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Bob Lipinski

Cognac. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Cognac is a brandy distilled from the fermented juice of grapes in the province of Charente and is also the name of a region in the southwest of France, north of Bordeaux and southwest of Paris. The re­gion’s stony, chalk-rich soil (because of ancient oyster beds), its climate, the specific grape varieties grown there, and the methods used in distilling, blending, and aging the brandy, gives cognac its unique flavor.

Cognac AOC area of production was first defined in 1909 and then finalized in 1938. The six defined grape-growing areas are Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires (Bois à Terroirs).

The following grape varieties are used to produce cognac: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, Montils, and Sémillon, with lesser amounts of Folignan. The grapes are harvested quite early, ensuring a wine with a low alcohol content and a very high acid level.

The wine must be double distilled in a copper pot still called an alembic Charentais. After the cognac has been distilled, it is put into barrels that are made of oak from the Limousin or Tronçais forests. The oak has a considerable influence on the bouquet and taste of the cognac. When cognac is put in the barrel, it is about 70 percent alcohol and is clear in color. During the aging process, the oak from the barrels imparts taste, color, and odor to the final product, turning the clear spirit into a mellow, golden drink. The older a cognac becomes, the smoother its flavor and the subtler its aroma.

Most cognacs are blends that combine brandies from varying sections and vintages into a final product. In the town of Cognac, there are barrels of cognac that have been aging for a hundred years or more.

Label designations as of 2018

VS/ Three-Star (***): aged a minimum of 2 years

Supérieur: aged a minimum of 3 years

VSOP/ Réserve/ Vieux: aged a minimum of 4 years

Vieille Réserve/ Réserve Rare: aged a minimum of 5 years

Napoléon / Très Vieille Réserve: aged a minimum of 6 years

XO/ Hors d’Âge/ Extra/ Ancestral: aged a minimum of 10 years

 XXO: aged a minimum of 14 years

Enjoying Cognac

Although most people prefer not to mix cognac, young­er (VS, or three-star) cognac makes delightful highballs when mixed with soda water, leaving the palate more receptive to wines. Cognac and freshly squeezed orange juice make an enjoy­able cocktail. After dinner, cognac is the perfect companion for coffee.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Recently I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner and as we enjoyed a few appetizers, he served a bottle of a 1998 Australian Chardonnay from a winery I’ve never heard of. The wine was dark yellow and when tasted, it was well past its point of drinkability.

According to my friend, the wine was stored in his temperature-controlled cellar for over 10 years. He was dismayed to learn that some wines need aging, but the vast majority are best drunk when released for sale by the winery.

I explained that there is no precise answer when a wine will be at its peak because wines age at difference paces. The vintage, growing conditions, winemaking and barrel or stainless-steel aging, also plays a part in wine’s ability to age. The aging curve of wine depends on the location and conditions where the wine will be stored. Also, personal taste plays a significant role in the enjoyment of wine. As an example, many people enjoy champagne when first released with its youthful freshness, while others enjoy the more mature, bottle-aged versions.

Vintage charts and vintage reports, often touted by online sources, will provide you with a ballpark idea when the wine will be at its peak. They often say, “drink by this date or hold until that date.”

Wine’s longevity can be attributed to many factors, among them higher acidity, higher alcohol, carbonation, concentrated fruit, sugar (residual), and tannin, which is an antioxidant.

Not all wines are age-worthy, and in fact, most wines available for sale are not. Wines that benefit from years in the bottle (cellar) tend to be more expensive. I generally purchase several bottles of the same wine and after a few years, open one bottle and see if it’s approaching maturing. Then I decide (with some guesswork) when the next bottle should be opened.

Except for most Chardonnay, Riesling, and sweet wines, white wines should be consumed within three years after the vintage. Most red wines are best between four and seven years after the vintage. Red wines that can age much longer than seven years include Amarone della Valpolicella, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Brunello di Montalcino, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chianti Classico Riserva.

