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How To Decode a Wine Label



Inexperienced wine drinkers are often confused and perplexed by the labels used on wine. Whether it’s a new Pinot noir produced here in the U.S. or a French Bordeaux, most wineries use complex labels filled with a variety of information. Once you learn and familiarize yourself with the different parts of the label, however, you’ll have a better understanding of the wine.

Wine Maker

The most prominent element on a wine label is the maker or brand. This is typically displayed in the center of the label and reveals who’s responsible for producing the wine.

Wine Type

Next to the maker, you should see the type of wine located on the label. By law, all wines sold in the U.S. (and most other countries) are required to display their respective type on the label. You might see Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel, etc. on the label, indicating its produced with a minimum percentage of the respective grape.

Appellation

A wine’s appellation is the country or region from which the grapes were grown. In the U.S., federal law states that at least 75% of the wine’s grapes must be harvested from the appellation listed on its label. If you purchase a bottle of Sonoma Valley red wine, for instance, you expect it to contain at least 75% of grapes grown and harvested from this region.

Vintage

Contrary to what some people may believe, vintage does not refer to a wine’s date of production. Instead, it refers to the year when the grapes were harvested.

It’s important to note, however, that vintage isn’t a required element for wine labels. Some of the lesser quality wines that contain a variety of grapes won’t display a vintage year. Also, don’t assume that vintage is a clear indicator of quality, as there are plenty of delicious non-vintage (NV) and plenty of bad vintage wines.

See Understanding Vintage Wine for more information.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

Just as the name suggests, alcohol by volume (ABV) indicates the wine’s alcohol percentage. American wines tend to have a slightly higher ABV than their European counterpart. However, many people prefer the smoother, more subtle characteristics a low-ABV wine.

ABV is required by law on all wines produced and sold here in the U.S. Federal law allows for a 1% margin error on ABV, meaning a wine labeled with 14% ABV can legally possess 13 or 15%.

Bottle of 2008 Vignes De Nicole Syrah: photo by Alessandro Valli.

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New York Aims To Boost Wine and Beer Industry



New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is looking to boost the state’s wine and beer industry by pumping an estimated $60 million into an awareness campaign. The campaign, known as Taste NY, draws attention to New York’s wineries and brewers. And according to Governor Cuomo, it has already generated over $4 billion in economic activity for the state.

What Is Taste NY?

According to the organization’s official website, “Taste NY” will help tell the story of New York’s wine industry. We have wine regions, beautiful trails and world class wines. Whether you prefer a Riesling or merlot, sparkling white or ice wine, or a glass of honey meade, a taste of New York wine is a taste of New York agriculture at its best.”

According to public financial documents, the state has invested over $60 million in its Taste NY campaign. While opponents of Cuomo immediately criticized the governor for spending such a large amount of tax revenue on a marketing campaign for beer and wine, the move has apparently paid off for the state. Taste NY is believed to have attracted over $4 billion in revenue, which is a pretty good return on investment (ROI).

New York probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think of U.S.-made wine. The undisputed winner in this category is California, which produced 667,552,032 still gallons of wine in 2012. However, New York is actually in second place, producing an estimated 26,404,066 gallons of wine in 2012. It’s certainly nowhere near as much as the sunny state of California, but New York remains the runner-up in terms of U.S. wine production.

Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit

In addition to his Taste NY campaign, Governor Cuomo also held the annual Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cider Summit near the state’s capital last week.

During the summit, he announced plans to lessen restrictions and requirements on New York wineries and breweries through the Craft New York Act. Governor Cuomo also noted expanded marketing expenses, lower license registration costs, and other elements designed to improve the state’s wine and beer industry.

We are fully cognizant we have further to go, because we want this to work better.” Cuomo said. “We’re taking liquor producers and we’re making them marketers, restaurateurs, tourism destinations — these are not normal connections and it’s not normally what [the State Liquor Authority] does,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

(Source: winerefrigeratornow.com)

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Iowa’s Wine Industry Continues To Grow



Iowa probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think of U.S.-made wine, and for good reason: it currently sits in 24th place in terms of wine production with 243,571 gallons of still wine produced in 2012 (California is 1st with 667,552,032). But the wine industry here is stronger than ever, adding a substantial amount of revenue for the state.

