Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How much sugar is in wine?

Once again we turn to our favorite wine blog Wine Folly to help our customers become better versed in wine tasting. Here is one question that always seems hard to pin point even for season wine drinkers. How much sugar is in my glass of wine?


Wines range from 0 to about 220 grams per liter sugar, depending on the style. Dry wines can contain up to about 10 grams of sugar per bottle but still taste dry.

Bone Dry less than 1 cal per glass
Dry 0-6 cal per glass
Off-Dry 6–21 cal per glass
Sweet 21–72 cal per glass
Very Sweet 72–130 cal per glass
The terms above are non-official and simply show a common range in still wines. Currently, most countries (including the US) aren’t required to label actual sweetness levels in wine.

Where Does Sugar in Wine Come From?

The sugar in wine is called residual sugar or RS. RS doesn’t come from corn syrup or granulated sugar like you might think, it primarily comes from the fruit sugars in wine grapes (fructose and glucose). Of course, there are a few instances where cheap wine producers will use sugar or grape concentrate to sweeten a wine–all the more reason to seek out quality!

How come some wines are dry and some are sweet?
Basically, when winemaking happens, yeast eats sugar and makes ethanol (alcohol) as a by-product. A dry wine is when the yeast eats all the sugars and a sweet wine is when the yeast is stopped (usually by chilling the fermentation) before it eats all the sugars. This is why some sweet wines have less alcohol that dry wines. A great example of this is German Riesling, which usually have about 8–9% ABV when sweet and 10–11% ABV when dry.


How Does One Determine the Residual Sugar in Wine?

The most accurate way to identify sweetness in wine is to look for a tech sheet about the wine in question. Many producers offer the technical notes on each vintage of their wine as a courtesy. RS is usually displayed in 1 of three ways: in grams/Liter, in grams/100ml, or as a percentage.

Why we suck at tasting residual sugar in wine

Exact levels of residual sugar are actually quite difficult to taste with our “naked tongue.” Even highly trained wine tasters often have trouble identifying RS in wine–but you can learn with practice. The main reason we can’t taste sweetness that well is because other traits in the wine, including the acidity level and tannin, distort our sensitivity to sweetness.

You can test this oddity yourself by tasting plain sugar and then tasting the same portion while biting into a lemon. The acidity will cancel out all or most of the sweetness on your tongue.

Real-World Examples

Several people requested a few real-world examples of red wines that contain residual sugar as examples. Here are a couple for historic reference only:

Alta Vista Classic Malbec (2013): 2.8 g/L
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel: 3.4 g/L
Menage a Trois California Red: 12 g/L
Yellow Tail Shiraz: 12 g/L
Apothic Red: 15 g/L
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz: 57 g/L

What if there’s no information about a wine?

If you can’t find a technical sheet, or if the RS is not listed, here are a few tips:

Cheap wine usually has residual sugar. It’s safe to assume that most affordable (sub-$10) wines from the US contain some residual sugar, perhaps anywhere from 2–15 g/L. There are, of course, excellent exceptions to this rule so look for more information first.
Buy better wine. If you spend a little more on a bottle of wine, say around $15–20, producers tend to feature less residual sugar (if any at all). Grapes are higher quality so the wines don’t need sweetness to taste fruity.
Drink less. Even at 15 g/L RS, a wine will only add about 7.5 sugar calories. Like with all things, your best bet might just be moderation.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten BBQ Wines for Summer

The warm weather is upon us and it is time to kick the grilling into high gear. The only question that remains is what wine to pair that rich, grilled food with. Now whether it is a big porterhouse or just a stuffed portabella mushroom, the same wines will apply. So here is our Top Ten BBQ Wines List:

#1 Il Tauro, Salice Salentino $8.99
One of the tricks to pairing wine with BBQ is to look for big, bold wines that are very easy drinking. This wine has deep, dark flavors of blackberry, blueberry and a nice Italian spice palate with a super, soft and silky finish. It also has a touch of sweet fruit on the finish that pairs well with BBQ sauce!

