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Hosting a Blind Wine Tasting Party

May 25, 2010

Hosting a wine tasting party is an excellent way to gather fellow wine enthusiast friends and exercise your palette. Wine tastings are very versatile and can range from simple and casual to an elaborate tasting. Either way hosting a wine tasting party is fun and informative and a perfect reason to gather a few friends for an evening of entertaining. Below are some tips to get you started with a blind tasting.

Hosting a wine tasting party is an excellent way to gather fellow wine enthusiast friends and exercise your palette. Wine tastings are very versatile and can range from simple and casual to an elaborate tasting. Either way hosting a wine tasting party is fun and informative and a perfect reason to gather a few friends for an evening of entertaining. Below are some tips to get you started with a blind tasting.

 

If you are throwing your first wine tasting party your best bet is with a blind tasting. This way you can familiarize yourself with what a tasting consists of without having to worry about themes and food and wine pairings, which make throwing a wine tasting a little more involved. A blind tasting basically consists of concealing the wine's identity. In other words, no one knows which wine they are tasting. The reason for a blind tasting is simply to rely on your senses without any other outside information that could potentially influence your judgement of the wine. This is a great way to learn to trust your own taste and educate yourself on your likes and dislikes.

 

An important factor in hosting a wine tasting is obviously ensuring there is enough wine for everyone and the math in this regard is rather straight forward. Plan to serve 2 ounce samples of each wine. So if you have 12 guests you will need 1 bottle per person. However, it never hurts to have a little extra, for emergency purposes. Which brings up the question of how many wines should be sampled. For a blind tasting between four and six is usually a good number.  

 

Beyond the wine itself, it's a good idea to provide a tasting sheet for each guest. This sheet will be a resource for each guest to write down their experiences with each wine including any comments they may have, ranking the wine and to generate a dialogue amongst the group. Although one guest may be more informed about wine than another, this is an excellent time to learn from each other in a discussion. 

 

To spit or not to spit, that is the question and the answer is generally yes. Although it's perfectly acceptable to sip the wine, you will want to keep a clear head during the tasting in order for your senses to be in top form. So it's important to provide a spit bucket. A small plastic cup for each guest is suitable for this purpose.

 

As for food it's best to stick to bread and water. At least until after the actual tasting. They will act as effective palette cleansers in between each tasting without interfering with the senses. It's also important to note that strong odours such as scented candles or intensely perfumed flowers should be avoided for the same reason. After the tasting is completed though, it's thoughtful to have a few appetizers to offer your guests.  

 

Finally, don't feel the need to go it alone. Before the tasting ask your guests for their input and ideas on what they would enjoy. They'll likely be happy to get involved and help and in fact you may find that each of your guests would like to bring their own bottle. That, of course, is something you will want to know ahead of time. Wine tastings should be festive and fun affairs and should never be overwhelming or intimidating. This is where a little planning goes a long way.

 

Photo Credit: WineTastingParty.com

Niagara New Vintage Wine Festival

May 24, 2010

June 12th marks the beginning of Niagara's three weekend wine and food festival. It's no wonder the New Vintage Festival is in its 15th year considering the Niagara Peninsula is one of the most well-known wine regions in Canada. This festival showcases the newest vintages that the Niagara region has to offer from 2009. Along with multiple wine tastings from Niagara's beautiful wine country, there will also be local chefs dishing up their delicious creations at six local wineries. Some of the events also include a seminar on wine and cheese pairing and a wine and seafood extravaganza. 

June 12th marks the beginning of Niagara's three weekend wine and food festival. It's no wonder the New Vintage Festival is in its 15th year considering the Niagara Peninsula is one of the most well-known wine regions in Canada. This festival showcases the newest vintages that the Niagara region has to offer from 2009. Along with multiple wine tastings from Niagara's beautiful wine country, there will also be local chefs dishing up their delicious creations at six local wineries. Some of the events also include a seminar on wine and cheese pairing and a wine and seafood extravaganza. 

For more information on Niagara's New Vintage Festival visit their official website here.

(Photo Credit: NiagaraWineFestival.com)

 

Food and Wine Classic 2010

May 17, 2010

 

 

Anyone who is passionate about food and wine is likely familiar with Food and Wine Magazine. Food and Wine Magazine is highly regarded in the industry which is why their annual Food and Wine Classic, which is held in Aspen every year, is such a coveted event...and for good reason. The Food and Wine Classic is a three day event that includes cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, wine tastings and food and wine pairings from a who's who of culinary and wine superstars. With fantastic talent like Rick Bayless, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Mario Batalli, Marni Old, Alessia Antinori, Richard Betts and many, many more inspirational experts, this event is definitely a food and wine lover's dream. 