The consulting firm Frank, Rimerman & Co. recently released a study that highlights the economical impact of Iowa’s wine production. According to the study, Iowa’s wine industry rose from a mere $234 million in 2008 to an impressive $420 million in 2012. In case you’re bad with math, that’s an 80% increase in just a 4-year period!

The industry is at a critical juncture. Iowa-produced wines have captured 6 percent of the state’s wine market, and now Iowa has the potential to lead the region in wine production and sales,” said Murli Dharmadhikari, the director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University.

But it’s not just direct wine sales that are providing the state of Iowa with additional tax revenue, it’s also the tourism. Dharmadhikari says that 358,000 people visited wineries in Iowa during 2012, which is 51% greater than the amount of people who toured Iowa’s wineries in 2008. According to the study, there are 2,678 wine-related jobs in Iowa.

Today, wine vineyards can be found in 86 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The wine industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, despite the fact that Iowa has the fourth largest excise tax in the country. (note: excise tax in Iowa is $1.75/gallon)

If you ever find yourself traveling through Iowa, take a couple hours out of your day to stop by one of the 95+ wineries. Most of the wineries here are small-family owners businesses, not large commercial businesses. The small, personal nature of Iowa’s wineries create a pleasant atmosphere that you’re sure to enjoy.

There some hurdles faced by Iowa vineyards and wineries, including the high humidity levels. The hot and humid summer days promotes the growth of mold and fungi, often destroying entire crops of vineyards. Wineries must combat this problem through the use of fungicide as well as removing tainted plants from healthy ones.

Iowa wine barrels: photo by ezioman.

(Source: winerefrigeratornow.com)

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The Link Between Red Wine and Health Health



Let’s face it, most people drink red wine for its rich, delicious flavors and fragrant aromas. Whether you consider yourself a wine connoisseur or someone who enjoys an occasional once-a-week glass, you’re sure to appreciate the bold flavors of a good glass of red wine. However, recent studies have revealed some rather surprising benefits of drinking red wine.

Can Red Wine Lower The Risk of Heart Disease?

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S. 600,000 people in the U.S. die from heart disease each year, which translates into roughly 1 in 4 deaths. In addition, the total costs of heart disease is estimated to be $108.9 billion.

Consuming moderate amounts of red wine on regular basis, though, may help reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have been done which reveal a direct correlation between red wine consumption and lower rates of heart disease. People who drank red wine on a daily basis (1-2 glasses) were less likely to suffer from heart disease than people who did not drink red wine.

Why Does Red Wine Lower The Risk of Heart Disease?

This is something medical experts and scientists are still trying to figure out. With that said, there are few plausible theories regarding the link between red wine consumption and lower rates of heart disease.

You see, red wine contains a plethora of beneficial organic antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids. These antioxidants work to neutralize potentially damaging free radicals that roam throughout our body. Free radicals are found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the beauty products we use on our skin. Small amounts of free radicals won’t cause any serious damage to our bodies, but larger amounts are believed to cause early aging, illness and even increase the chance of developing certain types of cancers.

Heart Health Benefits of Red Wine:

  • Boosts good cholesterol levels (HDL).
  • Reduces bad cholesterol levels (LDL).
  • Reduces blood clotting; thus, promoting healthy circulation.
  • Lowers your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.

It’s important to note that red wine should be consumed in moderation to reap the full potential of its heart health benefits. A “normal” serving is approximately one 4-ounce glass daily for women or two 4-ounce glasses daily for men.

South African red wine: photo by Tim Parkinson.

(Source: winerefrigeratornow.com)

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Debunking 5 Common Wine Myths



There’s a lot of misinformation out there on the subject of wine. And being that wine tasting is such a highly social activity, these myths and misconceptions are easily spread around. In an effort to separate the facts from the fiction, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common wine myths.

