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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Bourbon Cocktails

Looking for something new and exciting to mix up for your next party (or just after a long day at work)? Here are some really cool drinks you can make with all those delicious Bourbons that keep popping up on our shelves each week. Cheers!

P.S. Don't forget to sign up for our Bourbon Cocktail Class next Thursday (5/21/15) at 6pm to learn how to make these from our local Bourbon expert Shea Heffernan

(Summer in) Manhattan
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Meletti Amaro
¼ part St. Germaine
Bittermens Hopped-Grapefruit Bitters

Bourbon Black Tea Mint Julep
2 parts Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon
¾ part Black Tea
¾ part Simple Syrup
Muddled Mint

Bardstown Sour
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Fresh Lemon Juice
1 part Simple Syrup
*Optional- Float Fruit-Forward Red Wine

TIKI Bar Old Fashioned
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
 ½ part Blackwells Dark Rum
½ part Simple Syrup
Bittermens TIKI Bitters

Atlantic City Sunrise
1 ½ parts Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon
2 ½ parts Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
3 dashes Regans Orange Bitters
Muddled Fresh Basil

Friday, May 15, 2015

Think Pink: Why Dry Rose Wines are the Perfect Summer Drink!

"Pink Wines?!? Not for me, they're all sweet like White Zinfandel, right?" Whoa, stop the train and back it up a bit. Here's the real story.

Pink wines or Roses as they are usually referred to, are not all sweet and syrupy. In fact most rose wines are bone dry and loved by red wine enthusiasts. Think of them like the light refreshing version of your favorite red wines. They are the perfect Spring time sipping wines because they have the flavors and complexity of a red wine with the light easy drinking body of a white wine. The best of both worlds!

Rose wines are really interesting wines. First off, they are made the same way that red wines are. The only difference is that the skins of the grapes are pulled off early. This is usually after a few days (the longer they are left on the darker the color of the wine) . This results in a lighter color (pink instead of red) and less drying, bitter tannins. In Europe, people drink dry rose wines all year long, but here in the US we tend to only drink them in Spring and Summer if at all.

Tip: Drink your roses fresh, meaning current vintage, and the current vintage is 2014. Most roses start arriving beginning of March thru April.

Here is our Top Ten favorite dry rose wines that we are drinking this season:
1. Godelia, Mencia Rose (Spain) $13.99
2. Honoro Vera, Garnacha Rose (Spain) $7.99
3. Parusso, Nebbiolo Rose (Italy) $14.99
4. Chateau Montaud, Grenache Rose (France) $10.99
5. Bieler, Rose (France) $9.99
6. Charles and Charles, Rose (California) $11.99
7. Mas de Gourgonnier, Rose (France) $14.99
9. Olivares, Monastrell Rose (Spain) $9.99
10. Crios, Malbec Rose (Argentina) $12.99

A snapshot of Great Rose Wine Regions:
French- These tend to be light, strawberry inflected easy drinking wines made for warm weather and light foods.

Spanish- These tend to be darker, dryer rose wines that can stand up to nice summer BBQ fare without losing a beat.

Italian- Mostly made from heavier grapes like Nebbiolo, these wines like their Spanish neighbors are richer and hold up to heavier, meatier foods.

Portuguese- These tend to be light wines that are refreshing.

American- These tend to be medium weight wines that go great by themselves, but have enough weight to stand up to lighter summer meals.