#2 The Velvet Devil, Merlot $12.99
Another rich wine that is silky soft on the finish which makes you beg for another glass. A Washington State wine that has plum, cassis and cherry flavors with just enough dry tannin to balance out the wine. A great wine that pairs well with or even without food.

#3 Portada, Red Blend $9.99
This is our newest Hit of the Year being voted by popular demand as the most sought after under $10 bottle of wine. This wine is everyones favorite because it is supple and complex without any hint of pretension. A great, delicious wine that just begs to be shared with friends and a nice fire!

#4 30 Degrees, Cabernet Sauvignon $12.98
A perennial favorite around here due to it's bold flavors and soft finish. This wine come from Paso Robles where is develops some really ripe, rich fruit flavors but without the mouth puckering tannins of its neighbor to the north (Napa).

#5 Mr. Blacks Little Book, Shiraz $15.99
Australia has been sitting on the sidelines of the wine world for a number of years after the bubble burst about ten years ago. This old producer weathered the bust by producing some of the tastiest wines coming from down under. Today this Shiraz stands out as a phenomenal wine at a great price!

#6 Vina Palaciega, Old Vine Malbec $10.99
Some of the oldest vines in Argentina produce the best wines because of their concentrated, complex flavor that are developed in their grapes. This bold Malbec has a blast of dark fruit flavor followed by a nice punch of tannins that really shine when paired with a big, juicy piece of meat.

#7 Klinker Brick, Old Vine Zinfandel $18.99
In California, most of the really old vines planted by Spanish missionaries have been long since torn out. Those grape growers that left the Zinfandel grapes survive are now rewarded by intensely flavored wines like this one. It has juicy, jammy flavors of concentrated raspberry, blackberry and cinnamon with a backbone of sweet oak that will blow your taste buds away. A must try!

#8 Isle Saint Pierre, Red Blend $9.99
This organic wine from the South of France is what they drink with Summer fare right off the grill. This blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Arinarnoa is big enough to stand up to the biggest flavors while still keeping a nice balance and harmony of flavors.

#9 Can Blau, Red Blend $12.99
A stand out red blend from Spain made up of Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah have such luscious, smooth flavors that it is hard to put down. Think of blackberries and boysenberries mixed some sweet oaky spice flavors on a torrent of juicy sweetness without all the added sugar.

#10 Mas de Gourgonnier, Red Blend
The last but not least of our Summer picks. This blend from the South of France is classically French in style but with an American sensibility. The Grenache, Syrah and Cab give this wine a nice richness without being heavy. The hints of cedar, tobacco and baking spice make it a very cool and complex wine. A great wine that comes in one of the most fun bottles we have seen lately.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sulfites in Wine

We get a lot of questions from wine drinkers regarding Sulfites. "Do they cause headaches?", "Are the bad for us?" and "If it wasn't dangerous why would they have to put contains sulfites on the label?". Luckily for us Wine Folly (once  again) is here to the rescue to sort out the truth and fiction behind sulfites in wine.

As a wine seller who gets this question a lot, I always advise people who are concerned about heavily sulfite additives to shop Old World Wine Countries such as Italy, France, Germany etc. Theses countries tend not to add in very many additives because the wine makers follow the old traditions of wine making. It is usually the New World Wine Countries such as USA, Chile and Argentina that often put more sulfites than are necessary in the wines.

The deal with sulfites in wine
Those little words “Contains Sulfites” on the bottom of a label often stir up concern. What’s even more confusing is that the US is one of the only countries (along with Australia) that require bottles be labeled. So what gives? How much sulfites are in wine and how do they affect you? Time to get to the bottom of sulfites in wine and how they’re not as bad as you might think. 

Are sulfites in wine bad?

Not for most people. Sulfites aren’t the cause of red wine headaches. There are some notable exceptions to this rule.

