Master Blender Tips #1

Oxidized Wine 

  • What it is: Contamination caused by too much oxygen exposure. You know when you leave a sliced apple out on the counter and it turns brown? It’s that same process but in your wine. Oxidization is the most common wine fault in older wines and is easy to replicate at home with any bottle of wine.
  • How you can tell: Oxidized wines lose their brightness, both in color and in flavor. Bright reds turn to a brownish-orange color, and fresh tastes develop drier, more bitter characteristics. White wines are much more susceptible to oxidization than reds, because reds’ higher tannin levels act as a buffer. If you really want to see what this looks like: open a new bottle, pour a glass and save that bottle for about a week. Congrats, your bottle is ruined. Drink some and compare it to that first glass you had.
  • Can I fix it? No, but you can prolong the shelf life of opened wine by using a wine preserving tool. If your bottle is oxidized right off the shelf, it was either had a faulty closure or mishandled. Take it back!

Woodinville Winery Tips #4

What is all this decanting about? Why do some bottles of wine get decanted, and others don’t? How long should you decant for, and how does that vary by wine?

Decanting is all about removing sediment from a wine, and allowing the wine to breathe. These are things that older, red wines do – young wines and white wines do not usually have to be decanted.

First, the sediment. Wines have all sorts of organic things in them – yeast, grape skins, and so on. The wine naturally has very small particles of these things that, over the years that wine age, settle out of the wine. That’s why with older red wines, which have much more skin contact, you get more sediment.

The trick is to pour the wine slowly into the decanter, keeping the same side down that was down during the aging process. You don’t want to mix all that sediment in now! Be sure not to let the sediment end up in the decanting glass. Some people, with a bottle full of sediment (i.e. an old port), pour “over a candle”. The candle just helps you see the sediment in the bottle neck better as it begins to slide towards the opening.

OK, now you have a wine without sediment in it. Why would you let it sit there? Isn’t wine and air a bad combination? Well, yes and no. Yes, during the years of aging you don’t want air getting to the wine. However, now that you’re about to drink it, air getting across a good surface area of a wine can bring out its aromas.

Woodinville Winery Tips #2

Good Tasting Conditions

First things first: Make note of the circumstances surrounding your wine tasting experience that may affect your impressions of the win. For instance, a noisy or crowded room makes concentration difficult. Cooking smells, perfume and even pet odor can destroy your ability to get a clear sense of a wine’s aromas. A glass that is too small, the wrong shape, or smells of detergent or dust, can also affect the wine’s flavor.

The temperature of the wine will also have an impact on your impressions, as will the age of the wine and any residual flavors from whatever else you’ve been eating or drinking. You want to neutralize the tasting conditions as much as possible, so the wine has a fair chance to stand on its own. If a wine is served too cold, warm it with your hands by cupping the bowl. If a glass seems musty, give it a quick rinse with wine, not water, swirling it around to cover all the sides of the bowl. This is called conditioning the glass. Finally, if there are strong aromas nearby—especially perfume—walk as far away from them as you can and try to find some neutral air.

Woodinville Winery Tips #1

Vintage vs Non-Vintage.

Which is a better wine?  One might think that a vintage wine would be better than a non-vintage wine.  In some cases that could be true.  Remember that the grapes grown in a single calendar year are one dimensional in flavor and character based on what mother nature has provided us for that year’s growing season.  If the growing season is less than optimal a wine maker may choose to blend a different vintage or maybe more to produce a more dimensional and perhaps a better wine.  Do not be afraid of a non-vintage wine.  It could hold a very nice surprise for you.


Bob Bullock (Master Blender)