 

The Food and Wine Classic 2010 runs from June 18th-20th. For more information click here to go to the official website.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Jaunted.com)

 

Get Twisted and Win

May 10, 2010

Send us your best photo's of you getting "twisted" and you could win a weekly prize of a Twisted T-shirt. Photos will be rated by the public and voted on by Winexpert and are encouraged to be fun, unique and creative.

Send us your best photo's of you getting "twisted" and you could win a weekly prize of a Twisted T-shirt. Photos will be rated by the public and voted on by Winexpert and are encouraged to be fun, unique and creative.

 

To enter or to vote on photo's just go to www.winexpert.com/twisted/contest.

Craft your own cocktails with Twisted Mist kits from Winexpert, a new twist on wine cocktails. Mojito and Strawberry Margarita varieties now available at Just Fine Wine.

Get Twisted!

May 8, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Twisted Mist

 

Twisted Mist FAQ:

What is Twisted Mist?
It’s a refreshment beverage cocktail, along the lines of trendy pre-mixed cocktails sold at single-strength and designed to be drank in a casual and festive setting. These drinks have a long history, from California Cooler, Bartles & Jaymes, to Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezers.
 
What is Twisted Mist not?
It’s not Sangria or a fruit-wine drink or other alco-pop. While it has a wine base, Twisted Mist flavours are completely refreshing and true to their cocktail origins.
 
Do I need to add liquor?
No, it’s all there: a standard mixed drink (1.5 ounces alcohol with 4 ounces mix) is generally about 12% alcohol. Twisted Mist delivers approximately 12.5% alcohol by volume at bottling. That’s not to say you can’t add a bit more—some fancy mixed drinks get a ‘float’ of a quarter-ounce of liquor on top at the end. However, it’s not necessary to increase the alcohol content to get perfect cocktail strength and flavour.
 
Does it taste like one of those ‘bar mix’ drinks?
Some bar flavours (often called ‘pre-mix’ in the industry) are flavoured and coloured with artificial ingredients that don’t always taste like fresh fruit. Twisted Mist uses natural fruit extracts and essences that give it a fantastic just-made taste that everyone will love.

Why is Twisted Mist not clear as my usual wine kits at the time of bottling?
There are a lot of solid materials (from the flavour pack) that are added to the beverage during the production process. Therefore the finished product will be rendered slightly cloudy. That’s okay: by the time a Margarita is stirred up or a Mojito is muddled they should be a little hazy with all the great things (those natural fruit extracts and essences again) floating around making up the flavour, aroma and body. The haze in very slight, natural looking, and won’t settle out over time.
 
How long can I keep Twisted Mist once it’s bottled?
Pretty much until about one minute after people find out how good it tastes! Seriously, Twisted Mist is ready to be drunk as soon as it’s bottled and unlike our wine kits, doesn’t improve with age. Don’t worry though: it will last at least six months and a bit longer in good storage conditions. We really expect most people won’t have it around that long! 
 
Are there fun and funky Twisted Mist labels available?
Yes. Twisted Mist includes bottle labels inside the kit. They’re attractive clear peel-and-stick versions with Twisted Mist graphics and our Tiki mascot, adding a sense of light hearted fun to the product.

For any further information drop by Just Fine Wine or visit: www.winexpert.com/twisted

 

Introducing Two New Estate Small Lots

May 7, 2010

 

 

Last year, Just Fine Wine and Winexpert introduced the Estate Series Small Lots to provide the opportunity for customers to try ultra-premium, region specific wines that otherwise might not be offered in Estate Series due to the scarce availability of supply available. There is a set number of Estate Series Small Lots wine kits produced and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Many customers raved about last year’s Okanagan Pinot Blanc while unfortunately, some missed out. This May, we will be introducing 2 new varieties to the Small Lots:

 

British Columbia Black Sage Bench Chardonnay

British Columbia is at the forefront of new, New-World Chardonnays, with a crisp, bright style that’s perfectly balanced for food or casual sipping. Pale yellow, with fresh mineral and citrus flavours, notes of pear, white peach, green apple and fine acidity lead to a long, creamy finish with notes of honey.

3 Continents Meritage

A Red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage. Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can make up more than 90% of the blend. 3 Continents Meritage combines Petit Verdot from Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon from California and Merlot from Chile to make a unique, globe-spanning vision of the quality a wine of the best varieties can truly possess.

