made to drink young, while others are crafted to age.
Certain characteristics to look out for that will tell you if a wine is worth putting away, include 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:
Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino and Pinot Gs – up to two years.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot – up to five years.
Riesling, Semillon and Malbec – up to 10 years.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz – up to 15 years.
Learm more about the perfect drinking age here.
8. DOES THE QUALITY OF THE WINE GLASS REALLY MATTER/MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Yes! For an all-purpose white wine glass, choose a long stem with a good-sized bowl so there is plenty of space for the wine to breathe. Overall, red wines are best served in larger-bowled glasses, and there are generally two red wine glass shapes - Bordeaux and Burgundy.
To help you choose the best glasses for the styles of wine you're drinking, we've put together this easy-to-follow glassware guide.
9. WHY AREN’T ALL WINES 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.
Keen to add some vegan drops to your collection? Check out our quality range of red and white vegan wines.
10. HOW DO YOU MAKE ROSÉ?
Up until a few years ago, Australian winemakers made Rosé as an afterthought, says Tasting Panellist Adam Walls. “Whereas now, the wines are being made deliberately, with designated parcels of fruit that have been picked specifically to be turned into Rosé.”
Click here to reveal exactly how Rosé is made.
11. IT’S SAYS THIS WINE SMELLS LIKE CITRUS. HOW MUCH CITRUS DO THEY PUT IN THIS WINE?
Citrus aromas and characters are pronounced in white wine varieties like Semillon, Riesling, and Vermentino that are higher in acidity. These are natural traits of the grape varieties and are released during the winemaking process – they are not added to the wine.
Citrus characters in white wines include:
Semillon – lemon and citrus zest
Riesling – lime
Albariño – lemon and grapefruit
Chardonnay – grapefruit
Chenin-Blanc – lemon
Fiano – lemon zest and grapefruit
Pinot G – lemon
Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit
Trebbiano – grapefruit and citrus zest
Vermentino – grapefruit and limes
12. ONCE OPENED HOW LONG CAN MY WINE LAST?
If you’re like us and love good wine, there’s little chance of a bottle lasting long enough to risk losing its drinkability. If you do find yourself with an opened bottle or two at the end of an evening, these pointers will help make the most of those delectable drops before they’re spoiled.
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.
WHITE WINES AND ROSÉ
When sealed with a screw cap, cork or stopper and stored in the fridge white wines and Rosé should remain fresh for up to a week.
When sealed and stored in a cool, dark place or a fridge, red wines can last for around two days. As a general rule, red wines with higher tannin and acidity tend to last longer once opened.
Thanks to the addition of brandy during the blending process, vintage fortified wines, Tawny, Muscat and Topaque can stay fresh for a considerable 28 days once opened. Like full-bodied reds, ensure the bottle is sealed tight with the screw cap or original cork and store the wine in a cool, dark cellar or cupboard.