My rule for aging wine is simple. I’d rather open a bottle of a young wine and say, “It tastes good now but will be better in ‘X’ years” rather than opening a bottle of wine aged for many years and say, “It was probably good several years ago, but now it’s over-the-hill!”

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

Margarita
Bob Lipinski

By Bob Lipinski

“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”  — George Carlin

There are many stories as to the origin of the Margarita cocktail. One story states that Danny Negrete, the manager at the Garci Crespo Hotel in Puebla, Mexico, created it for his girlfriend in 1936. Others believe it was created in 1938 in Rosarito Beach, Tijuana and named after showgirl Marjorie King, who was allergic to many distilled spirits except tequila. Danny (Carlos) Herrera, the bartender, kept inventing new and exciting ways to serve tequila so Marjorie would not be bored.

Another story has it created by a Virginia City bartender in memory of his girlfriend who was accidentally shot during a barroom brawl. A further legend places the birth of this cocktail in Hollywood in the 1940s by Enrique Bastante Gutierrez, a former cocktail champion who mixed drinks for some of the world’s most famous film stars. Actress Rita Hayworth (whose real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino) was one of his loyal customers and he invented the drink especially for her.

Another version of its origin has the cocktail made by bartender Don Carlos Orozco at Hussong’s Cantina, in Ensenada, Mexico, who named it after his girlfriend. Yet another story takes place on July 4, 1942, in Juárez, Mexico, where Francisco “Pancho” Morales, a bartender in Tommy’s Place, a favorite hangout for GIs from Fort Bliss, concocted the cocktail. According to Pancho, a woman entered the premises and ordered a cocktail called a Magnolia. He didn’t know the ingredients, so he whipped together his own version of a Magnolia and called it a Margarita, Spanish for daisy. 

The most plausible version has the Margarita created in 1948 in Acapulco, Mexico, by a San Antonio, Texas socialite Margarita Sames. To impress Nicky Hilton, of the Hilton Hotel family, she mixed three parts tequila, two parts Cointreau, and one-part lime juice.

Margarita
Margarita

Yield: Makes one cocktail

Ingredients:

1-1/2 ounces tequila

1-ounce triple sec liqueur (minimum 60 proof)

3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime (or lemon juice)

coarse salt for the rim of the glass

crushed ice

slice of lemon as a garnish

Directions:

Either shake the ingredients or put into a blender.  Then, take a wide-brim glass and place it upside down in a small bowl containing lemon or lime juice and then into another bowl that contains salt to a depth of ¼-inch, which leaves a thin layer on the rim of the glass. Fill the glass and garnish with lime or lemon slice and serve.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

A pint of beer. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Although there are dozens of styles of beer produced globally, the most commonly consumed are those labeled “lager” and “ale.” Within these two categories are many lesser-known styles, some hundreds of years old that are well worth searching out. Eight that I recommend are:

Altbier (Germany): “Alt” refers to the “old” style of brewing (i.e., using top-fermenting yeast) that was common before bottom-fermenting lager brewing became popular in the mid-eighteenth century. They are copper-colored ales with a high barley and hops content. The traditional style of beer found in brewpubs in Münster and the Altstadt (“old town”) section of Düsseldorf.

Gose (Germany): An old-style beer that originated in the Middle Ages in the town of Goslar on the Gose River in Lower Saxony (Sachsen). Gose is a highly carbonated, tart, and fruity wheat ale with a citrusy, tangy, and salty flavor, low in bitterness with hints of coriander.

Kölsch (Germany) Light gold-colored ale brewed since the Middle Ages, but the beer now known as Kölsch was developed in the late 1800s. It is dry with a very subtle tart fruit and hop character. Kölsch is an appellation protected by the Kölsch Konvention (1986) and is restricted to the 20 or so breweries in and around Cologne (Köln).

Lambic (Belgium): A family of spontaneously fermented ales generally brewed near Brussels. They are often aged up to three years in barrels. Some ingredients added during the brewing process are brown sugar, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, sour cher¬ries, and wheat. Most of the beers are winy, distinctively sour, and somewhat acidic, almost resembling vermouth rather than beer. Some examples of lambic beers are Faro, Framboise, Gueuze, and Kriek.

