The Strange World of Wine Rituals


Wine aficionados practice many strange wine rituals. Come join the GrapeRadio discussion and find out what its all about.

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Show #73
(36:55 min 17 MB)

20 Responses to “The Strange World of Wine Rituals”

  1. 1 Michael Rasmussen Feb 13th, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Great show. Lots of great info. I thought the discussion on decanting was very interesting. To add a little confusion to the mix, here is my $0.02.

    It always seemed to me that decanting old wines, like port, (to remove sediment) should be done in a small (750ml) decanter to PREVENT any air getting to the wine. It is especially important in this case to have a cap for the decanter to help keep air out. After all the point here is to remove the sediment, not to oxidize the wine.

    I too am not sure of the value of letting the wine breathe, but I do know that my perception of a wine changes as I drink it, even if it does stay in the bottle. I find it hard to believe that air does nto have any influence on the wine. This is mainly because I know that if it sits exposed for long enough it will spoil, and spoilage is not an instantaneous event. Thus the gradual influence.

  2. 2 R.W. Feb 14th, 2006 at 7:51 am

    Being a newbie wine drinker, it was very interesting to me how you really have to have wines breath (in terms of time) differently, and the whole decanting thing was interesting as well.

    Thanks for brining these issues up.


    P.S. Any progress on Grape Radio Shirts?

  3. 3 Steve Feb 14th, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Columbia Crest Columbia Valley Merlot 2002
    $7.99 Per Bottle
    Spectator Top 100 too…

    Great deal

  4. 4 John Weippert Feb 14th, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    Jay, I almost ran off the road today as I listened to the show. Your comment about over chilling Chard to make it “drinkable” was hilarious!!

    I do have a question about decanting, how is decanting any different than swirling in the glass? Don’t they both serve the same purpose? By aerating the wine you are releasing the aroma of the wine but are also allowing a “stiff” wine to open up or help an young wine age. I have noticed great changes in wines by decanting, usually for the better.

    As always a very enjoyable show!

    BTW here is my suggestion for a great bottle for under $10, Conquista 2004 Malbec.

  5. 5 Tom Feb 14th, 2006 at 11:18 pm

    I agree a Podcast on good value wines would be of interest – not recommendations, but thoughts on what qualities to look for, what regions to look for. I was so frustrated trying to find everyday wines that actually were interesting/distinctive, I started a blog on the topic: So far I have a dozen or so recommendations, and my latest is “Stonehaven Winemaker’s Selection 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon” from Australia.

    Please, if you have any great recommendations, drop me note!!

    a fellow wine lover, and huge fan of GrapeRadio!

  6. 6 David Hoffman Feb 15th, 2006 at 9:02 am

    I normally have anywhere from 12-20 bottles standing upright (out of the cellar) in ‘que’. This is done utilizing those styrofoam shippers that always show up at the house, placed in my coolest closet. These wines are ones that are in their ‘drinking window’, and there’s at least one bottle of vintage port in the mix. Sediment is rarely a problem, and the bottles are easily decanted. When taking bottles of wine to dinners or events, they are usually ‘double-decanted’ at home. The benefits are numerous…you never take a corked bottle, the wine has a chance to be tested for soundness, and the young & bold wines have a chance to open and soften.
    Some useful ‘quirks’developed over time.

  7. 7 Bruno Cartwright Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:48 am

    I really enjoyed your show on wine rituals.
    I think the myth of serving reds at room tempareture comes from the days before artificially heated rooms which in England was in the low 60s (f). I think a lot of people beleive that red wines should be drank warm because of this myth, even though a lot of wines for example Beaujolais are best served cool. I don’t know how to deal with wine waiters: If a bottle didn’t taste right I wouldn’t know if it was my poor judgment of wine and what happens to that returned bottle.
    I think it is important that the waiter presents you with the bottle before uncorking it to show he hasn’t just decanted a bottle of house red into your desired purchase as I’m sure has happened to me in at least one cheap London diner.

  8. 8 Dave Green Feb 15th, 2006 at 11:50 am

    I almost always initially decant. But with some experience on certain bottles will hold back.

    Also related to this is the more complex ritual of drinking a bottle over a 2 days by myself. Where the first half of the bottle is decanted on day one to open it up quickly, and the second half which has been sitting with vacu-vin enclosure gets opened and poured from the bottle on day 2. This seems to give me similar tastings for the 2 days.

    I drank a 96 barolo last night which I did a little experiment upon. I decanted half, and sealed the other. After 2 hours, I poured a glass from the bottle and the decanter. There is no doubt a big difference. I think that the change the occurs will be particular to the wine in question.

    As for the every day wine picks, I am always looking for this type of information. It is of course fun to treasure hunt for the rare bottles that go into the stable storage downstairs, but the day to day reality is that I’m not drinking those on but for 15-20 days a year. 90% of what is served in my house comes from the “stable” which is 10-20 dollar bottles. Finding items to buy in bulk is key since most wines in this vein are rather unremarkable. When you do find a gem, it is best to go for multiples.

