Wine Q&A - The Top 26 Wine Questions Answered

As wine becomes a more popular choice of drink for many Australians, there’s no doubt it can become confusing. The most common questions however, tend to be about wine in general, and the answer to some of these questions are surprisingly simple.

Let’s take a look at the answers to 26 of the most common wine questions!

1. What do I need to know about pairing wines and food? 

Don’t pair to the protein; pair to the most dominant flavour in the dish. Consider the weight of the dish, and try to match it with a wine of similar strength. A rich Chardonnay with Poached Salmon and a Caper Butter Sauce — bingo! Light sushi and a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, not so much.
2. How do I taste a bottle for the table? 

Start by reading the label to make sure it matches your order. Then, smell to see if the wine has cork taint (if it smells like wet cardboard or newspaper). If that is the case, you’ll want to send back the bottle. Next, give your half-full wine glass a swirl to unleash the aromatics, and note if you like the smell or not and why. Now, take a sip, swish it around (taste buds aren’t only on your tongue), and swallow. Do you like it? If so, share it with the rest of the table. If not, try to remember why the next time you dine out in order to avoid making the same mistake twice.
3. How long will wine last after the bottle has been opened? 

Whites often hold their shape and expression easily for two nights. Reds, on the other hand, are more likely to change in structure after a day. If it’s a young, tannic, and full-bodied wine, this can be a good thing — you might even like it better on day two or three. Dessert wines can easily stretch for a week or two.
If you often find yourself with a few half-finished bottles opened at the same time maybe it is time for you to buy a CORAVIN™ Wine System. The CORAVIN™ Wine System gives you the freedom to pour and enjoy a glass of wine from any bottle at any time. By inserting a medical grade needle through the cork and injecting 99.9% pure argon gas, the bottle is pressurized and wine is being pushed out. When finished, the needle is pulled out and the cork reseals due to its elasticity, no air has gone into the bottle and the remaining wine can be preserved and continue to age.

4. How do I stop splitting the cork

Place the tip of the corkscrew dead centre, and press down to get a firm placement before you turn. Should the cork break (it could just be a dry cork!), there’s still hope: Try inserting the corkscrew worm again and angling it toward the side of the bottle, then try to find a good, solid chunk it will cling to, and slowly try again.
5. How many bottles do I need if I’m hosting a party? 

One bottle equals about five glasses, so get enough so that your guests can have at least two servings. (For example: If you have 10 guests, buy four bottles). When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to grab an extra bottle just in case.
6. Should I have a go-to wine? 

Yes and no. Try to taste something new each time you buy wine. Save repeats for special occasions when you need an old faithful to make an impression. You’ll only learn about the thousands of wine options and find the ones you like best if you explore with an open palette. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Wine does not need to be so intimidating — after all, it’s grape juice for adults! Find a local bottle shop that has knowledgeable staff and free weekly tastings. Every time you bring home a new bottle, look up one thing on the label you don’t recognize — like the grape, region, or winemaking technique. Be sure to try different wine styles at different times (seasons, time of day, food pairings, company). You will see that every style of wine has a place in your wine cellar, even if you think you are a die-hard for just one.
7. What is Rosé, really? 

Rosé is made like red wine, but it spends less time hanging around the grape skins, which give it colour. The darker the wine, the more skin it saw, and often fruitier and fuller in body it is. Nowadays there are hundreds of pink wines to choose from; dry rosés lead the pack as the biggest comeback kid. For a delicate variety that is bone-dry and very light in colour, seek out a wine from Provence. If you want a fruitier version, try something from a warmer region such as McLaren Vale or the Barossa.
8. What are tannins? 

Tannins are mostly responsible for that bitter taste that leaves your mouth feeling dry after you take a sip of a super tannic wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon. They mostly come from the grape skins, seeds, stems, and oak, and get stronger the longer the skins are in contact with the juice as it ferments. The same thing is also found in tea, and it’s what makes your drink bitter if you let it steep for too long.
9. Does white or red wine have more alcohol? 

