Last month I had the pleasure of going to a sparkling wine tasting event hosted by Vinocity, where I learned a heck of a lot about choosing wine for the holidays. Last week I booked tickets as soon as I received the email to her wine labels class. She talked about the information you might find on wine labels in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the United States. I’m amazed by how much information she remembers, and then equally amazed by how much information I am able to retain after the event. This month’s event is about wines of Bordeaux and I can’t wait.
I would like to share with you 8 fun facts that I learned about wine and wine words.
1. The French Word Terroir
The french use the word terroir to describe the characteristics of the wine people have no control over including the soil, geography, geology, and climate of a certain place. This is what gives each wine its own unique taste.
2. German Wine Labels
Most of the words that we learned about on the wine bottle in France, Spain, and Italy had to do with location, grape type, and/or being reserved; however, on German wine bottles their words talk about the sweetness. Because Germany’s growing climate is so much colder than the other countries, it is more unusual for them to produce some of the sweeter wines. They use the words trocken (dry) and halbtrocken (half-dry).
3. American Alcohol Concentrations Vary
In the United States, if a wine is below 14% alcohol, the wine label can say anything +/- 1.5%. This means if your bottle says 14% it may actually be 12.5% or 15.5%. If a wine is above 15% alcohol, the wine label can say anything +/- 1%. Many bottles you will find say 14.5% because there is a higher tax on bottles over 15%.
4. New World vs. Old World
New World countries tend to prefer more full-bodied wines with less tannins and a more oaky taste than Old World wine.
5. The Grapes in Burgundy
There are only two types of grapes grown in Burgundy, France, pinot noir and chardonnay. Therefore, if you are drinking a red burgundy you will always be drinking a pinot noir, and if you are are drinking a white burgundy you will always be drinking a chardonnay.
6. American Oak
Spain uses a higher percentage of American oak barrels to age their wine in than other countries.
Believe it or not, the state of Oregon laws say that a percentage of grapes in a bottle of wine must be of the same variety than California.
8. The Equation
As an engineer I’m not sure what took me so long to learn this equation, but Sugar + Yeast –> CO2 + Alcohol. The second you know the equation, things start getting more interesting. This means that in order to create a more alcoholic wine you either need a) sweeter grapes, or b) to add sugar to the batch.
Interesting, huh? I’ve got to admit, I never expected to learn so much from a class on wine labels. The only thing I’m worried about is that the more I learn the more time I spend in the liquor store choosing wine. I guess there are worse things, right?
You can sign up here to get more information about upcoming Vinocity events. Maybe I’ll see you there!