Wine Education

Wine Service 101: Wine Should NOT be Served at Room Temperature

Am I becoming a curmudgeonly old man?  Am I becoming a wine snob?  Let me tell you about two things that drive me nuts when I go out to a restaurant and order wine.

The wine is not served at even the remotely correct temperature 


The correct serving temperature is important

Everyone has heard the saying, “serve red wine at room temperature”. I live in Phoenix, Arizona.  A while back I was in charge of organizing a dinner outing for a group of about 12 business associates and clients.  I chose a trendy American/Asian diner.  The food is consistently outstanding, the service is quick, the atmosphere is busy and upbeat.
Unfortunately, they have a miserable wine list which consists of only the most popular and cheap wine.  I find that in and of itself kind of odd, because this restaurant is marketed to an upscale crowd; dinner for two with drinks and dessert can run $100.  So why would they serve $7 a bottle wine for $8 a glass is beyond me.  Knowing this, I inquired about their corkage fee – luckily they were willing to at a price of only $10.  I picked up a couple of nice $40 bottles from the specialty store, came home, put them in the fridge until it was time to go to the restaurant.  That day it was a balmy 110F or 44C for you metrics.  I arrived, brought in the wine, immediately asked the waitress to pop the corks, and store the wines in the cooler in the kitchen until it was time to serve them.  She said “oh you don’t need to do that, red wine is served at room temperature”. It must have been 80F in the restaurant.  I politely repeated my request.
One of the most common misconceptions I hear is that wine needs to be served at room temperature, without any regard for the actual temperature in the room. Living in Arizona, I may be especially sensitive to the issue.  You do not want to taste red wine that is close to 80 degrees!  It tastes like something you could use as a paint stripper.
After ordering appetizers, I asked her to bring out one of the bottles.  Just before the main entrees arrived I asked her to bring out the second bottle.  With a little bit of luck the temperature of that wine rose from about 50 degrees up to about 75 degrees in about 30 minutes. Just long enough to drink all the wine and eat all the food.  The wine tasted great.
This is not the only restaurant where I have encountered issues with wine service.  Virtually every restaurant in the Metro Phoenix area seems to be completely unaware that room temperature does not actually mean the temperature of the room you happen to be in. I have seen many restaurants storing wine on shelves in the kitchen, where it’s even hotter!  It’s to the point now, where unless I know about the wine situation, I will just order an ice cold beer instead.  It’s pretty hard to screw that up.

What area do you live and have you encountered similar problems or issues with wine service at the restaurants you dine out at?

Edited by Jon Troutman

Riedel crystal at the Miele Gallery Scottsdale, Oct 2010

Riedel crystal of America and the Miele Gallery

Miele gallery scottsdale

The Miele Gallery, Scottdale

are teaming up for a unique wine tasting experience in Scottsdale, Arizona on Friday October 29th, 2010.

10th generation and master-glass maker

Georg Riedel

Georg Riedel will lead guests through a demonstration of the relationship between the shape of a glass and our perception and enjoyment of wines.

Tickets are $70 each and include a 4 piece Riedel “Vitis” tasting set which retails for $170!

Reception begins at 6pm and the tasting gets underway at 7pm, tickets are limited so don’t miss out.

The Miele Gallery is located at:

7550 East Greenway Road, suite 100, Scottsdale AZ

Click HERE to register (Riedel Website)

Society of Wine Educators Certified Wine Educator Preview

Earlier this month I was invited to attend the Society of Wine Educators CWE (Certified Wine Educator) preview which was held at The Camelback Inn in Arizona.  The day long course is a preview to the actual CWE exam.

The Society of Wine Educators was founded in 1978 by people with a background in education.  Over the next few years they developed the curriculum and testing process that has been in place since 1983.

New for 2010 are some changes designed to make attaining the CWE certification more prestigious and meaningful, not that it isn’t already.  The testing processes starts out with 85 multiple choice questions with a one hour time limit.  Many of the questions require knowledge across multiple subjects.  For example a question like “Name the first locale north of Bordeaux which contains a Classified 1st growth”.  You would need to know your geography and your list of 1st growths.  In addition many of the questions have more than one potential answer, and you must select the most correct answer.

Next, candidates must complete an essay in one hour.  Essay questions typically involve general knowledge plus making and defending a position.