Gueuze (Belgium): A lambic-type ale made by mixing one, two, and three-year-old lambic beers. It is moderately sour, acidic, and highly effervescent with aromas of apple, rhubarb, and leather.

Kriek (Belgium): A lambic-type ale that has been further fermented by adding sour or bitter black cherries to produce a dry beer with an unusual cherry flavor. Some similarity to a kir royale.

Rauchbier (Germany): An amber to dark-colored lager beer, with a smoky, bacon-like aroma and flavor. It is brewed by adding malt that was dried over smoking beechwood, before being brewed, making it intensely smoky. It is brewed in the city of Bamberg, in Franken.

Saison (Belgium): Translates to season. A sharply refreshing, amber-colored, summer seasonal ale that is fruity, moderately bitter, and has a slightly sour taste. It is brewed in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Cocktails come in many colors, flavors, sizes, and smells, and are often decorated with various colorful garnishes, including tiny tiki umbrellas! 

Besides the usual rum vodka, gin and tequila-based cocktails, there are many made from whiskey, brandy, and a multitude of liqueurs. And in some books, you might find cocktails (also nonalcoholic) made from wine and even beer.

Cocktails made from wine are perfect for hot weather, regardless of if you’re at the beach, pool, or just relaxing in a shaded area. They contain less alcohol than traditional cocktails and are great for entertaining.

Cocktails made with champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wines add a bit of festivity in every sip. I have chosen four Prosecco wines and four cocktail recipes for your enjoyment.

Corvezzo Prosecco “Extra Dry” DOC, Treviso (made from organic & vegan Glera and other grapes). Light yellow color with an aroma of brioche, pears, and celery. Clean with a flavor of honeydew, peaches, and apples.

2020 Corvezzo Prosecco “Rosé Extra Dry” DOC, Treviso (made from organic & vegan Glera and Pinot Noir grapes). Light strawberry color with an aroma and flavor of red fruits, berries, and tropical fruit. A lingering aftertaste of red apples and red licorice.

Gancia Prosecco “Brut” DOC, Veneto (Glera grapes). Straw yellow with green highlights. Delicate aroma and flavor of green apples and pears. Dry with a crisp, citrusy flavor and hints of honeysuckle and orange.

2020 Gancia Prosecco “Rosé Extra Dry” DOC, Veneto (blend of Glera and Pinot Noir grapes). Intense pink color with an aroma of raspberries, strawberries, and tropical fruit. Off-dry, with a clean, crisp flavor of pears and peaches.

Cocktail recipes

Pineapple Mimosa

1 ounce coconut rum

2 ounces pineapple juice

4 ounces Gancia Prosecco “Brut”

Put the first two ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Top with Prosecco, stir, and top with a pineapple slice and cherry.

Gin & Prosecco

1-1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup (or agave)

3 ounces Corvezzo Prosecco “Rosé”

Put the first three ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Top with Prosecco, stir, and add a lemon twist.

Italian Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Campari

5 ounces Corvezzo Prosecco “Extra Dry

In tall glass, add Campari, then Prosecco and stir.

Rosé Prosecco With Strawberries

Fill a flat saucer champagne glass with sliced and hulled strawberries (about five). Pour 4 ounces of Gancia Prosecco “Rosé” over the strawberries. Top with sour cream and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

‘A glass of wine is a great refreshment after a hard day’s work.’ — Ludwig Van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German composer

Mendoza, a grape-growing province in the Cuyo region in the central-western part of the country, directly west of Buenos Aires, was founded in 1561. It is the country’s most important wine-producing area, and its main subregions include Uco Valley, Tupungato, Luján de Cuyo, and Maipú.

Vineyards are planted at the edge of the Andes Mountains, at some of the highest altitudes in the world, with the average site located 2,000 to 3,600 feet above sea level. The climate is desert-like with a mere 9-inches of rain per year, and irrigation is necessary to grow and ripen the grapes.