    Recently I’ve been fond of:

    Mas Donis
    capcanes 2003
    at about 12$


    Goats du Roam
    Villages white blend

    both just hit a fond spot on my pallette.

    my overall inclination would be to drink more tuscan reds, but in general I find that the ones I would consider of good quality to be more in the 20-25 dollar vein.

    Once thing that I have been exploring more as of late is sweet sparkling wines such as brachetto d’acqui, etc… I enjoy making wine-friendly deserts and can heartily endorse “The wine lovers desert cookbook”. This has helped me understand what to eat with some of these more affordable and now highly enjoyable bottles.

    ok, enough for now,

  9. 9 Kristin Feb 15th, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    What a great episode- loved hearing that even you guys need guidance on things too! And thank you for ending on a perfect note, that people shouldn’t be so intimidated by all of these things that they never go there in the first place.

    In answer to Bruno’s question – if the wine in the restuarant doesn’t taste “right” don’t be afriad to speak with your waiter or the sommelier about it. Would you eat cheese or fish that didn’t taste right or would you send it back to the kitchen? The restaurant can return bottles to the distributor for a refund usually. “Right” is hardly ever about you, but the wine. If you just don’t like it, or it wasn’t what you expected, still ask if you can switch it out. Especially if the restaurant does a a good deal of wine-by-the-glass and this is one of them. You’d be surprised by how many places accomodate this request. Also one thing I do, especially in a place where I’m eating at the bar, is ask to have a small tasting of something they serve by the glass and either go for the bottle or use it as a gague to have them help me pick something else.

    On the topic of cost…again, try to ask one of the staff. If it’s a good wine store then they’re fairly educated and they can steer you well. In fact I’ve never gone wrong with the opinion of somebody from my local wine stores and have taken home many surprises.

    Bottom line is if you’re keeping quiet because you’re afraid you’ll look/sound stupid get over it! You’ll never learn. And wine geeks LOVE to talk wine and educate.

  10. 10 Murray Feb 15th, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    On the subject of decanting young wines, I have done a fair bit of experiementation of my own recently, and figured I would share my thoughts.

    After opening a bottle, I pour a taste straight away. If I find the wine is very closed, that is not giving off a great deal of aromas, then I will pour it into the decanter for 20-30min and taste it again. If I find the wine has huge tannins that really pucker the mouth, its into the decanter also. However if I find I enjoy the aroma and flavour right away, then why risk it? Drink the wine as normal and continue to pour your glasses from the bottle.

  11. 11 Jane Bernstein Feb 15th, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Apropos of nothing in particular, I posted a diary at DailyKos yesterday that had a link here (I was having a bottle of Arcadian 2000 pinot with dinner and had heard about it via your podcast).

    At the gym today I heard you mention that you liked it when people sent others your way, so here’s my thanks for having made a great podcast to listen to. DailyKos gets around a half a million hits a day, so maybe there’ll be some extra traffic. I hope so; you do a super job.

    Raising my glass,

    Jane Bernstein, MD

  12. 12 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 16th, 2006 at 3:45 am

    These comments are fantastic. I do not know a great deal about wine. By that I mean I have not taken the time or made the effort to pick up book knowledge. I do not have depth of knowledge. The discussions we are having on GrapeRadio have been like a school to me, except way more fun. I was convinced that we could act as facilitators of learning. Both we at GrapeRadio, and you, the listeners, could increase our wine knowledge, and yes, have a few laughs at the same time. I never anticipated, that through the comments made by our fans, I could learn even more. Man, life just rocks!

  13. 13 Jo Feb 16th, 2006 at 9:28 am

    I love poking fun at wine rituals. Several years back I gave a short commentary about ordering wine in a restaurant where, when a gentlmen started a insepect & sniff ritual on a wine I had brought, I actual shot a cork across the room with such gusto that it tipped a glass (nothing shatter, nothing spilled).

    Essentially, if I’m going to inspect a cork I make sure it’s not some gummy crumbled mass of bleeding wine rot and I check if it’s imprinted with the same emblem as the wine I ordered.

    There’s another couple pennies for the penny jar. I’m going to finish listening to the show.

  14. 14 Zim Feb 17th, 2006 at 12:47 am

    Hi Guys

    A consistent favorite for inexpensive everyday drinking has been a friendly Italian from the Umbria region, called Vitiano, made by Falesco. We discovered it in a wine shop in the Tuscan village of Radda while on holiday and were happy to find it occasionally at home here in London or back in the States. I think it was in the $8 to $10 range when I last saw it in a New Hampshire Liquor Store. In London it’s in the 6-7 pound range.
    The wine is a blend in equal parts of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and is completely gluggable with a wide array of foods. In the four years we’ve been drinking it I’ve seen that Robert Parker has rated various vintages about 88-91 points.

    Other nice values are Syrah and Cab wines on the South African label Porcupine Ridge. These are big, juicy, friendly wines but also have a degree of finesse to them. They’re made by Boekenhoutskloof, which also produces more serious stuff under that name. The parent label Cab is just delicious, and runs about 20-22 pounds (equivalent to about $40). The Porcupine Ridge bottles you can find in Sainsbury and Waitrose supermarkets in the 6-8 pound range ($11 to $14).
    Another South African producer that seems to do no wrong is Vergelegen. From Cabs and Merlots to Sauvignon Blanc I have never been disappointed.