Both these tests are conducted in the morning, after lunch the tasting portion begins.  First is the tasting rationale segment.  4 white wines and 4 red wines are poured for the candidates who must then write a detailed tasting rationale for one pre-determined wine, as well as assign from a list of 10 wines the correct names, appellations and varietals to the remaining wines.  There are more wines on the list than actual wines which is an added level of trickiness and candidates must correctly identify 6 out of the 8 wines.

Finally candidates must complete the “Components and flaws’ segment.  9 glasses of wines are arranged in front of the candidate, one of them is labeled “Control”  Candidates must correctly identify the identical wine from the other 8.  Among the other 7 are wines with added alcohol, sugar, tannin, Sulphur Dioxide, Tartaric acid, vinegar and oxidation, candidates must correctly identify 7 out of the 9 wines.

There are just over 300 people world wide who have passed the CWE since its inception in 1983 and only 12% of them passed all 3 components on their first try.  Most people study for 1-2 years before attempting and make an average of 2 attempts before passing.

Most people who take this route to certification do so because it is much less expensive and quicker than the Sommelier route, but make no mistake it is not an easy alternative.

Society of Wine Educators Website

A new way to evaluate wines: The Wine Match Wheel

I had just finished a piece for about the various rating systems out there, and the possible need for a different way to evaluate wines when I got an email from a Mr. Ed Leard, President and founder of  The Corkd article was posted on August 24th which also happened to be the day that Mr Leard was going public with his new wine profiling system.


The Wine Match Wheel is a project 5 years in the making.  Ed, like most of us had bought plenty of $20 bottles of wine that he loved and quite a few $50+ wines that were disappointing.  He turned to all the wine publications to try and develop a new way but it quickly became immensely time consuming and was still based largely on the the subjective 100 point system.  Ed points out how flawed this system is in a humorous analogy:

“I thought that a point system with a single number was shallow. I remember being in high school, and I knew what a 10 for a girl was then, but I was shallow. Now a ten is not only pretty, but smart, honest, trustworthy and ‘has my back’. By the way, that’s my wife!”

I asked Ed for more info and this is the rest of his response:

I figured wine, much like people, is multi-faceted, and should be shown as such. The other goal was to remove as much subjectivity as possible, thought here will always be some. So to reduce subjectivity, we use multiple tasters to start. We also reduce the amount of wines in a flight to minimize there is little acidity and tannin build-up factors as well. I see tasters go through 10 cabs and wonder “how can you be fair on the last few cabs regarding tannins?” when you have that build up. We do flights blindly (black Riedel ISO glasses) as taste is what we care about. In fact, a lot of folks do unfiltered, and even working with UC Davis folks, they see a little cloudy and call that a defect. We don’t as we don’t see it. I would think unfiltered would mean less handling, which is a good thing.

We get all our wines submitted by wineries through our web portal. (you can go to and see the PDF of “what info do I need” to see what information we gather from the wineries.) We also run a wine lab, calibrated daily with standards and monthly with outside labs.  In a previous occupation, I was a tooling inspector so know the value/purpose of well-calibrated systems. We also are the only ones I know that measure free sulfites. We have all high-end equipment.

So we combine multiple-sensory, winery data, and chemistry to come up with the Wine Profile on the WineMatchWheel TM. There are numerous calculations that sanitize the data on the wheel. Then there’s the matching engine. Twelve to twenty points of matching, depending on varietal(s) and other variables (oaked/unoaked, tannins/no tannins, etc). Wine matches are shown real-time, but you need a free user account to view them.

On the consumer side, after setting up the free account (free account in return for some demographics), a user finds wines and adds them to their favorites. Then, as we continue to profile, they get an e-mail when matches are found. Wineries have the same ability and I suggest wineries sign up as both a winery and a user to have the complete experience. We keep wine profiles even after it’s no longer available for trending information as well as someone may have liked it, can’t get it, but is willing to try a new wine with similar qualities. Wineries can adjust availability flags as well (retail and winery only).

It also has a free retailer area, and you can exclude your larger chains (BevMo, Costco) for a more personal wine shop, and can flag those that do tastings. Wineries can also submit and maintain events, and a user can search with dates, regions, even down to AVAs if they recognize them.  It can do a lot more (click on Cabernet and sort by percent of primary varietal, for instance). It just multi-faceted and data-base driven. The parent company, Roundbrix, is a Microsoft shop, so we have the intellectual assets on board! Changes in an instant if need be. We’re giving away free profiles through October, but may need to make that September based on the great responses we have been getting. After that, it’s between $100- $150 per wine, based on how many wines you want profile.We don’t sell wine and only profile wines of the United States, as my grandfather died in WW2 for this country so I thought I would keep it close to the chest. Also, it keeps it on the AVA system, so it makes sense overall and I can (and do) visit wineries frequently and can communicate well with them.We have done over 500, have a couple hundred in wait, and are getting more every day. Goal is to maximize the populating of wines to bring more consumers and have more matches. I think that’s it, in a rather large nutshell!


