Archive for the History and Origin Category

The wine glass makes all the difference

Posted in History and Origin, Wine and Design, Wine Production: Various levels with tags , , on April 29, 2010 by jponzi

The glass truly makes all the difference when tasting wine. In 1957, Professor Riedel began experimenting with different glasses for different wines. He determined that the exact same wine – from the same bottle served at the exact same temperature at the same time and under the same conditions – tasted noticeably different when tasted from differently shaped and sized glasses. He spent the following 16 years studying the physics of wine delivery to the mouth and taste buds, experimenting with glass configurations and wines of different regions and maturities. He noticed that depending on glasses’ sizes, shapes, thickness, and rim diameter and thinness, they imparted different organ-oleptic information not only, transmitting specific characteristics but also harmony, depth, balance and complexity.

In 1958, he created the Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru stem, still the world’s largest wine glass (37-ounce capacity), which, initially, was dubbed ‘the goldfish bowl’ but in 1960 was placed in the permanent design collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern which, today, contains an additional 126 Riedel stems.

There are many guides that exist for each type of wine and experts rave that only certain wines should only be consumed in certain glasses.


Riedel, an Austrian company, proclaims that it is The wine glass company and on their site they have a wine glass guide. In the guide there are over 150 different wines. Each consumer can use the guide to pick exactly which type of glass they want for their occasion.

For my first example I chose Barolo, a typical very respected Italian red wine. Below are the 9 options I was supplied with. If you click on each glass you will receive a detailed description of each glass and where it is sold.

For a second example, I chose to look at Bordeaux, which is a typical French white wine. There were also 9 options suggested for this wine as well. With other more exclusive wines there were more precise options such as only one glass was suggested for consumption.

Also these glasses come with a high price. They are looked to as being a form of expression and manifestation of style and wealth. For example a deal found on a wine expert website advertised buying 8 Reidel glasses for the price of 8, still a price of 150 Euros.


Orange you a misfit: Using the old technology with the new (Italy vs. America)

Posted in History and Origin, Wine Production: Various types on March 22, 2010 by jponzi

So consider orange wine a sort of inverse of pink wine. Orange wine is wine made from white wine grape varieties that have spent some maceration time in contact with the grape skins. Typically white wine production involves crushing the grapes and quickly moving the juice off the skins into the fermentation vessel. The skins contain color pigment, phenols and tannins that are often considered undesirable for white wines while for red wines, skin contact and maceration is a vital part of the wine making process that gives red wines its color, flavor and texture. Orange wines get their name from the darker, slightly orange tinge that the white wines receive due to their contact with the coloring pigments of the grape skins

In a tradition that dates back nearly 5,000 years, grapes are placed in large clay amphorae, buried in the ground, sealed and left to ferment in the cool earth, skins and all. In 2000, Gravner, a friulian wine genius, visited Georgia and obtained a Georgian vessel.

In a world where “traditional” or “natural” winemaking has now become a self imposed designation of the most extreme proponents of biodynamic and non-interventionalist winemaking, Josko Gravner puts them all to shame. These people proclaim how in sync they are with the “traditional” methods of winemaking, but they’re still using what Gravner would call modern technology: wooden barrels. The iconoclastic Gravner eschews wines in wood, in favor of the original stuff: wines aged in huge clay amphorae sealed with beeswax and buried in the ground.

Gravner, a small winery near Oslavia in Northern Italy’s Fruili Venezia Giulia region. It is run by the occasionally enigmatic and always driven Josko Gravner, who has been making wines in the same spot for more than thirty years.

While Gravner may have stuck to his beloved Fruili region for this long, he has not been making wine the same way for all that time. Indeed, at one time he was a celebrated “modernist” who brought new French Oak barrels into a region whose white wines were always made in steel. But in what can only be described as an inspired drive to explore all the possibilities for making the best wines he possibly could, he eventually started using a combination of old oak barrels and terra cotta amphorae, a winemaking vessel that was believed to be pioneered by the Georgians between four and five thousand years prior.