Myth #1) The ‘Vintage’ Year Indicates When The Wine Was Made

It’s a common belief that the vintage year printed on a bottle of wine indicates when it was made. However, this isn’t entirely correct. In the U.S., Canada, Bordeaux and France, the vintage indicates the year when the grapes were harvested. Some wineries may harvest their grapes long before they are actually turned into wine.

Myth #2) Corked Wines Are Better Than Screwcaps

In the old days, nearly all wines were bottled using cork. This offered a safe and effective way to preserve the wine while keeping it safe from oxygen exposure Today, though, a growing number of wineries are opting to use aluminum screwcaps instead.

The truth is that both corks and screwcaps are equally as effective at preserving wine. In fact, some people will argue that screwcaps are the better choice since they last longer and don’t degrade in the same was as cork.

Myth #3) Wine Is Better With Age

Yes, it’s true that some wines are better with age, but other varieties begin to spoil as they grow older. Generally speaking, most white varieties should be consumed within three years of release. Holding onto your whites for longer than three years may result in unwelcome flavor changes.

Premium red wines may improve in flavor and aroma through aging.

Myth #4) Cheap Wines Are Bad

Contrary to what some people may believe, price is not a clear indication of quality when it comes to wine. There are a countless number of inexpensive wines that are far better than the so-called premium varieties on the market. Don’t assume that a bottle of wine is bad just because it’s sold for $10 bucks.

Myth #5) Popping The Cork Helps Aerate Wine

If you want to aerate your wine before drinking it (which is always a good idea), don’t pop the cork and let it sit for an hour. Instead, pour it into a decanter before serving it in a wine glass. Popping the cork only exposes the top of the wine to oxygen, not the entire contents.

Wine photo by Chris Gladis.

(Source: winerefrigeratornow.com)

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Judge Lowers Compensation For Koch In Fake Wine Case



If you keep up with the WineRegrigeratorNow.com Blog, you may recall a story we covered last year involving counterfeit wine being sold to customers, one of whom was billionaire investor and businessman William Koch. Well, the $12 million that a judge had originally awarded Koch in compensatory damages has now been slashed to just $712,000.

Koch Buys 24 Bottles of Fake Wine

In April 2013, a jury had awarded Koch with $12 million in damages after he purchased 24 bottles of fake Bordeaux from Californian businessman Eric Greenberg at a local wine auction. But just because a jury awards someone with compensatory damages doesn’t necessary mean they will receive it.

Greenberg petitioned the court to lower the compensatory damages set forth by the jury, claiming it was “exorbitant.” Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken agreed with Greenberg before clashing Koch’s damages from $12 million down to just $712,000.

The jury found that [Greenberg] had shamelessly defrauded customers with ‘garbage.’ Yet his conduct did not cause a particularly egregious harm: he was dealing in luxury goods marketed to a sophisticated and wealthy subset of the population. The harm was strictly economic, and the victims were far from vulnerable consumers. These facts merit a relatively low award of punitive damage,” wrote District Judge J. Paul Oetken.

A spokesperson for Koch responded to the judge’s decision, saying Koch’s goal was never to win money, but rather to bring more attention to the growing problem of wine fraud. Considering that Koch’s net worth is around $4 billion, I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t need to the additional compensatory damages from this case.

Wine Fraud

Wine fraud is a topic that many people would rather ignore than tackle head-on. Just because a particular bottle has a label and all the right markings doesn’t necessarily mean it’s real. Wine fraud is a multi-million dollar industry that continues to swindle wine collectors and consumer out of their money. 

The most common form of wine fraud involves relabeling. Thieves and crooks meticulously apply authentic labels to cheap wines in hopes of pulling a fast one on buyers. Filling authentic ‘premium’ bottles with cheap wine is another form of fraud.

Do you think Koch should have been awarded the full $12 million?