About 5-10% of people with asthma have severe sulfite sensitivity and thus the US requires labeling for sulfites above 10 parts per million (PPM). Sulfur is on the rise as a concern among humans as a cause of health problems (from migraines to body swelling) because of its prevalence in processed foods.
Stacking up Sulfites in Wine

How much sulfur is in wine?

It depends. Depending on the production method, style and the color of the wine, sulfites in wine range from no-added sulphur (10-40 PPM) to about 350 PPM. If you compare wine to other foods, it’s placed far lower on the spectrum. For example, many dry red wines have around 50 PPM.
  • Wines with lower acidity need more sulfur than higher acidity wines. At pH 3.6 and above, the sulfites needed is much higher because it’s an exponential ratio.
  • Wines with more color (i.e. red wines) need less sulfur than clear wines (i.e. white wines)
  • Wines with higher sugar content tend to need more sulfur to prevent secondary fermentation of the remaining sugar.
  • Wines that are warmer in temperature release free sulfur compounds (the nasty sulfur smell) and can be ‘fixed’ simply through decanting and chilling the wine.

Why are sulfites in wine?

Very simply, sulfites are a preservative to wine, which is a volatile food product (ever open a wine and it’s bad by the next day?). Wineries have been using sulfur around wine for a long time, as far back as the Roman times. Back in Roman times, winemakers would burn candles made of sulfur in empty wine containers (called Amphora) to keep the wines from turning to vinegar. Sulfur started to be used in winemaking (instead of just cleaning wine barrels) in the early 1900’s to stop bacteria and other yeasts from growing. It also helps in the extraction of pigments in wine, making red wines ‘redder’.

Can I smell sulfites in wine?

Very sensitive tasters have been noted to smell sulfites in wine at around 50 PPM. What’s interesting is that the warmer the wine, the more molecular sulfur it releases. This is why some wines have a nasty cooked-egg aroma when you open them. You can fix this issue by decanting your wine and chilling for about 15-30 minutes.

Should I be concerned about sulfites in wine?

If you have sensitivity to foods, you should absolutely try to eliminate sulfites from your diet. Eliminating wine could be necessary. Perhaps start your sulfur witch hunt with the obvious culprits (like processed foods) before you write-off wine.

Wine Folly (www.winefolly.com)
Sulfur used in Roman wines mentioned in: Beckmann and Johnston et al. A History of Inventions and Discoveries (1846)


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Red, White and Booze

What to Eat and Drink this 4th of July

This weekend is July 4th and there's no better way to celebrate America's 239th birthday than by eating and drinking! Here's our quick guide to what you should be feasting on this weekend.

Fresh Food from the Market:
Classic Potato Salad
Mango Chicken Salad
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Roasted Red Peppers
White Bean Salad
Cucumber Tomato Salad

Snacks for the BBQ:
Yucatan Organic Guacamole, Emerald Valley Organic Salsa, Food Should Taste Good Blue Corn Chips, Uncle Harold's Blue Corn Chips, and Grateful Harvest Caesar Dressing

The Perfect Cheese Plate:
Four Fat Fowl St. Stephen Triple Cream, Mike's Hot Honey, Rosemary Cranberry Pure Flats, Manchego, Prima Donna, and Dalmatia Fig Spread 

Great Drinks:
Blueberry Mint Mojito
Try our take on this classic Mojito for a refreshing, fruity twist on an old favorite! 
Blueberry Mint Mojito
8 Blueberries
1 Slice of Lime
4 Mint Leaves
6 Ounces of Txakolina or Vinho Verde Wine (You Can Substitute Pinot Grigio)
Crush the blueberries, lime and mint and then add in the wine. Enjoy over ice!

Mija, Sangria (Closest to Homemade)
Mija Sangria is a fresh and natural bottled sangria made with 100% real fruit juice for a true homemade taste. Crafted without artificial additives or preservatives, it's packed with antioxidants from the juice of popular super fruits including pomegranate, açaí and blood orange. Mija comes in a reusable flip-top bottle, making it the perfect on-the-go beverage.