    I’m also a huge fan of Rhone and Spanish wines for good value reds, and often you can find mind-blowingly delicious Rieslings from the Mosel in Germany for ridiculously low prices. At Majestic Wine Warehouse in the U.K. they manage regularly to get in Mosel rieslings with 10 years of bottle age on them for about 5 pounds ($9). It’s just so cheap it’s rude not to drink it. I wish more people would try these.

    Bottoms up!

  15. 15 Nick Feb 18th, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    This is great fun podcast. Ritual are very cool. I love riesling too and I tend to prefer younger rieslings a cooler temp and older rieslings slightly warmer. Either way, this is has been a hugely underrated grape varietal that is making a huge comeback!

  16. 16 Peter Feb 18th, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Recommendation on a really good $7 bottle of wine:

    HRM Rex Goliath NV Pinot Noir, here in California selling for $7/bottle at Safeway and Cost Plus. Here’s a review from the the SF Chronicle wine podcast:

    I concur with the review. Its maybe a bit less concentrated than more expensive Pinots, presumably because the grapes come from vines that have been managed to produce larger quantities of fruit rather than a smaller volume of more concentrated fruit. Otherwise, well-balanced and very good, and something one could easily take for a more expensive Pinot. Its become my “everyday” red.

    HRM Rex Goliath was produced by Smith and Hook, but was recently sold to wine behemoth Constellation Brands. They’ve stated their goal is to produce this brand in even greater quantity while trying to maintain quality. Whether they’ll actually be able to maintain quality in the coming years is an open question.

    I concur with Zim’s recommendation of inexpensive Spanish and Rhone wines as being good values.

    Reply to Michael, on decanting Port:

    IMO, the point of decanting Port is both to filter out sediment AND aerate the wine. I regularly open unfiltered LBV port, which I decant and strain. However, I definitely put it in a large decanter and I leave it in the decanter at least several hours, if not overnight. I really think it improves the wine. It depends on your attitude toward tannin, I guess – I definitely like tannins to be softened.

  17. 17 Jonathan Feb 22nd, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    Regarding decanting – for young wines, I find it certainly helps in some cases (such as Bordeaux and Burgundies, in my experience). In other cases, I’m *pretty* sure it “opens” up the wine, softens the tannins, but sometimes I do question myself – is it the wine changing, or my palate?

    I think it would be interesting if you could do a running experiment on GrapeRadio – each show choose two bottles of the same wine, decant one and pop-and-pour the other, and talk briefly about your impressions. This could help to shed some light on the subject!

  18. 18 Domenico Bettinelli Feb 24th, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    On the subject of checking to see if wine ordered in a restaurant is “corked”, I had an interesting first the other day. I had ordered a 2001 Barolo and the waiter smelled the wine first, obviously looking to see if it was corked.

    Maybe some people wouldn’t like that forwardness by the waiter, but I was impressed and grateful that he was trying to save me the effort of having to decide whether it was a good bottle or not. And it was very good bottle. 🙂 If I were a wine novice or unsure of myself, I might not have known it was the bottle that was corked and blamed it on the wine itself or even the restaurant.

    Some interesting discussion in thise show. I like the mix in recent episodes between interviews of wine personalities and more broad-based discussions.

  19. 19 Carl Smith Mar 22nd, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    This goes to Jay, I’ve just started to listen to you guys and overall I’m happy that you are doing what you are doing this is another great way to really convince the average joe blow that wine is just so much better than cracking open another cold and insignificant beer. Anyway this is deffinitly the first of the comments that I intend to throw your way, It just seems to me that after all the wine and good wine that you guys seem to be drinking to make a comment that wine does not change after decanting or that it is only a matter of your palate adjusting to the wine is just proposturous, I have had so many wines good or just mediocre that change in the glass from one minute to the next that it is impossible to not recognize this structure change that the opening of these wines are not taking place and is only your palate adjusting… I’m sorry but I must disagree here and say that you need to re-evaluate your findings. Gentlemen Its our duty to eliminate all the scary feeling people have about wine, lets face it, its been around a long time and i’m sure it’ll be here for quite some time to come ” So Lets All Go Out and Drinks Lots of Wine Every Single Day Of Our Short But Wonderful Lives… Carl

  20. 20 GrapeRadio Bunch Mar 23rd, 2006 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for the comment Carl. I did not intend to make a definitive statement that a wine does not change. If I was not clear, let me try again.

    I totally acknowledge that my perception of a wine changes as it is allowed to breath. As to the factors that influence the perception change, this in an area that I feel is open to debate. I am convinced that palate adjustment, real physiological changes in the wine itself, group dynamics, etc all play a role. I will also acknowledge that my belief is based primarily on anecdotal evidence and not rigorous scientific analysis.

    One of the most important factors in learning is to be able to distinguish between things we believe and things that are fact.


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