William Koch standing in front of the courthouse alongside his lawyer.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Wine Online



According to a report released by Global Wine Spirits, internet wine sales topped $5 billion in 2012 and continue to grow by roughly 30% with each passing year. While an overwhelming number of people still buy wine the old fashioned way (in bottle shops and wine stores), there’s an undeniable trend that’s shifting in favor of the new online medium.

Greater Selection

One of the reasons why more and more people are choosing to purchase wine over the internet rather is because of the enormous selection it offers. Whether you’re looking for a domestic wine or something more exotic, you don’t have to search long to find the perfect variety.

Research Wine

The internet also allows consumers to research and learn more about particular wines before purchasing. You can discover where the grapes were grown, how they were harvested, who’s responsible for producing the wine, and even read reviews from others. All of this information will prove valuable in your search for the right wine.

Lower Prices

Buying wine online is typically cheaper than buying it in person. With hundreds of different wine merchants and web-based shops eager to sell their inventory, prices drop and you — the consumer — saves money.

There are still plenty of high-priced ‘premium’ wines available for sale online, but you’ll likely notice that most varieties sold on the internet are reasonably priced below their in-store counterpart.

Convenience

Let’s face it, buying wine over the internet is easier and more convenient than buying it in person. In just minutes, you can buy wine and have it delivered right to your door. There’s no need to drive across town in hopes of finding your favorite vintage. Just fire up your browser, find your preferred wine, and order it!

Rare Wines

A fifth and final reason why you should buy wine online is because it provides access to rare, hard-to-find varieties that would otherwise go unnoticed. If you enjoy experimenting with new varieties, you should take advantage of the massive scope and reach of the internet, using it to find rare wines.

The internet isn’t going to replace traditional wine shops anytime soon, but it does offer consumers several unique benefits. From the massive selection of wines from across the world, to the cost savings and convenience, these are just a few of the reasons why you should buy wine online.

Photo by Stewart Butterfield.

(Source: winerefrigeratornow.com)

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Wine: Coming To a Starbucks Near You



Starbucks, the world’s largest coffeehouse, is now adding a new beverage to their lineup of tall, grande and vinti beverages: wine. The move, called “Starbucks Evenings,” will promote sales of both wine and beer in thousands Starbucks coffeehouses throughout the country. Whether you live on the east cost, west coast or anywhere in between, there’s a good chance you’ll see wine on the menu of your local Starbucks in the near future.

You might be surprised to hear that Starbucks has been selling wine and beer in select locations for over four years. The coffee powerhouse company originally began experimenting with alcoholic beverages back in 2010 in a single coffeehouse located in Seattle, Washington. With the success of the first store, Starbucks began introducing wine and beer into dozens of other around the area. Today, the company is believed to sell beer and wine in roughly 26 different U.S.-based coffeehouses.

Last week, Starbucks announced a major rollout that would bring wine and beer into thousands of coffeehouses, including Atlanta, Chicago, L.A. and Portland.

So, why is Starbucks — a company who’s known for producing premium coffee — taking the dive into alcohol sales? It’s certainly a questionable business tactic considering the success the company has seen with their coffee business model, but it could prove to be a smart gamble in the long rung.

By offering patrons wine and beer, Starbucks will now appeal to a new demographic. The fact is that some people don’t want to drink coffee late at night, fearing it will prevent them from going to sleep. Beer and wine, however, typically have the opposite effect by making a person feel more calm and relaxed. Of course, a spokeswoman for Starbucks recently addressed the change, citing it was the company’s “natural progression.”

The concept is a natural progression for Starbucks as we seek to create a new occasion for customers to gather, relax and connect with each other in the evenings,” said Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe.

In addition to beer and wine, Starbucks will also be adding a new line of food to their menu. Some of the featured items that you can expect to see on the menu include bacon-wrapped dates and flatbreads.

You can check out Starbucks’ official website to learn more about Starbucks Evenings.