Mendoza is the largest and most important grape-growing province in Argentina, accounting for 70 percent of wine production, with over 375,000 acres of grapevines planted.

Red grapes account for over half of the entire province’s acreage. Mendoza’s red grapes include Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Merlot. Major white grapes include Pedro Giménez, Chardonnay, Torrontés Riojano, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Some red wines from Mendoza to try are…

2011 Don Manuel Villafañe “Gran Malbec.” Intense violet color, complex nose with aromas of black fruit, raspberries, plums, and nuts. Medium-bodied and quite smooth with spices, licorice, and chocolate.

2018 Achával-Ferrer “Finca Altamira” Malbec. (The wine was aged 15 months in French oak barrels.) Inky in color; smells like raspberry jam, with dark fruit and spices. Full-bodied and tannin with flavors of espresso, blackberry, and bittersweet chocolate.

2016 Juan Gregorio Bazán Reserva “Blend Selection.” (Blend of Malbec 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, and Merlot 20%). Dark ruby color with a bouquet of raspberries and hickory smoke-flavored barbecue sauce. Medium-bodied with flavors of red plums and spices. Smooth finish and aftertaste of toasted oak.

2016 Cruz Alta “Grand Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep color, full bouquet of black tea, juicy raspberries, and figs. Complex flavors of cherries, plums, and blackberries. Hints of vanilla and cocoa appear in the aftertaste.

2018 Septima “Cabernet Sauvignon.” Ruby colored with a bouquet of blackberry jam, black olive, black pepper, and toasted oak. Medium-bodied with flavors of plums and roasted coffee, with subtle nuances of licorice and mint.

Other producers to look for are Catena Zapata, Doña Paula, Familia Zuccardi, Norton, Rutini Wines, Salentein, Trapiche, Trivento, Vistalba, and Bodegas Weinert.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

The Pinot Noir grape is believed to have originated in France over 2,000 years ago. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

If there is one wine that lovers of red and white wine can enjoy with equal pleasure, it is Pinot Noir. It’s light- to medium-bodied, with little bitterness (tannin) and loaded with plenty of juicy fruit. Unlike many red wines, Pinot Noir can be enjoyed by itself, perhaps with a cracker and wedge of your favorite cheese. Incidentally, Pinot Noir likes to be lightly chilled (like most white wines).

Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned, medium acid red grape variety believed to have originated in France over 2,000 years ago. It is grown principally in Burgundy and Champagne, France, and is also grown in other regions of France and most wine-producing countries of the world. Pinot Noir is genetically unstable, meaning that it mutates: the parent vine may produce offspring with fruit different in color, size, shape, and flavors.

Some of these mutations are Pinot Blanc (Bianco), Pinot Gris (Grigio), and Pinot Meunier, among others. Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Nero in Italy and Spätburgunder in Austria and Germany.

Most of the Pinot Noir wines are made from 100 percent of the grape. While others are blended with a small amount of Syrah (for color and body). The most famous Pinot Noir blend is champagne; a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir grapes. The blend is generally 70 percent red grapes and 30 percent white grapes. A lesser-known champagne is called Blanc de Noirs, a white wine made entirely from black (red) grapes.

The Pinot Noir grape is believed to have originated in France over 2,000 years ago.
Pixabay photo

Pinot Noir pairs with ahi tuna, broiled or blackened salmon, mushrooms, root vegetables, grilled vegetables (especially zucchini and tomatoes), or even a slice of your favorite pizza.

Pinot Noir is often referred to as feminine, a nebulous term describing wines that are soft, perfumed, charming, seductive, delicate, and elegant.

Some Pinot Noir wines I’ve enjoyed over the past few months are:

2016 Lauca “Reserva” Maule Valley, Chile: Light-bodied with a bouquet dominated by spicy cherry, along with mint, coffee, and mushrooms.