 

The 2010 Estate Series Small Lots Editions are now available in small quantities for a limited time...which likely won't be long! Last year's amazing BC Okanagan Pinot Blanc was out of stock in only 6 weeks. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to stock your cellar with these two fabulous wines.

 

The Wonderful World of Roses

Mar 31, 2010

A lot of people think of Mateus when they think rosés. Mateus is the wildly popular sweet, lightly fizzy rosé which was created and targeted specifically to the North American palette, and for many, that will always be the preferred choice. After all it was the favorite for rosé drinkers from the 1950's well into the 80's. However if a sweet wine isn't for you, there are other choices. Things have come back around to the demand of a dry rosé which seems to be changing even the minds of those who scoffed at the thought of drinking it at all. In fact, a couple of years ago, the volume of sales even outnumbered that of white wines in France and the demand for dry Rosés in North America have sky rocketed.

A lot of people think of Mateus when they think rosés. Mateus is the wildly popular sweet, lightly fizzy rosé which was created and targeted specifically to the North American palette, and for many, that will always be the preferred choice. After all it was the favorite for rosé drinkers from the 1950's well into the 80's. However if a sweet wine isn't for you, there are other choices. Things have come back around to the demand of a dry rosé which seems to be changing even the minds of those who scoffed at the thought of drinking it at all. In fact, a couple of years ago, the volume of sales even outnumbered that of white wines in France and the demand for dry Rosés in North America have sky rocketed.

 

There has been much talk of the rosé the last few years and for good reason. Rosés are often under rated and don't get the credit they deserve. There are many reasons to choose rosés. For example, a great bottle of rosé can be found for a very reasonable price. They are a younger wine best enjoyed now without years of aging. But perhaps most exciting for any food lover is that rosés pair very well with a wide variety of foods from prawns to goat cheese to chicken, spicy chorizo and fish and BBQ is a perfect match for a dry rosé. 

 

Spring and Summer are absolutely the time of year to sit back with all of the wonderful things a rosé has to offer. Refreshing, versatile and very drinkable have all the makings of a warm weather hit. And the new generation of rosés are just that.

 

(Photo Credit: Creative Loafing.com)

 

The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival

Mar 31, 2010

The Okanagan of British Columbia is one of Canada's largest wine regions so it's no surprise that it hosts a wine festival in the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. With Spring upon us, it's almost time for the Annual Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. 

The Okanagan of British Columbia is one of Canada's largest wine regions so it's no surprise that it hosts a wine festival in the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. With Spring upon us, it's almost time for the Annual Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. 

 

The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival is a perfect marriage of wine and culinary tourism. For the first ten days in May each year, it offers a tantalizing experience for anyone who loves fabulous wine accompanied by fine cuisine. Guests can choose from an incredible 100 plus events throughout Okanagan Wine Country at a time of year when it is absolutely delightful to savour Spring in the warm sunshine. 

 

The festival runs from April 30th-May 9th.

 

For more information on The Okanagan Spring Wine Festival visit their website here

 

(Information and photo courtesy of The Wine Festivals.com)

 

Saving Leftover Wine

Mar 31, 2010

They say a glass of wine a day is good for your health so in the absence of drinking with company it's inevitable that we will have leftover wine. That brings up the question of the best ways to store an open bottle of wine. It is rather important in an attempt at maintaining the quality and final taste of the wine because once you remove the cork, oxygen can greatly affect the quality of the wine. Storing conditions do matter and there are a number of things you can do to help in the process.

They say a glass of wine a day is good for your health so in the absence of drinking with company it's inevitable that we will have leftover wine. That brings up the question of the best ways to store an open bottle of wine. It is rather important in an attempt at maintaining the quality and final taste of the wine because once you remove the cork, oxygen can greatly affect the quality of the wine. Storing conditions do matter and there are a number of things you can do to help in the process.

 

Refrigeration is key as the cooler temperatures slow down the degradation of the wine so tightly re-corking the bottle and storing it in the fridge is the simplest and most important step. Half bottles of wine are available for purchase and if you happen to have a spare empty half bottle (375 ml), pour the leftover wine into the bottle and re-cork. This way the amount of oxygen that is allowed to come into contact with wine is substantially diminished. 

 

A rather more debatable method of storage is the use of a hand pump vacuum accessory. There are some that believe the vacuum method to be ineffective and even detrimental causing the wine to become flat and dull. The same argument surrounds the use of a compressed nitrogen device that squirts nitrogen into the bottle and is supposed to displace oxygen. Both have their naysayers and enthusiasts alike and both are good accessories in theory and certainly worth personally trying but there are varying reports on either of their effectiveness.