What is Hedonic Regression?

HEDONIC REGRESSION.  Is that not the most awesome description of my weekends ever written?   Although it sounds like the ultimate lifestyle affliction, Hedonic Regression is actually a very interesting economics based method of calculating value and demand.  Basically Hedonic Regression breaks down a product into it’s characteristic components.  This method is used in real estate all the time.  Rather than advertising “House for sale” it is thought that breaking that house down into it’s components will increase it’s value and demand.  2,000 square foot house for sale on a quarter acre lot, 20 minutes from downtown.  There that sounds a lot better doesn’t it?
Hedonic regression and pricing structures have been studied for quite some time with respect to wine.  Marketers want to find out what it is that consumers base their decisions on, they want to find out what makes them perceive one one as more valuable than another.  I found this very interesting study from UC Davis.  It’s a long read so I will summarize a few salient points.  There are 4 types of wine consumers: Connoisseurs, Aspirational Drinkers, Beverage Wine Consumers, and New Drinkers. Although each buyer has different attitudes and preferences each drinker is influenced by the same factors:
Previous Experience and Knowledge of the Product, Objective Cues (which include Production Region, Brand and Label), the Occasion and finally, Price.  Taste specifically is not considered a factor because you cannot tell what a wine tastes like until you open it. Rather it is a sub category of the Previous Experience and Knowledge category. The conclusion of this study states that consumers almost always make a purchase starting with a price range in mind first.  Then they analyze the other components to determine which product to purchase.
Hedonic pricing studies have been used from Bordeaux to British Columbia and Stellenbosch to Washington State. One of the most well known economists to study wine is a man by the name of Orely Clark Ashenfelter. He analyzed the results of the Judgment of Paris in this study (    If you would like to know more about the economics of wine you can attend the American Association of Wine Economists 4th annual meeting at UC Davis June 25th-28th, 2010. One of the experts attending this event is Johannes Edinger. He wrote a very interesting piece on the Hedonic Pricing Structures in Okanagan Valley wines (In British Columiba, Canada)  A must read, check it out here.

Back to Hedonic Regression, how do you purchase wine?  Do you agree with the categories and factors listed?

What’s In a Name? Hedonic Pricing for Okanagan Valley Wines

This is a partial re-post (of a paper written by Hannes Edinger, Department of Economics, University of British Columbia, Okanagan. This material is copyrighted and approval was sought before posting.   Mr Edinger is a Master’s of Economics candidate at Queen’s University in Canada.  He is currently living in Ottawa, and actively pursuing Wine/Lifestyle Economics research. He recently presented this paper at the Canadian Economics Association Conference in Quebec and will be  at UC Davis for the American Association of Wine Economists Annual Conference  June 25-28th, 2010.

See the full paper HERE

A hedonic pricing function is estimated for wines produced in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia,Canada. We investigate implicit prices for objective wine attributes, as well as success at a local winefestival. In differentiating wine prices and wine festival success, we focus on the importance of naming, specically, trendy and geographically indicative names, grape appellation, and business association membership. Variables with a statistically signicant impact on wine price include: several objective attributes, vintage characteristics, as well as business association membership of the winery. While some aspects of naming are found to be unimportant with respect to differentiating wine prices, grape names are important, and several naming aspects are important for winning awards, as is business association membership, location, quality certication, and grape variety.