2018 Murphy Goode, California: Spicy black cherry and flavors of cranberry and cola with hints, tea, and cinnamon.

2017 Domaine Anderson “Pinot Noir” Anderson Valley, California: Bouquet of blackberry and mulberry with flavors of red currants, cola, and dried fruits.

2018 La Crema “Sonoma Coast” California: Bouquet and flavor of spicy berries, pomegranate, brown baking spices, and toasted nuts in the aftertaste.

2018 Aquinas, North Coast, California: Deep ruby color; a bouquet and flavor of pomegranate, plum, sandalwood, cherries, and cranberry.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

Goat cheese. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Goat cheese, known as chèvre in French, is a classification of cheeses made worldwide from goat’s milk, which vary in style, appearance, and flavor. Goat’s milk cheese is made in a variety of shapes, such as cones, cylinders, disks, logs, ovals, pyramids, wheels, and “buttons.” By French law, cheese labeled as pur chèvre must be made entirely from goat’s milk. Cheeses made from a blend of goat and cow’s milk are labeled mi-chèvre.

Goat cheese costs more because of the relative scarcity of the milk: cows produce around six times as much milk as goats do. Hence, there is less cheese at higher prices.

Some goat cheeses are rolled in paprika or chili powder to give it a brick-red, colorful exterior. Others are wrapped in chestnut or grape leaves and dipped in brandy, marc, white wine, red wine, or olive oil. The outer chalk white surface is sometimes coated in ash, black pepper, or herbs.

Although the most common goat cheeses are soft and spreadable, others are semisoft, firm-textured, dry, and crumbly, and occasionally very hard, which can be grated. Some goat cheeses are smoked, while others are flavored with garlic, black pepper, curry powder, fennel, rosemary, and various herbs. Goat cheese varies in flavor from mild to acetic, tangy, sharp, nutty, grassy, earthy, barnyardy, or mushroomy.

Goat cheese. Pixaay photo

Some recommended goat cheeses to try are Alicante, Banon, Bouton-de-Culotte, Bûcheron, Cabécou, Camerano, Capricette, Chabichou, Chevrotin, Crottin de Chavignol, Garrotxa, Ibores, Lormes, Montrachet, Pélardon, Picodon, Pyramide, Sainte-Maure, Valençay, and Ziegenkäse.

There are many red, white, and rosé wines that pair well with goat cheese. Some red wines are Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Some white wines are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Muscadet, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. I especially enjoy goat cheese with a brut or blanc de noirs champagne, brut Prosecco, tawny port, a dry rosé, or a chilled glass of a fino (dry) sherry.

Some suggested wines to try are…

2019 Stephane Aviron Moulin-à-Vent “Vieilles Vignes” Beaujolais, France. Cranberry-colored with an aroma and flavor of blueberry, raspberry, plums, spices, and licorice. Dry and medium-bodied, with hints of roses.

2018 Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir, California. Ruby colored with an aroma of spicy black cherry and flavors of cranberry, plum, and cola with hints of cinnamon, earth, mint, and tea leaves.

2019 Greywacke “Sauvignon Blanc,” Marlborough, New Zealand. Straw-colored with a fresh aroma of citrus and herbs. Dry and medium-bodied with flavors of chamomile, grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper, and stone fruit.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

Stock photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

I must confess … I love bubbly; regardless if it’s in a Mimosa for breakfast, a glass of Prosecco for lunch, Champagne as an apéritif, during dinner, or even a glass of Asti after dinner!

Sparkling wines are superb pairing partners with a multitude of international foods, from appetizers to main courses and finishing with desserts. Although all wine-producing countries make some type of sparkling wines, the most common styles or designations are: Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demisec, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, and Vintage.

Some names of sparkling wines produced worldwide include Champagne, Crémant, Cava, Franciacorta, Asti, TrentoDoc, Prosecco, Sekt, and simply “sparkling wine.”

Dry sparkling wines pair with salty foods; fried and deep-fried foods; spicy hot foods; smoked foods; oily seafood such as anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna; chives, garlic, ginger, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots; citrus and citrus-like ingredients; and fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley, sage, and tarragon.

