Founder of Wine Online Aaron Bick states, “If you’re a lover of wine and are interested in learning about wine or a particular wine, owning a case of wine really is the only way to go.”
Winemaker Emanuela Bolla of Fratelli Borgogno adds, “when you buy a case of wine, you can taste the wine in different times of the day making it possible to understand the wine, the terroir and also the family or winemaker that makes the wine.”
Winemakers Michael and Johannes Gross of Gross Wines couldn’t say it more perfectly. “It’s like meeting a new friend. When you see them for the first time, your first impression is that you like them. But ultimately you need two or three times for you to get into this person. It’s the same with wine.”
Founder of Wine Online Aaron Bick adds, “drinking one bottle of a given wine is never going to give you understanding of that wine or how it was made, the people who made it or the region the wine comes from. Wine is going to taste different as it ages.
Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins. About 50% of the dry weight of plant leaves are tannins. As a characteristic of wine, tannin adds both bitterness and astringency, as well as complexity. Wine tannins are most commonly found in red wine, although white wines have tannin from being aged in wooden barrels.
Winemaker, David Nagengast of Scheid Vineyards says, “Tannins are compounds produced by the grape to protect the grape from predators. In wines, there are skin tannins and seed tannins. You also get the tannins from the oak during the making process. So when you’re tasting wine and it feels a little dry, those are the tannins that are doing that.”
Winemaker, Stephane Ogier states of Domaine M&S Ogier says, “To have the best tannin, you have to find the right day of picking the grapes, when the grapes are at their best maturity. This means, the grape shouldn’t be picked too early or too late.”
“They help with the structure of the wine, they help with the way the wine feels in the mouth”, David Nagengast adds.
Winemaker, David Nakajii of Sebastian Vineyard states, “They’re stringent, they bind protein that gives you that gives you that unique feeling in your mouth. When you drink a wine with high tannins, you get the taste of chalkiness, and they give body to the wine but as they age, they soften when the integration with the proteins isn’t as strong, so you don’t get that grippy tight feeling that that become more pleasurable as the wine ages.
An appellation is a particular region in which grapes are grown and wine is produced in a certain manner and in order to name your wine after that particular appellation, the wine must be produced in a particular manner. An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well.
Looking for Good Wine? Start With The Appellation
There seem to be an infinite number of ways to classify and categorize wine these days, though none are quite so helpful–or quite as intimidating– as the appellation system. Very basically, an appellation is how countries categorize their wines into specific grape-growing geographical regions. An appellation not only indications the country and region where the wine’s grapes were grown, but also the laws and regulations that dictate how that particular wine was made. Typically, the more specific the region’s boundaries are, the better the wine that carries its name. That’s why it’s so helpful to become familiar with at least a handful of appellation names and acronyms to help inform your wine purchases.
An American Viticulture Area (AVA) is a grape-growing area with unique geographic and cultural features that influence a wine’s taste and quality. The AVA system began in 1980 and and has since expanded to include 230 AVAs across the United States. Some AVAs, such as the Mississippi River AVA, span across millions of acres of land while others have only a few hundred acres. In order for a wine to carry an AVA label, at least 85% of the wine’s grapes must come from a single AVA.
AVAs are a little confusing because there is no regional or quality-based hierarchy and some larger AVAs contain smaller ones within their boundaries (known as sub-appellations). For example, Calistoga AVA is a sub-appellation of Napa Valley AVA and the Napa Valley AVA is a sub-appellation within the much larger North Coast AVA.
TIP: Regions that are divided into sub-appellations tend to make higher quality wines… just an interesting observation.
AOP: Appellation d’Origine Protégée
France organizes wine with the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée/Protégée (AOC/AOP) system which first started in 1937. Today, there are over 360 AOCs in France and most are within 11 primary growing regions (e.g. Rhône, Loire, Alsace, Bordeaux etc.). The French AOP system has rules that apply to nearly every aspect of wine production, including grape varieties that may be utilized, minimum alcohol level, aging requirements, and even vineyard planting density. Such meticulous management of a single industry may seem overwhelming, but the geographic label implies what winemaking regulations were in play and can therefore serve as a guide for consumers. For example, a Crémant d’Alsace Rosé is required to be 100% Pinot Noir. Thus, when you buy this wine you can expect a sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot. It’s simply a matter of cracking the AOP code.
Vin de Pays (IGP)
Vin de France
DOC: Denominazione di Origine Controllata
The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) system was first established in 1963 and today there are 329 different DOCs and 73 DOCGs. The Italian system was originally designed to champion the indigenous grapes of Italy by elevating wine made with Italian grape varietals to the highest tiers of the DOC system, DOCG. SThat’s not to say, however, that foreign grape varieties are anything to look down upon. In fact, producers make very high quality wines with French grapes, such as the Super Tuscan blend with Merlot and Cabernet. However, since the grapes are not of Italian origin, the wines are typically–and arbitrarily,– demoted to IGT status.
Here are some common Italian wine terms that are useful to know:
Classico: Between the 1960’s and 1970’s many DOC boundaries were revised to include a larger area. The “Classico” denomination thus refers to the original smaller boundaries of the wine-making area. You can see an example of this on the Chianti Wine Map.
Superiore: Superiore is often used as a production quality standard usually indicating a higher minimum quality of wine grapes and often a minimum aging requirement before the wine is released for sale.
Riserva: Riserva is typically used as a production quality standard most often referring to extended aging of a wine prior to release. Many producers only make Riserva wines with grapes from exceptional vintages.
DOP: Denominación de Origen Protegida
The Spanish qualify their wines with the Denominación de Origen (DO) or Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) system. The Spanish system currently has 79 DOP’s, 2 DOC’s, 15 Vino de Pagos (VT) and 46 Vino de la Tierra (VdlT/IGP). The newest addition to the system was a single-vineyard category called Vino de Pago and many Spanish wine enthusiasts will agree that this category has some very intriguing wines.
Aging is a very important aspect of Spanish wines–especially Tempranillo,– so the country has an aging classification system as well. Keep in mind that each region may have slightly different rules attached to the following terms, so check with Wines of Spain if you want to know the specifics:
Tinto/Roble: “Roble” literally translates to “oak,” but this style is characterized by having little-to-no oak aging.
Crianza: This style has some oak and bottle aging, typically 9–12 months. For example, Rioja requires 12 months of aging.
Reserva: This style is required to have both oak and bottle aging. Typically, Reserva wines will undergo an entire year in oak and sometimes an additional 2 years in the bottle.
Gran Reserva: This style is required to have extended oak and bottle aging, which generally means up to 2 years in oak and up to 4 years in the bottle.
The general translation for Terroir is microclimate. It includes the soil, the slope of the hill, the way the wind hits the vines, the angle to the sun, basically it includes everything that makes the grapes grow the way they grow. As world renowned wine maker Stéphane Ogier states, “For me Terroir is not only the soil. Sometimes we think it’s only the soil. In fact, it’s the exposure, the altitude. Sometime I think we can even bring the vigneron into the terroir because the way we would work our vines and vineyards will change the expression of the terroir. Terroir is a combination of soil, vines and how these vines are managed by humans.”