Part I

The Okanagan Valley Wine Industry is relatively young; it’s current manifestation is barely twenty years old. Young wine industries must dene, and market themselves in order to compete with well established Old World, and New World wine industries. One method of marketing that has been adopted in New World Wine industries is a departure from traditional appellation in the naming of a winery, a wine or even a grape variety. California’s wine producers exemplify this practice, and wine producers in the Okanagan Valley have caught on. We investigate the marginal impact of naming attributes on the prices of Okanagan Valley Wines, and business association membership (which has been a complex and evolving part of the Okanagan Wine Industry), as well as a traditional vector of explanatory variables to determine which marketing and membership practices are helping wineries fetch higher prices for their products, and which practices are not. Rabkin and Beatty (2007) have investigated the marginal impact of the Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) certication on the bottle of a British Columbia (BC) wine, however to our knowledge, no study has directly
examined Okanagan Valley Wines’ price determinants, nor has any study examined the impact of business association membership, or the subtleties of naming practices on price. We regress price on two continuous variables, and a vector of traditional, and novel dummy variables. We nd that two business associations
provide premia on the price of a bottle of Okanagan Valley Wine, while a third reveives a discount. We cannot identify any signicant effect with respect to naming practices except when a winery chooses to use the grape appellation “Shiraz” instead of “Syrah”  for which we nd a large, and signicant effect. In Part II, we review the history of the Okanagan Valley Wine Industry, including the evolution of the business associations therein. In Part III we briey summarize the background of wine’s hedonic pricing literature, in Part IV we present our empirical estimation and results, in Part V we conclude our discussion.

Part II

The Okanagan Valley, located in the interior of British Columbia (BC), Canada produces most of BC’s wine. Wine production in BC is expanding to include Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, and even areas north of the Okanagan, however the Okanagan Valley will remain the dominant producer for the foreseeable future.

The current state of the Okanagan wine industry is a response to the 1989 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the 1991 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Prior to these trade agreements, Okanagan grape and wine producers produced inferior quality table wine for local consumption and low grade grapes for export to wine producers in the United States. The market for low quality table wine produced in the Okanagan persisted as a result of the BC Government’s trade regulation; specically, protectionist tariffs on imported wines and localized subsidies (Kingsbury and Hayter, 2005). Following the 1988 free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, Okanagan grape and wine producers faced an impending wave of superior quality products oered at low prices from the United States. The Okanagan grape and wine industry, and the BC Government, knew that the survival of this industry in the Okanagan rested on a shift to up-market wines. The BC Government intervened to create the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI): a business association that de-facto legislated the membership and nancial contributions of BC wine producers (Kingsbury and Hayter, 2005). The BCWI created BC’s own quality certication modeled on a certication established in Ontario, the VQA. This certication has been shown to offer premia on the price of a bottle of BC VQA certied wine (Rabkin and Beatty, 2007). The Okanagan Wine Industry has matured, the importance of the BCWI has diminished, and new business associations have arisen privately (Kingsbury and Hayter, 2005). The Okanagan Valley is colloquially known as “Canada’s California” due to its mild climate, desert-like landscapes, and proximity to water and agriculture, particularly viticulture. This has manifested itself in the Okanagan Wine Industry in several ways: following California’s lead, they have departed from traditional appellations, referenced characteristics of their surroundings in their appellations, and even followed California’s lead in occasionally adopting the Australian appellation of the Syrah grape: Shiraz. While branding the Okanagan “Canada’s California” has served the marketing of the area well, the same does not necessarily hold for the Okanagan Wine industry.

Part III

A good can be considered as a bundle of attributes, and its price the sum of the implicit prices of those attributes. A highly differentiated good that fetches a wide range of prices in a competitive market, like Okanagan wine, is a candidate for a hedonic pricing analysis. Okanagan Wines are an interesting candidate for such an analysis because the Okanagan Wine Industry is a young industry, and as global climate patterns change, and wine production expands into newly receptive regions, many new wine-producing regions will have to face similar challenges in establishing themselves. Knowing how different characteristics of Okanagan Wines are priced may provide useful information for young wine industries in general. Waugh (1929) initiated the quantitative thrust of this type of study; he was able to calculate the implicit
prices for attributes (color, stalk size) of asparagus. Rosen (1974) developed the theoretical framework upon which much of the subsequent hedonic studies have been based. His paper also suggested an identication problem: are the implicit prices of attributes a reection of producer costs or of consumer preferences? Nerlove
(1995) tries to solve this identication problem in his study of the preferences of Swedish wine consumers. The Swedish wine market consists only of imports, and government importers x prices. Nerlove suggests that by using quantity sold as the response variable and treating prices as exogenous, under the conditions of