The Gravner estate sits on about 45 acres of land straddling the Italy Slovenia border, and grows Ribolla, Riesling Italico, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pignolo, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Ribolla and Pignolo stand out of that list as varietals that most Americans, indeed, most people in general have never heard of. Ribolla Gialla, as this green skinned white varietal is also known, is grown only in this region of Italy  and is mentioned in municipal documents from the area dating back to before the 13th century. Pignolo is also a native variety to the region, which was cultivated by the local monasteries in the region starting in the 17th century.

Since the 2001 vintage, Gravner has decided to make his wines exclusively in amphorae, leaving oak behind, just as he left industrial yeasts, sulfur, and even temperature controlled fermentation behind years before. Of all the winemakers I have ever heard of, Gravner seems to have one of the likeliest claims on the label “non-interventionalist” but he will shrug off such a label if he hears it, insisting that all winemaking is intervention in a natural process that leads to vinegar. Gravner has deliberately not adopted the principles of organic or biodynamic winemaking, instead opting to just do things “his way.”

If his way produces wine like this, then I’m more than content to sit back and let him work. This is his first vintage of Ribolla made entirely in amphorae, and tasting the way it does, it’s not hard to understand why Gravner has given up wood entirely. Gravner’s formula for this wine involves an incredible amount of extended skin contact, sometimes more than six months, which produces the incredibly gorgeous and distinctive orange color of this wine, not to mention its heady aromatics and tannic structure.

Tasting Notes:
A distinct and vibrant medium orange color in the glass, this wine smells of something otherworldly — a concoction of roasted nuts, bee pollen, orange blossom honey, and an elusive floral aroma. In the mouth the wine is unusually silky, without being heavy on the tongue. Awash with a myriad of flavors ranging from wet dirt to orange creamsicle, tangerine zest, and pine sap, this wine is a technicolor dreamcoat of flavors that all but forces a smile. Despite being made from white grapes, the wine has a distinct, light tannic structure that gives it a muscular quality. Excellent acidity and a minutes-long finish seal the bargain. Outstanding.

For orange wines, this seems to be their breakout year. About half a dozen American winemakers have adopted the technique. It’s probably too soon to qualify these as more than a mini-movement. Paolo Domeneghetti of Domaine Select, who likely imports more orange wines than anyone, brings in fewer than 1,000 cases annually, so although it is a movement it is still very small.

Del Dotto is a former real estate broker that now owns to Del Dotto vineyards in Napa valley. Del Dotto is now fermenting some of his wines in clay amphorae after purchasing  four amphorae–said to be 300 years old–in Tuscany for $15,000 each. Del Dotto insists that he’s serious about using the raw terra cotta-lined vessels–which are 4-feet high, 6 feet in diameter and hold about 2 tons–because they lend a pure fruitiness to the wines, and a definitively organic, earthy quality. Del Dotto also sees a great marketing tale in them.

The Battle of the Roses- French vs. American

Posted in History and Origin, Wine Production: Various types on March 15, 2010 by jponzi

A rosé wine has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques.

There are three major ways to produce rosé wine.

  • Skin Contact

Winemakers employing this technique crush red-skinned grapes and allow the skins to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically 2-3 days. The grapes are then pressed and the skins removed. (When making red wine, the skins are left in contact with the juice during the entire fermentation period.) The longer the skins are allowed to be in contact with the juice, the more reddish the color of the finished product. A lot of the flavorful tannins are found in the skin and that’s why rosé typically tastes more like white wine than red.

  • Saignée

When winemakers produce rosé wine as a by-product of red wine fermentation, they normally employ this method. Saignée (pronounced ‘sonyay’) is French for “bled” and an equivalent English expression is bleeding the vats.

When a winemaker wishes to make a red wine more colourful and flavorsome by increasing the amount of tannins, he or she can decide to remove some of the pink juice from the must at an early stage. (The remaining wine in the vats will now contain a higher degree of tannins since the volume of juice in the must has decreased.) Instead of discarding the pink juice that was removed when the vats were “bled”, the winemaker can turn it into rosé wine by allowing it to ferment.

  • Blending

Mixing a red and white wine will result in a pinkish wine, but this method of producing rosé is not commonly used. It is frowned upon in most winegrowing regions, with Champagne being a notable exception. Even in Champagane however, many high-end producers opt for the saignée technique rather then blending red and white.

