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The book


Ten things to know - understanding wine for the impatient

By Jeffrey Carl

  1. The quality of wine is generally dependent on the land and the climate where it is grown, as well as the blending of various types of grapes. Because of soil and weather qualities, certain regions are better for certain types of wine.
  2. European wines are generally labeled by region, which connotes a specific mix of grapes; non-European wines are labeled by grape type(s).
  3. Safe regional choices include chardonnays or cabernet sauvignons from Northern California, Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, Shiraz from Australia, white wines from South Africa and dessert wines from Germany.
  4. Certain wines are known to go better with various types of dishes because they complement or don’t overwhelm (or disappear in) the food.
  5. To be safe, order white wines with fowl, fish, vegetables or other “light” flavors; order red wines with red meats or “heavy” flavors.
  6. Some years produce better wine than others in any given region because of the weather conditions (good or bad). Most wines today are produced to have mature flavors in their first few years and don’t necessarily get better as they get older, so old wine isn’t necessarily better.
  7. The price of a wine has only a limited relationship to how good it is. Most restaurants or retailers will charge more for a wine if they know it’s good – but there are many overpriced wines.
  8. To be safe in your choice, you can generally pick “reserve” wines, which are wines that vintners know will be coming from good years for that particular grape and region.
  9. When ordering at a restaurant, swish the wine around and smell it before tasting (you don’t have to sniff the cork).
  10. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending it back if you don’t like it or don’t think it will go well with your food.

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