the Swedish wine market, he could isolate consumer preferences. We argue (like Schamel [2000] and Freeman [1992]) that the identication problem proposed by Rosen and raised by Nerlove does not apply in any signicant way to our study because a large proportion of Okanagan Valley wines are sold in BC (prices are chosen by the BC Liquor Distribution Branch to clear the market, reecting consumer preferences), and in the short run, due to the biological limitations of grape vines, and the various regulatory and scal hurdles that must be overcome, supply is effectively xed. Our argument assumes that the market for Okanagan wines is competitive and near equilibrium. Beyond his suggestions for resolving the identication problem, Nerlove also measures: acidity levels, sugar levels, and several chemical components, for which he nds some signicance with respect to their impact on prices. These objective measures are absent in most of wine’s hedonic pricing literature. The literature tends to disregards these types of chemical measurements for two reasons: because a vector of common objective and sensory attributes largely explain the variation in wine prices, and ultimately wine is an experiential good where consumers must make a purchase decision using attributes that are identiable before consumption. Chemical measurements that inuence taste or cellaring potential are expensive, and they are well proxied by sensory and cellaring potential ratings – ratings for which data are cheap and plentiful. Like many young wine producing regions, the Okanagan produces wines which comprise a segment of the wine market for which cellaring potential is not likely to inuence price. For this reason, we omit this measure in our pricing function. The most well known hedonic study of wine prices is Orely Ashenfelter’s study (1995) on the price of vintage Bordeaux wines. It was made popular by its results and implications: statistical methods can outperform experts in predicting future wine prices. Ian Ayres’ discussion of Ashenfelter’s ndings in Ayres’ book Supercrunchers (2008) and Robert Parker’s vehement denunciations of the use of statistical methods in wine price predictions have both contributed to the popularization of hedonic wine studies. In the Okanagan valley, as it is worldwide, wine is a growing industry of increasing importance. Even as some other agricultural producers in the Okanagan ounder or abandon their crops, wine and grape producers are expanding. While the price determinants of BC wines, and VQA certication specically have been examined (Rabkin and Beatty, 2007) there has been no attempt to identify attributes that differentiate BC wines with respect the nature of their appellation or their business association membership. Estimation of these attributes is missing from the literature in general. While any quantitative or qualitative measure that enters into a wine consumer’s purchase decision is a candidate explanatory variable in a hedonic pricing function, it has been established in the wine literature that objective attributes provide more explanatory power with respect to prices than subjective (experiential) attributes (Lecocq and Visser, 2006). The logic is clear: a consumer is unable to judge, on a first purchase decision, the experiential qualities embodied in the wines they are choosing from, so they must rely on objective qualities that can be gleaned from the wine’s label information, or reputational information that they know a priori. We follow this objective model in this investigation, and we focus on information thatis present on a wine’s label, including the naming information, the wine’s physical presentation (volume), and we include a variable reecting a winery’s performance at a local wine festival to proxy for colloquial reputation.

A hedonic pricing function is estimated for wines produced in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Our model builds on the traditional models (e.g. Lecocq and Visser, 2006) that focus on objective attributes, by including reputation effects, aspects of name choice, and business association membership. While winery name choice is not found to inuence price, it is important in explaining a winery’s reputation score (medal winnings): departures from traditional appellations contribute negatively, while references to the locality contribute positively. Higher reputation ratings do not, on average, contribute to higher wine prices for a winery. Business association (BA) membership is a complex phenomenon in the Okanagan wine industry. In response the NAFTA, the BCWI, a government initiated and supported association, was created to help shift local wine production to up-scale products (Kingsbury and Hayter, 2005). Since then, two other BA’s in the Valley have arisen privately, the ABCW and the OWFS. While VQA certication continues to provide BCWI members with a premium (Rabkin and Beatty, 2007) on VQA certied bottles of wine, on average, wineries

aliated with the BCWI receive a discount while wineries aliated with the ABCW and OWFS receive premia. Interestingly, BA membership is also important in explaining reputation scores. BCWI and OWFS membership contribute positively, while ABCW membership contributes negatively to reputation scores. Location is found to be important for both price and reputation, though the marginal contribution of specic localities can be different (even in sign) with respect to price and reputation. Of particular consequence for local wineries, is a costless decision to label a Syrah grape in the Austrialian tradition: Shiraz – as many Californian wineries do – this creates a 39% discount over a comparable bottle labeled Syrah. Okanagan Valley Wineries, and young wine industries in general, should be cautions in the development of their industry. What has worked for one industry does not necessarily carry over to another, and what creates success at wine competitions does not necessarily create success at the checkout counter. The results of this research imply that a consumer’s purchase decisions with respect to wine are complex. The signicance of naming, awards
and geography suggest that selling wine is about much more than the wine itself, it is about trends and cache. Further investigation into the particularities that differentiate wine prices, beyond the wine itself, would be useful in an effort understand the complex package of attributes that consumers value when they purchase a bottle of wine.