Red, White and Blue Prosecco
Nothing is more refreshing on a hot day than Prosecco. For a fun 4th of July variation, try these red, white and blue ideas.

Artisanal Premixed Gin & Tonic and Vodka & Tonic
Relax this weekend with these delicious premixed cocktails. Don't work this weekend, drink! Berkshire Distillery makes their own artisanal tonic water and then mixes it with either their Gin or their Vodka to make a super smooth treat. Just serve over ice with a lime!

Good Wine in a Can?
Yes, I know what everyone is thinking, we are crazy to recommend a wine in a can. However, not only is this the first wine to be put in a can, but it is also delicious. The only caveat is that you have to put your pinky in the air when you sip from the can! Absolutely perfect for camping, the beach and the boat!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Best Wine Preservation System

If you are like us then you hate opening a bottle of wine to enjoy a glass with dinner only to find that the next day it is not as good or worse that it is vinegar within two days. Now we believe most bottles are single serve but there are many times when you want to open a second bottle for one more glass or you want to open a really nice bottle on Friday and enjoy it next week as well.

We have been searching for years to find a cheap and effective solution to this problem. We liked the wine bottle pump systems but they don't last long. The argon gas preservers are the best but they are very expensive. During our search we came across this fairly new company called Vin Edge. Their inexpensive and easy to use system impressed us so much that we now use it to preserve our wine tasting bottles so they stay good for up to 2 weeks. Here's the details:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Screw It (Why Screw Closures are Better Than Corks for Wine)

If you have been following our blog as of late, then you read last week about how the beer industry is changing its views of cans vs bottles. We have now seen many more consumers change their view in favor of craft beer in cans as opposed to the long held belief that bottles are better. If you missed it, then check it out here.
The wine industy has been going through the same arguments for years over the use of cork vs stelvin closure (screw caps) to close a bottle of wine. Below is a very cogent argument for all of our wine geeks from one of our favorite sources of information, Wine Folly. Check out all their great content here.
Which is better: corks or screw caps? If you say corks are better, you’re both right and wrong. The truth is, the worldwide demand for wine (and corks) is growing, so we should get familiar with the future of wine preservation. Take a closer look at why corks and cork alternatives are nearly identical in terms of their ability to store and age wine. Then preview some alternatives to wine storage to get you thinking about where the wine world is going.

Corks vs. Screw Caps

corks vs screw caps pros and cons


Corks have been the preferred choice for closing wine since the beginning of modern Europe in the 1400’s. Why? Well, cork bark is one of the few natural products that is malleable enough to hold the contents inside a glass bottle. Glass bottles became more popular to store wine during this very same era.
Fast forward to today and there are a unique set of pros and cons to natural cork:
The Pros of Corks:
1. A Natural Renewable Resource
2. Historically Preferred 
3. Longterm Aging Proven
The Cons of Corks:
1. Expensive (2-3x)
2. Limited Natural Resource (Running Out)
3. 1-3% Affected by TCA ‘Cork’ Taint
4. Variable Quality
5. Natural Corks Breathe at Variable Rates

Screw Caps and Cork Alternatives

Screw caps have only been used in wine since 1964, but they’ve rapidly become a large share of the market. If you ever travel to Australia, you’ll notice that screw caps are on nearly every single bottle in the country. The reason cork alternatives have became so popular is because of a period of decreased quality cork manufacturing during the 1980’s. Basically, winemakers were tired of getting low quality corks that would cause TCA ‘cork’ taint, so they switched.
Besides screw caps (made of metal and plastic), there are several ‘fake’ corks made from plastics to plant-based polymers.
Today, the pros and cons of several cork alternatives look like this:

Cork Alternatives: Pros

  • More Affordable Option
  • No TCA ‘Cork’ Taint
  • Longterm aging studies have shown positive results
  • Screwcaps are easy to open

Cork Alternatives: Cons

  • Some cork alternatives don’t breathe
  • Mostly Made From Non-Renewable Resources
  • Recyclable but Not Biodegradable
  • Variable Manufacturing Quality
  • Associated with ‘Cheap’ Wine

But aren’t corks better because they ‘breath’?