— Sparkling wine is an excellent an apéritif because of its refreshing, appetite-stimulating effervescence.

— Sparkling wines add excitement to the meal when served throughout dinner.

— Many Asian foods can be paired with sparkling wines.

— Dry sparkling wines taste thin and unpleasant with sweet desserts

— Avoid serving dry sparkling wines with desserts featuring chocolate or lemon sauces.

— Avoid serving dry sparkling wines with salads featuring tart or acidic dressings.

— Avoid serving dry sparkling wines with tomato-based sauces, whose acid interacts with the high acid of the wine, causing a tart, sometimes biting taste in the mouth.

Recently tasted sparkling wines include:

NV Moser 51,151 “TrentoDoc” Brut, (DOC) Trento, Italy: 100% Chardonnay grapes. Straw-yellow with a fruity aroma of blueberries and raspberries. Medium-bodied, dry, and crispy tasting, with hints of apples and cherries.

NV Codorníu Cuvée Clásico “Cava Brut,” Spain: Blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-Lo grapes; a bouquet of green apples, lemon, and brioche. Dry, clean, and crispy in the mouth with a pleasing aftertaste of almonds.

NV Ca’ del Bosco “Cuvée Prestige,” Franciacorta (DOCG) Lombardy, Italy: A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Bianco grapes; crisp, delicate bouquet with hints of almonds, dried pears, and apples. Soft in the mouth with a crispy aftertaste.

NV Valdo Cuvée di Boj “Prosecco Brut,” (DOC) Veneto, Italy: Medium-bodied with a floral bouquet of stone fruits, apples, and citrus. Dry with hints of fennel and ginger.

NV Ruinart “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France): Clean and crisp with flavors of green apple, pear, brioche, celery, and citrus.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

Pixabay photo

‘The first taste of a wine is like the first kiss; you look forward to the second.’

­— André Tchelistcheff, 1901-1994, Legendary Winemaker

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Tasting is the art of consciously assessing a wine’s quality or identity and the activities or mechanisms involved in receiving the sensory impressions a wine can stimulate.

Just as with food, we have preferences for certain tastes and flavors in wine. Each of us has our own history of tastes and flavors. Much of this is due to where and how we grew up—there may be cultural differences in the experiences we had for certain foods and beverages. We all have personality differences. Some of us are very adventurous and others more averse to risk. Although tastes and flavors are subjective, they are not entirely relative—that is, we often agree on what we taste and smell.

There are ways to taste and evaluate wine that are generally accepted to provide a maximum impact on our palate—I call this the Five S’s: Sight, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Spit (or Swallow).

SIGHT: Wine should be clear in appearance; color and hue tell us a lot about the grape variety, oak treatment, age, and intensity of the wine. For example, a pale-yellow wine most likely did not receive any oak-aging while a golden colored wine probably did. Knowing which grapes benefit from oak-aging narrows the field for each grape variety. Chardonnay benefits from oak aging since it provides balance with bigger flavors and body.

SWIRL: Swirling wine in a glass will release the aroma, so once you stick your nose in the glass, you can smell it better.

SMELL: More than 80 percent of what we taste is actually smell. Smell describes the fruity, floral, earthy, mineral, spicy, herbal, and oak characteristics of some wines.

SIP: Now it’s time to taste the wine. Take a good sip and swirl the wine around in your mouth as if it’s mouthwash (evaluating differs from drinking). Your tongue tastes sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, but together with smelling, you get the complete picture of the wine. Some elements to note are acidity, alcohol, body, dry or sweet, flavor, tannin, and texture.

SPIT/ SWALLOW: the difference between “tasting” and “drinking” is that once you have sipped the wine, you spit it out into a cup or spit bucket (professional tasters do this). 

SWALLOW: Allows you to evaluate and describe the finish, length, and aftertaste of the wine.

Well, there you have it. Now open a bottle of wine and start practicing!

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]