Click here to see the rest (it’s too big to prepost the whole piece)

Making Wine for the first time, by Jim Wiskerchen

Last year I made the fateful decision to start my own business, My Wine Helper, which is a wine marketing and event planning business in Arizona. In the same stroke, I decided to try my hand at making wine for the first time.  Learning about and drinking wine is one of my life’s greatest passions.  I’ve worked in the retail wine business in Arizona for 15 years.  In that time, I have traveled to many wine regions throughout the world and met and learned from a great many people equally as passionate about wine. You could say that I’ve caught the wine bug, big time!

In my travels I’ve seen the winemaking process probably a hundred times. Let me tell you, until you actually get down and dirty and involved with the process it is hard to fully understand and appreciate all the money, hard work, and patience involved.   I now understand more intimately the heartache that a grower feels when a crop is damaged by frost or the cost involved in purchasing and selecting the right oak barrels and grapes to produce a certain result.

I am blessed having had the opportunity to taste many great wines over the years, thereby developing knowledge about what a great wine is even supposed to taste like.  Working in the industry, I’m also fortunate to know people that can now assist me to realize my dream of making a wine that I can call my own.

One of the hardest parts about the winemaking process is the sheer time it takes to make great wine. In some ways making wine is like childbirth.  Nine months of development in the womb I liken to secondary fermentation i.e, aging the wine in oak barrels. Bottling the wine is like birth but usually without the same level of pain.  My wine is still resting comfortably in barrel but I can only imagine that there is an amazing amount of pride involved after the wine is bottled and released to your friends and family. I can imagine it must be impossibly hard to hear other people say negative things about your child or finished wine.  With newborn babies people typically don’t say things like, “That is the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen”, at least not to your face.

I certainly have a deeper respect for what winemakers go through as a result of making my own wine.  I always try to be respectful about other people’s wine, even if I don’t like them.  I’ll make a comment like, “That wine is not right for my taste”.  Most often I just use descriptors about a wine and not make any personal judgments.  Now that the shoe is on my foot, I have a deeper respect of what the winemaker goes through in making any wine.

Making wine was one of those last unfinished goals in my wine career.  Like all addictions/hobbies, I’m sure I will now want to make wine every year, start my own label and build a beautiful winery. That little bit of knowledge is dangerous and now I feel empowered to do more and isn’t that how addictions always start! There are many wines that I enjoy drinking.  Now that I know I can make them the only thing stopping me are those bags full of cash.  If you happen to be a cork dork like me, I would highly recommend making your own wine at least once in your life.  Be forewarned, making wine is highly addictive, they’re like potato chips, you can’t eat just one.


Jim Wiskerchen-Owner

See Jim talking about some Arizona Wine at a wine tasting: CLICK HERE

It’s Okay to Drink Pink!

It’s Okay to Drink Pink

By Sandy Wasserman

As temperatures rise, we all look for ways to cool down. As wine drinkers one option is to drink pink….I mean rose. Often stereotyped as being too sweet like white zinfandel or to feminine for real men to drink, roses have had a rebirth over the last few years and the trend continues to grow. Wine writers often like to give some press to roses in time for summer usually mentioning their favorites. Often the most widely drank wine in France rose’s here in the USA seem to get the biggest push in October as it’s National Breast Cancer awareness month and wine companies donate a portion of rose sale’s to cancer research charities. Definitely a good thing, but by October most people are feeling cooler temps and thinking about bigger reds.

Rose’s are made in the same way as white zin in that various red grapes are used and the skins are only slightly pressed so all the skin color and tannins are aren’t included in the juice. You still get the complexity and character of the grape, but not so heavy a wine. Crisp and dry, with a chill on it they can be quite refreshing on a summer day paired with a salad or lighter fare. They can also be enjoyed by its self as a great sipper. Nowadays rose are coming from all over the world and in most red varietals. How about a rose of Malbec from Argentina or Sangiovese rose from Tuscany. In the Rhone region of France and in regions along the Mediterranean rose usually consist of blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. Sparkling rose’s also are pleasant if your prefer bubbles. As for prices, I’ve rarely seen arose above $15.