The Birth of the White Zinfadel:

In the early 1970s, demand for white wine exceeded the availability of white wine grapes, so many California producers made “white” wine from red grapes, in a form of saignée production with minimal skin contact. The saying went the “whiter” the better. In 1975 Sutter Home’s “White Zinfadel,” (red grapes harvested to only produce white juice) wine experienced a stuck fermentation which is when the yeast dies off before all the sugar is turned to alcohol. In the hast of the wine making season and frustrated with the non-fermenting mixture, winemaker Bob Trinchero put it aside.  Then in two weeks he returned to the batch and upon tasting it he decided to sell this pinker, sweeter wine: the White Zinfadel was born.

Rosè is more expensive than a good comparable champagne due to the extra steps and uncertainties involved in making it.California, although lacking the great French character, tend to be more reasonable in price. Battling the American idea that “pink champagne” is sickly sweet and déclassé, California wineries have forged ahead with production of rosè. Sparkling rosé wines from

True rosè champagne , of course, can only come from Champagne, France, where it is made according to the classic méthode champenoise. The grapes (a combination of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay) are pressed for their juice, which is fermented, then blended, then fermented again in the bottle with the addition of liqueur de triage (sugar and yeast). The wine is capped, then aged, riddled (the bottles are turned upside down to work sediment into the neck), disgorged (the sediment is removed by freezing the bottle necks), sweetened with a dosage (wine and sugar), and, finally, corked for shipping. Developed by the monk Dom Perignon in the late 1600s, it is the most elaborate winemaking process in the world and, in the case of rosé champagne, one of the most unpredictable.

All grape juice is white, regardless of whether it comes from red or white grapes. There are two techniques to give rosè champagne its hue which ranges from golden vermeil to pale peach to salmon pink to deep berry. The first is to  add still red wine (usually local Pinot Noir ) just before the second fermentation. The second is to leave the red/purple grape skins and pulp in contact with the mustChampagne Rosé, and the consumer must be prepared to pay accordingly. (contents of vat) for a short time. If the wrong amount of red wine is added, the cuvée can be full of undrinkable deposits and turn a bizarre color. And if the red grape skins are left to steep too long, the champagne can turn blue or brown or orange. The winemaker must be part scientist, part artist. Such expertise is rare. Only about 3 percent of all champagne production is

Wine Making of the Ancient Egyptians

Posted in History and Origin, Wine Production: Various levels with tags , , , on March 8, 2010 by jponzi

Wine has always been a glorified product in the ancient, as well as the modern, worlds. It was considered a food due to its nutritious content and was used in medicine. Wine production started very early on in the Egyptian civilization. The first evidence of wine brewing appeared on the stoppers of wine jars from the Predynastic and Thinite periods. Large quantities of wine jars were discovered in the tombs of Early Dynastic nobles, signifying an early appreciation for wine, as well as its consumption by the upper classes for the most part. Unlike the common Egyptian’s domestically brewed beer, wine was made exclusively for royalty and elite, being brewed on special large-scale facilities primarily owned by the royal family. Early in Egyptian history, well-to-do nobility only owned vineyards. Wine was commonly associated with divinity, and was believed to have divine qualities and was known as the drink of the gods.

Most of what we know about ancient Egyptian wine making and vintage comes from seal-inscriptions on wine jars, tomb depictions or textual sources, as well as chemical analysis on jars that once had wine. Sealing inscriptions show that each vineyard had its own unique name, and most possessed a religious association. However, the most informative source that showed the steps followed in winemaking, are the tomb paintings. These scenes cover the most important steps starting from the harvesting and treading to the bottling, storing, and even the excessive consumption.

The five steps of the Ancient Egyptian Wine Process include: Harvesting, Treading, Pressing, Fermentation, Bottling and Sealing, and Labeling and Storing.

1. Harvesting: One of the most popular scenes depicted in tombs is that of wine harvesting.

The exact timing would have varied annually in ancient Egypt, but usually would have occurred in late summer. While mostly males are depicted in the scenes, women and children must have participated. Grapes were cut by hand and placed in deep wicker baskets carried by men on their heads, shoulders, or balance by a large stick with a basket at each end across each laborer’s shoulders.

