Polyphenols, cold maceration, botrytis cinerea, Ehrenbreitsteiner (Wait, there’s really a grape variety called that?!)... Wine babble can sour even the most diehard aficionado’s relationship with fermented grape juice. That’s why the role of a wine advisor should not just be to suggest the best wine for a particular occasion, but also to put the customer as at ease, explaining and demystifying what can at times seem a rather intimidating subject!
Here are some of the most common questions we get asked at our wine shop and bar on the Roman, with answers in plain English:
Is it true that wines improve with age?
The vast majority of red wines and nearly all white wines are not made to be kept for a very long time. Only a handful of wines with very specific characteristics such as provenance, tannin and refined oak maturation will actually improve with bottle ageing. If in doubt, ask!
What are the main differences between screw cap and cork closure?
Traditional cork closure allows some air to enter the bottle, slowly maturing the wine inside, whereas screw caps don’t. Corks very occasionally spoil a wine with a substance called TCA, however, which while completely safe can make your favourite vino smell like wet cardboard – hence the term “corked wine”.
What is a natural wine?
Though the latest buzzword, there is no clear definition of a “natural wine”. Commonly, it’s a wine produced from biodynamic or organic grapes using very limited intervention during vinification: no filtration, no fining and no added sulphites.
What is tannin?
Tannin or tannins are substances found mainly in grape skins and seeds. In a wine, they are what cause that drying or astringent sensation in the mouth. If you’re feeling ambitious, try a strong black tea to see what very high levels of tannin taste like.
Why do wine prices vary so much from bottle to bottle?
Quality wines are generally more expensive to produce and, as for any other product, it also depends on the economy of scale (big or small producer) as well as supply and demand. All in all, appellation or typology (what wine it is), producer (who makes it) and vintage (year of production) are the three single most important factors.
How early do I need to open a bottle and/or decant the wine prior serving?
Wine and oxygen are best friends yet worst enemies. The two have a complicated relationship, but generally the only wines that need to breath prior to serving are those with very high levels of tannin from older vintages. In these cases, decanting a bottle of wine one hour before serving can help accelerate the oxygenation process and/or separate any sediment.
Eugenio, Phlippe and Jack wine advisors at Vinarius