Although there’s no hard-and-fast rule, red wines tend to be higher in alcohol than white wines. This also relates to the wine’s body, or weight: If you like lighter styles, aim for red or white wines at or under 13 percent alcohol. If you prefer something richer, bump that up to 13.5 percent or higher. Sweeter styles, like dessert wines, have the lowest alcohol by volume, typically under 10.5 percent.
10. How much sugar is in a glass of wine?

We all know a bottle of wine packs a calorie punch. But do you know how many sugars are in just one glass? Probably not.

Generally, one 175ml serving will contain between a quarter-teaspoon and two teaspoons of sugar. This means splitting a bottle of wine over dinner - around two or three glasses - could contain around three teaspoons of sugar, which is two-thirds of a woman's recommended daily sugar intake. The amount of sugar in wine will primarily depend on the colour and the style, with drier styles containing significantly less sugar than sweeter styles, obviously. Red is the best option for dieters, while dry white wines such as Chardonnay or Riesling are your next best option. If you are watching your sugar intake then sweeter white wines and dessert wines maybe best avoided.
11. What’s the best glass? 

Most glassware manufacturers create a glass for all the different grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne, etc. which can become confusing. For everyday enjoyment, many prefer a large glass because it feels generous in our hands and we can swirl around the small amount we pour into it. Look for clear, thin glass; a long stem; and a slight curve inward at the top. The Plumm Vintage RedA or the Riedel Vinum Shiraz are perfect everyday glasses.
12. Where are the best value wines coming from these days? 

This has leaped onto this list in the past year, for obvious reasons. If we had to answer in one word, it would be this: Chile. Look especially for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. But Argentina (especially Malbec), New Zealand (especially Sauvignon Blanc) and South Africa (also Sauvignon Blanc) are good bets, too. Within Australia, wines from the Yarra Valley, McLaren Vale and The Hunter are becoming increasingly more accessible.
13. What wines should I serve at a party (or to any large gathering)? 

For a white, you cannot go wrong with an Australian Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling. For a red, try a Margaret River or Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are looking for an affordable bubbly, it’s hard to go past a sparkling wine from Tasmania.
14. How do I remove labels? 

We’re thrilled to be asked this so often because it means people are drinking wines they want to remember. You could take a digital picture, of course. But if you want to remove the actual label, most labels these days work with the oven method: Heat oven to 180 degrees. Turn it off. Put the empty bottle in for a few minutes until it gets really hot. Wearing serious oven mitts, carefully remove the bottle, lift a corner of the label with a fingernail or a knife and peel right off. (Some labels still need to be boiled off, so we try that next, after the bottle has cooled. If all else fails, many wine stores sell large, sticky strips that basically peel the label off.)
15. Should I decant? 

Generally, no — at least, not at first. We enjoy tasting a wine from the first sip to the last and it will get plenty of air in those big glasses while we swirl. If we taste a wine and it’s so tight that it needs decanting, we can decant; if we decant first and then find that the wine lost some fruit to the air, there’s no going back. (Of course, if a wine needs to be separated from sediment, that’s another matter.)
16. Do I have to store my wine in a temperature-controlled wine fridge or cellar? 

If you simply want to keep a mixed case of wine around the house for a short time — and you should — find a place in the dark with a constant, moderate temperature. The bottom of a closet is often fine. If you have fine wine you want to store for longer, it might be time to invest in a good quality wine fridge. They are more affordable, available and space-efficient than ever and they’re worth it. If you want to lay down a bottle in that temperature-controlled wine fridge for your newborn — and this is also a question often asked — we’d suggest a vintage Champagne or the truly iconic Penfolds Grange.
17. What is the correct cellar temperature, and do whites and reds need to be different? 

Classic cellar temperature is about 12 degrees. We keep reds and whites at about 14 because we find that it’s a good starting point for serving both. Most reds are served too warm and most whites are served too cold, especially at restaurants. We might want to chill our whites a bit more or warm our reds by leaving them on the table as we sip them, but 14 is a good starting point.
18. What is organic wine and are they sulphur free?

An organic wine is first and foremost a wine made out of grapes that were grown organically.