 

Another popular storage option for open wine is, believe it or not, in the freezer where individual servings can be frozen in ice cube trays and used at a later date for cooking. And if freezing isn't  for you, why not go ahead and plan a meal cooking with your leftover wine right away? There are many delicious dishes that are made with wine.

 

One last thing to note is the ideal maximum storing timeline. Some are adamant that  leftover wine be consumed the next day and no longer while others follow a 3-4 day rule. This is where your palette makes the decision but note that older wines will deteriorate in quality much quicker than younger wines. Also, make sure to remove red wine from the fridge a couple of hours before consumption to allow it to come to a suitable temperature. These are just a few tips to ensure your wine experience continues to be even that much more enjoyable. One glass at a time.

 

(Photo Credit: pizzeriaventi.com)

 

Spotting Corked Wine

Mar 30, 2010

There has likely been a time or two when you've opened a bottle of wine and it has smelled and tasted a little off, perhaps a lot off. In these cases it is not your taste buds rebelling against the wine in question, it is probably because the wine is "corked". Now, corked is not a term that is used to describe those bits of cork that sometimes make their way into our glasses. Corked is a wine term used to describe a bottle that has been contaminated and is essentially undrinkable.

There has likely been a time or two when you've opened a bottle of wine and it has smelled and tasted a little off, perhaps a lot off. In these cases it is not your taste buds rebelling against the wine in question, it is probably because the wine is "corked". Now, corked is not a term that is used to describe those bits of cork that sometimes make their way into our glasses. Corked is a wine term used to describe a bottle that has been contaminated and is essentially undrinkable.

 

There are various reasons for this and it's often debatable. Some people are staunch believers that corking happens strictly from a bad cork while others believe in the thought that the tainting may occur from wooden barrels, storage conditions of the wine and even transportation of the corks and wine. It's important to note that a corked wine has nothing to do with the original quality of the wine. Cork taint can affect wines irrespective of price and quality level. There is one undisputed reason for cork taint and that is the the contamination of a chemical called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole or TCA for short.

 

Cellar Notes has a good explanation detailing TCA comntamination:

 

A 'Corked' wine is a wine that has been bottled with a cork that is contaminated with TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole). TCA contamination usually comes from corks but can also come from barrels, other cooperage or even, apparently, from wood within the cellar including walls or beams. The term 'corked wine' is applied to all wines with TCA contamination because corks are the souce of most of the problems. The wine industry estimates that as many as 3% to 7% of all wines have TCA contamination at levels that can be detected by consumers. Because most people are not trained to recognize the smell and taste of TCA, only a very small fraction of these bad bottles are ever returned to stores or sent back at a restaurant.

 

Even a very tiny amount of TCA in a wine can ruin it. Most people become aware of TCA in quatities as small as 5 parts per trillion and some individuals are even more sensitive. When TCA is present in quantities high enough to be evident to a person, it comes across as 'musty' aromas and flavors. Even when TCA is not evident in the smell or taste of a wine, very small quantities can subdue the aromas and flavors of fruit that the wine would ordinarily exhibit.

 

TCA does not pose a health risk (at least in the levels found in wines). It just imparts the aromas and flavors that are objectionable when found in sufficient quantity. Many wines have levels of TCA that are below the threshold of perception. Wine is not the only place you can find TCA. It is also found in some municipal water supplies as well as in some teas.

 

A great deal of work continues in the cork industry as well as at wineries to develop methods to eliminate corked wine. So far, no completely reliable method has been found.

 

There are other causes of bad bottles of wine, but TCA contamination is the primary fault you will find in otherwise well-stored bottles. Other faults can include wines that are oxidized, lightstruck or have undergone unplanned secondary fermentation.

 

Detecting corked wine can sometimes be fairly easy with just a sniff of the wine. It will have a characteristic odor described as resembling a moldy newspaper, mushrooms, wet dog, damp cloth, or damp basement. However there are times when it's a little more challenging to detect and the only way to do so is by tasting the wine. If this is the case, it will taste like all of the similar qualities above as well as tasting astringent and with a raspy finish. 

 

Sadly there is no easy way to avoid a corked bottle of wine. Cork is a natural product and can be fair game for microorganisms. And if nature has taught us anything it's that not everything can be perfect all of the time. 

 

(References: New York Magazine, Cellar Notes, The Wine Doctor. Photo Credit: RSC.org)