If you’re walking down your store aisle or perusing a restaurant wine list looking for a rose, you may only find the token placement. Although people are getting on the bandwagon most buyers don’t feel there is enough demand to support more than one rose, if that. That is of course unless you frequent an establishment where the buyer is a fan of rose and wants to expose people to the excitement that rose offer, not just in the summer but year round as well. Never be afraid to ask for a rose if you don’t see one as most buyers are looking for the demand to increase their selection. So as your shopping for wines to stock your fridge for the dog days of summer remember to say to yourself, “It’s OK to drink pink”.


Regulating quality is the key to Arizona wines success

The recent success of Arizona wines in the Judgment of Arizona 2010 highlights Arizona wine makers ability to compete with the big names in the industry.   This event has gone a long way to educate the public on the ability of Arizona wine makers to compete.  Public perception of the quality of Arizona wines is still skeptical and Arizona wine makers still have work to do in improving that public perception. A perfect case study of this point is the British Columbia wine industry, in Canada.  The interior of British Columbia has a dry and warm climate by Canadian standards and is capable of producing wine.  For many years the industry was based on  producing cheap low quality table wine for the local market and shipping low-grade grapes to the United States.  I spent 20 years in BC and the attitude toward their wine industry almost mirrors the perceptions of Arizonans regarding their own wine industry.  The BC wine industry underwent radical changes with implementation of NAFTA.  The industry had been protected from cheaper higher quality imports by tariffs.  Faced with the impending onslaught  of cheaper higher quality wines British Columbian wine producers were forced to make significant improvements  in order to compete.  In fact they were forced by the government through an act of legislation.

The VQA label is a sign of quality wine

The government developed a certification process called the British Columbia Vitners Quality Alliance (VQA), which is similar to the  regulatory systems of the AOC in France and the DOC in Italy and  the VQA system in Ontario, Canada.  VQA is quite different from the American Viticultural Area (A.V.A.) designation.  The A.V.A. does not regulate the type of grapes or method of vinification.  A.V.A. designation refers more to the geographical boundaries and unique characteristics of the terroir.  I doubt whether a similar act of legislation would ever pass in Arizona but that doesn’t mean that a voluntary quality assurance code and certification couldn’t be developed.  Currently the system in British Columbia is no longer mandatory and is  being regulated by the British Columbia Wine Authority.  In order to be VQA certified 100% of the grapes must be from British Columbia and the wines are screened by a professional tasting panel.  Wines that are found to be faulty cannot be sold as VQA certified.  The VQA label appears on the bottle of certified wines and helps consumers identify quality locally made wines.

Here is a summary of the British Columbia VQA Standards and Certification as stated by the BC Wine Institute:

Quality standards
The BC VQA controls minimum Brix levels at harvest, states acceptable oenological practices, prohibits the addition of water, limits the levels of chaptalization (chapitalization is the practice of adding more sugar to the ‘must’ than was developed naturally in the grapes that have been crushed), controls the use of sweet reserve wine additions, and prohibits the practice of fortification other than in wines labeled as such.

Geographic region
Only wines made from grapes grown exclusively in a specific region such as the Okanagan Valley, Fraser Valley, Similkameen Valley, Gulf Islands or Vancouver Island can display the name of the region on a wine label.

Vineyard designation
Only grapes grown exclusively from a designated vineyard can be named on a wine label.

Estate bottled
Only wines made exclusively from grapes grown, produced and bottled on an estate may be labeled as “estate bottled”. This can be land owned, or controlled, by a winery.

Wine category
Determines how the wine is made and labeled: Table Wine, Icewine, Botrytized, Late Harvest, Nouveau, Sparkling, Fortified or Liqueur.

Labeling guidelines
Determines if a wine is to be labeled as a single varietal, dual varietal, blend, vintage dated, and includes sugar content and sweetness descriptors. Labeling regulations also control the use of Geographic Indicators.

Each application for BC VQA must be accompanied by a signed affidavit that the wine has been made according to BC VQA standards from 100 per cent BC grapes. It is signed by the winemaker and the company officer.

Winery audits
Wineries must keep production records for each wine and make them available to the BC Wine Authority upon request.

Laboratory analysis
Wineries must submit a laboratory analysis with each submission to the BC VQA panel.

Label approval
Each wine application must be accompanied by a label, which is reviewed for accuracy.

BC VQA wines must bear “BC VQA” on the principal label and be closed with cork or another approved closure.

Wine audits
At the discretion of the BCWA, wines bearing BC VQA are independently audited to certify wine quality.