2. Treading: Grapes were placed into large vats after harvesting. These vats were round in shape, while the material with which the vats could have been made is a debated topic. Some speculate that hard stones such as granite or schist seemed to be the material used in vats since they were waterproof, and easy to clean. Vats were placed on a slight elevation, and were very often covered with a roof that has ropes, which the men held onto as they pressed the grapes with their feet. The traditional method throughout the Mediterranean and the Near East for pressing grapes was by treading underfoot. This is believed to be gentler than a stone press, which crushed the stems and seeds, adding bitterness to the wine. At least four men could fit into the vats, and several tombs paintings show five or six men. Men would hold onto poles at the edges of the vats if there was no roof, the men in the middle holding one another’s hips. Wine pressing was accompanied by singing and the playing of instruments.

3. Pressing: A second pressing was required to extract the juice remaining juice form the grapes. Placed in an oblong linen slough, wine-lees were squeezed by stretching the linen across a strong wooden frame; with men on one side twist the linen . The squeezed liquid would flow into a pot placed underneath the slough. This required four persons, while a fifth was often depicted horizontally on the slough.

4. Fermentation: Fermentation is converting the sugar in the grapes into alcohol. This occurs when the enzymes in the sugar are exposed to the natural yeast in the skins, stalks, and seeds. The level of alcohol varies with the amount of sugar. Fermentation stops when the alcohol level reaches to around 14% or 15%, the remaining sugar adding sweetness to the wine. Duration of fermentation varies depending on the required consistency. Wine fermented for a few days produced a light final product, while one that is kept for several weeks, possibly heated, produced a very heavy beverage. Wine would then be filtered through a piece of linen and bottled.

5. Bottling and Sealing: Wine was poured into short but wide necked jars. Bottling was done immediately after fermentation. The wine was placed in jars with coned bases. This shape was belived to have been completed incase the wine continued to ferment after it is placed in storage. Wine would have been sealed a few days before the fermentation reached vinegar. Reeds, straws, and/or pottery would be placed as a stopper, which protected the wine flavor from being affected by the mud used in the final sealing.

6. Labeling and Storing: After the sealing, the wet mud was stamped with the information about the wine. Information included the year, name of the vineyard, name of the wine maker and often the quality of the wine. As the wine was placed in storage, the wine was inspected by special officers while the wine jars were counted by a scribe. The jars were placed on wood or stone stands, or rested on the ground in successive rows. The oldest wine was placed the farthest away from the opening.

How to be a Mulled Wine Expert-The tasty European Holiday treat

Posted in History and Origin, Wine Production: Various types with tags , on March 7, 2010 by jponzi

Mulled simply means heated and spiced. So you can have mulled wine, mulled cider, mulled mead, etc. No one knows the true history of mulled wine, but there was medieval mention of the beverage. These drinks were thought to be healthy and served as tonics in the Roman Empire. Fast forward to around 1500 and British cookbooks speak of mulling Clarrey. This was Bordeaux wine infused with honey, cinnamon and cardamom. Those Victorian English enjoyed their mulled wine, and even served a version of it, called Negus, at children’s birthday parties.  Most likely, the drink got its origins from wine sellers who found themselves with some spoiled product. These innovative manufacturers heated their sour merchandise, flavored it with honey and spices and ta-da, a new drink was born. The perfect European remedy for the cold:

Glühwein, German mulled wine, is popular in German-speaking countries and the region of Alsace in France. It is the traditional beverage offered and drunk on Weihnachtsmarkten. It is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinammon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Fruit wines such as blueberry wine and cherry wine are rarely used instead of grape wine in Germany.

In Italy, mulled wine is typical in the northern part of the country and is called vin brulé.

Glögg is the term for mulled wine in the Nordic countries in (Swedish and Icelandic: Glögg, NorwegianDanish: Gløgg, Finnish and Estonian: Glögi)

Navegado is a kind of mulled wine typically from Chile it is also called Candola in Concepción. The word navegado comes from the Spanish navegar meaning to navigate or sail. Navegado is heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, orange slices, cloves and sugar. Almonds and rasins are often added.

The French sip vin chaud and the Poles polish off grzane wino. The Hungarians brew up forralt bor and the Czechs sip on Svařák all of which are all forms of mulled wine. No matter which way you slice it, the Europeans love their mulled wines at Christmas time.