The longtime argument that corks are better because they breathe has been dispelled as ‘breath’ is now emulated in both screw caps and cork alternatives. Today you can buy screw caps with calculated levels of ‘oxygen ingress’ overtime. Ironically, real corks are actually quite variable with their oxygen ingress rates.

Are you saying that screwcaps are better than corks?


Not at all, although for most applications cork alternatives are better simply because of the quality for the price. I challenge you the next time you buy an affordable wine at the grocery; more often than not it won’t be a 100% natural cork. Instead the bottle will be closed with a technical, agglomerated and colmated cork, which are low quality alternatives to natural cork. These sub-par products are also just as unreliable with their likeliness to cause cork taint.
100% natural corks are one of the only options that are a true renewable resource but because of their high price tag, most are reserved for wines in the $30+ bottle range.

The bigger picture problem: glass is heavy

As wine becomes consumed on a more day-to-day basis, looking for alternatives to glass will become more important. There are so many wines on the market today that really aren’t meant to age for more than a year. These wines could easily be offered in polyethylene, cans or even cartons. Alternatives like these won’t affect the flavor and are often much lighter weight, a reduction in carbon emissions for shipping.
Of course glass will always have a place with wine enjoyment, but it’s okay to have a daily drinker out of a box or a can. As more great value wine producers look for alternatives, perhaps we can all support them in their efforts to clean up the waste in the wine world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best for Beer: Bottles or Cans?


     The old cans vs. bottles debate.  It has raged on for years.  It's almost as passionately argued as the wine bottle cork vs. screw cap.  In the craft beer community, for quite a while, it had seemed as if the bottle had won out. Well all that is certainly beginning to change as more and more craft breweries are either choosing to offer many of their beers in cans or are exclusively canning all together. The best example of canning exclusively would be Oskar Blues of Colorado, who began canning their beers back in 2002 and subsequently became the first craft brewery to do this.  Many of the most respected and sought after beers, especially IPAs, are found in can only format.  These beers are considered some of the best examples in the world of that style and are only available in cans.  So that says quite a bit about cans right there.
     Several side by side blind comparisons of the same beer in both formats have been done.  It's very hard to tell which vessel the beer came from and it almost seems as if the can does a better job of retaining freshness and carbonation.  With that being said, the biggest argument against cans has always been that they seem to leave a metallic taste behind, thereby tainting the flavor.  Today, this argument is not valid as all cans these days are lined with a water-based polymer that prevents the contents from actually coming in contact with the actual can.  In fact this is a must, as the aluminum cans we use today are so thin that the beer would quickly eat right through them. As for the contact with the top of the can when being consumed, if this really bothers you that much simply pour the beer out into a glass. We also shouldn't forget that draft beer usually comes from an aluminum keg, right?
     Two other huge benefits that cans provide are that they pretty much completely block out UV light and allow almost no oxygen in after being sealed.  The same can not be said about bottles.  Light and oxygen are two of beer's biggest enemies as they quickly cause the beer to lose it's flavor and freshness. So cans actually preserve their contents and protect them better than bottles.
     Other pros for cans: they fit in a cooler better, they are stackable,  they won't shatter when dropped, they are more conducive to outdoor activities,  and they don't take up as much room in the recycle bucket.  It almost seems as if cans were made for the warm weather.  They are perfect for the beach, the pool, or for hiking.  Tailgating with cans is safer as you don't have to worry about stepping on broken glass.
     So the evidence is quite clear: cans don't deserve the stigma that still seems to follow them around.  They are just more practical.  Even though you most likely won't see your favorite bottle conditioned cellar worthy Belgian ale or barrel aged stout in a can, it is pretty safe to say that cans just make more sense for most companies and consumers.