Tasting/Evaluation Panel
All wines are tasted blind by a six-person panel of trained judges. The wines are screened for defects and character.

Icewine must be made exclusively from British Columbia grapes, and from authorized grape varieties. The grapes must be naturally frozen on the vine, and processed while the air temperature is minus 8 degrees Celsius or lower.

Artificial refrigeration of the grapes or the juice, must or wine for the purpose of increasing must weight is prohibited at any point in the production process except for temperature control during fermentation and cold stabilization prior to bottling.

1990 before the establishment of the VQA British Columbia was producing about 600,000 litres, or about 159,000 gallons of wine.  In 2008 production was up to about 6.6 million litres or about 1.75 million gallons, that is an increase of more than 1000%, and I bet you the wines taste 1000 times better as well!

How to store wine

I bought some expensive wine many years ago,

Nice looking wine rack, but is it good for long term storage?

brought it home and put it on a funky fake mahogany wine rack in the kitchen. I was happy with how my kitchen looked like the show model house, with the wine in the rack. Little did I know that when it came time to drink the wine two years later that the juice would taste like burnt mud. Why?? I spent $80, eighty hard-earned dollars on that bottle! Actually I just thought that the wine was crummy. I opened another, and the same thing!
The wine rack sat in front of the kitchen window, in my house in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. The temperature inside the house is about 78F or higher for at least 6 months a year. So to save you the disappointment that I went through, here are a few simple tips..I will get deeper into proper storage issues in future posts

1. Light. Ultraviolet light is BAD. Experts agree that UV light impacts wine in a similar way to excessive heat, it can cause oxidation of the tannins. Do not let your wine sit in direct sunlight. Even secondary UV light can be harmful in the long-term so it is best to store your wine in a dark environment.

2. Temperature. Experts agree that 55F is ideal. If you store the wine too cold it impedes the aging process and if you store it too hot it speeds it up too fast. Anything over 70F is risky and anything over 80F is how you end up with burnt mud for $80 a bottle. The University of California, Davis has come up with a formula: For every 10F above 55F, the wine will age twice as fast. So if you store your wine at 75F it will age four times as fast as if you stored it at 55F. Not only that but when wine matures too fast, all of its fruity aspects are lost. Peter from Rose Hill Wine Cellars in Toronto Canada says “Storage at elevated temperatures more than 21°C (70°F) causes undesirable changes as various reactions are accelerated, but at different rates. The result is a lack of balance in the aging process.

Also in the Temperature category is Temperature Fluctuations. Temperature fluctuations can be harmful to the maturing process, even if the high temp is not over 70F. As close to constant is best. You will notice that most wine storage devices run in cycles so as not to be constantly running. The temperature may fluctuate between 52F and 58F, this is considered an acceptable range. Something else to consider is that although the temperature inside your wine fridge may be fluctuating, the wine temperature is fluctuating less.  That is because of the nature of liquid versus gas.  The temperature of air fluctuates more than the temperature of liquid.   Even so, Peter at Rose Hill says that fluctuations of more than 2° to 4°C (5° to 10°F) are undesirable. Something I find a little suspect in a lot wine fridge catalogues is the pictures of wine fridges in the kitchen. Nice under counter storage units placed right next to an industrial sized oven. Looks great, but how smart is that?

3. Humidity. Humidity is something to think about although not quite as crucial as UV and Temperature. 40%-70% is the ideal range. What you dont want to have happen, is for the cork to dry out. If it does, then cracks form in the cork and eventually air gets in the bottle and its game over. That is why experts recommend storing wine on it’s side. Too much humidity is not good because then your nice wine labels begin to bubble, and also there is the potential for mold to grow inside the bottle, especially if you leave it standing upright.

4. Vibrations. According to experts vibrations disturb the sediments in wine when alter the aging process. This is why most people would not suggest storing wine in a regular household fridge. If you stand a few wine bottles up very close to each other, you will hear them rattling in a normal fridge. Proper wine fridges are designed to limit vibrations.

5. Natural Ventilation. Adequate ventilation is important in order to prevent unpleasant odor build up and mold. Related to ventilation and odor buildup is you should not be storing wine in the same area as other things that have odors. Like food. Some experts claim that foul food odors can make their way into the wine. I for one do not want to risk finding out the hard way, so I am not going to be keeping any cheeses or garlic in the wine fridge, or keeping my wine in the food fridge for any extended periods.