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Things To Consider When Purchasing a Wine Cooler



A dedicated wine cooler is something that every serious wine drinker should own. It allows you to store your wine at the optimal temperature and humidity, which in turn encourages graceful aging rather than spoilage. Even if you only have half a dozen bottles of wine, a dedicated cooler will improve their flavor and qualities so you can enjoy them just a little more.

But with so many different types of wine coolers available for sale, how do you know which one to choose? Many first-time buyers feel overwhelmed at the sheer number of coolers available. If you’re struggling to find the perfect wine cooler, keep reading for some tips to help you make the right decision.

Single Zone vs Dual Zone?

Wine coolers are typically broken down into one of two different categories: single zone and dual zone. Basically, zones refer to the individual compartments with their own climate control systems. A single-zone wine cooler features a single main compartment with one set of controls for the temperature and humidity, whereas a double-zone wine coolers has two separate compartments and control systems.

Double-zone wine coolers are preferred by people who intend to store two different varieties of wine. Let’s say you want to store red wine and sparkling wine in your cooler. Rather than storing them at the same temperature in a single-zone cooler, you can use a double-zone model to adjust the temperature for each variety.

How Many Bottles Does It Hold?

Of course, you should also consider the number of bottles a wine cooler is capable of holding. An 8-bottle cooler might suffice for a once-a-week drinker, but serious wine drinkers will likely need a larger, more accommodating cooler.

Remember, though, large wine coolers require more space. If you’re tight on free space, you may want to stick with a smaller model. On the other hand, if you have plenty of space in the area where you intend to use it (doesn’t have to kitchen), go ahead and choose a large cooler.

Ease of Cleaning

No matter how hard you try to prevent it, your wine cooler will inevitably gather dust and dirt over time. Giving it a little TLC once in a while will help to keep it clean.

When you’re choosing a wine cooler, think about how difficult it will be to clean. Certain models are designed with a focus on simplicity and ease of maintenance, making regular cleaning a breeze.

Summit’s 118-bottle dual-zone wine cooler.

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Bring Your Own Wine (BYOW) Law Takes Effect In Michigan



You’ve heard about bring your own beer (BYOB) parties and events, well now there’s a bring your own wine (BYOW) law that’s set to go in effect for the entire state of Michigan on March 21st. The new BYOW law legally allows restaurant and bar patrons to bring their own wine. So, how  will this new law impact alcohol-serving establishments in Michigan?

It’s important to note that Michigan restaurants have the option to prohibit patrons from bringing their own wine. Introduced by Michigan Rep. Stamas, House Bill 5046 allows patrons to legally bring their own wine to a bar or restaurant; however, the establishment has the right to prohibit patrons from bringing their own wine.

The thinking behind Michigan House Bill 5046 is that patrons will bring their favorite local wines to restaurants and bars, which in turn boosts the state’s economy. Scott Ellis, executive director for the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said the new bill will likely have a small but noticeable impact on the state’s alcohol industry.

Another benefit of Michigan’s new BYOW law is that it opens up a new source of revenue for restaurants and bars that allow patrons to bring their own wine: re-corking service. If a patron brings his or her own bottle of wine and wants to take the remainder home, they must have it re-corked by the establishment before they can legally take it off the premises. Restaurants and bars may charge anywhere from $5 to $25 for a re-corking service.

But not everyone is thrilled with this bill. Some restaurant and bar owners believe it will hurt their alcohol sales. Even though establishments are allowed to deny patrons from bringing their own, those who tell patrons “no” would likely discourage them from returning — at least that’s what some restaurant owners in Michigan believe.

Michigan House Bill 5046 states the following:

Notwithstanding section 901(6), an on-premises licensee may, in a manner as determined by that licensee, allow for the consumption of wine that is produced by a wine maker, a small wine maker, or an out-of-state entity that is the substantial equivalent of a wine maker or small wine maker and that is brought into the licensed premises in its original sealed container by a consumer who is not prohibited under this act from possessing wine.”

Wine served at a restaurant: photo by bryce_edwards.

(Source: winerefrigeratornow.com)

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