Organic wines are produced using organically grown grapes. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilisers or synthetic chemicals of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil. Strict rules govern the winemaking process and storage conditions of all imported and domestic wines that acquire certification. Moreover, organic winemakers often avoid many of the chemical substances used to stabilise conventional wines. There is no such thing as sulphur-free grapes. Sulphur-free wines do not exist, but wines low in sulphur or free from added sulphur do. Sulphur is a natural by-product of the fermentation process. 
19. I love X wine; what do you think of it? 

We’re surprised how often we are asked this. Our answer is: It doesn’t matter. We think you should drink the wines you love and love the wines you drink. Don’t let anyone, including us, tell you what’s good and what isn’t. In fact, though, this does touch on a very good and much more important question, one that you should regularly pose to that helpful wine merchant you need to find: I love X wine; what else do you have in your store that I might like at around the same price? That’s how great wine journeys get started.
20. Why does wine give me headaches; sulphites, right? 

Wrong. Sulphites cause very severe allergic reactions in a small number of people, even death in extreme cases, but sulphites don’t cause headaches. Wine headaches are a serious issue, but the causes are highly personal. Some people get headaches only from red wine and some get them just from, say, German wine. It has to do with histamines and all sorts of other complex science. It really is best to talk with your doctor about this.
21. But wines from Europe don’t have sulphites, right? 

Wrong. All wines contain sulphites (it’s a natural by-product of the winemaking process) and almost all wines except some organic wines contain added sulphites.

22. I’m going to a wine region; what wineries should I visit?

Whether you are going to the Barossa, Napa, Piedmont or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, our advice is the same: Drop into the little places you’ve never heard of. You are more likely to meet the actual owners or winemakers and have a better time. Not only that, but these are the wines you could never buy at home, so here’s your chance.

Read more about wine regions here.
23. I have this one old bottle; how much is it worth? 

Regardless of whether you have a 1971 Penfolds Grange Hermitage or a 1974 Lafite Rothschild your bottle is worthless — and priceless. In terms of selling it for money: While it’s always possible that someone will buy anything, the likelihood of a merchant offering to buy a single bottle from an individual is small at best. For example, a prominent wine auctioneer and merchant, told us his firm is looking for bottles in excellent condition, with clear provenance, that have been well-cellared as part of a larger collection. His general advice about a single, special bottle is the same as ours: Open and enjoy. These bottles are priceless because of what they hold inside — not the wine, but the memories. Which brings us to…
24. When will this wine be at its peak? 

First, remember that these days most wines are made to drink when they are released. In terms of fine, ageable wines, there are all sorts of online sources that will give you a ballpark idea of theoretical peak readiness. But every bottle is different and there are many variables, such as storage conditions and personal taste. Open a special bottle when the moment seems right to you. If you have an old bottle, make a special meal, open the bottles and celebrate the memories. If you simply can’t stand to do that alone, remember that Open That Bottle Night is the last Saturday of February. That’s when you can join others like you, world-wide, in opening their special bottles.
25. Are Shiraz and Syrah the same?

The answer is yes, Shiraz and Syrah are indeed the same grape. “Shiraz” is the term of choice for most Australian winemakers (and producers who fashion their bottlings in the Australian spirit of rich, fruit-forward wines) while “Syrah” is traditionally French from the northern portion of the Rhône Valley. The term Shiraz is also used in South America, South Africa and sometimes in the United States as well.
26. What’s the difference between “New World” and “Old World?”

These terms are thrown around in the wine industry like grapes at harvest time. Everywhere. Essentially this can be viewed in two ways: The first is location. New world wines refer to those created in Australia, New Zealand and both North and South America. Old world refers to Western Europe. But this also refers to wine style as well. New world wines are often thought of as being heavier in fruit, alcohol by volume and oak, where the old guard wines are thought of as being more restrained and balanced, with lower levels of alcohol, higher levels of acidity and more earthy tones.
At the Grand Cru Wine Fridges Shop, we are not only the wine fridge experts but can now offer you a selected range of premium wine accessories, Coravin wine systems, glassware and lots more. Visit our shop to discover our new collections.