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  • Welcome to Wine 101, fellow wine adventurer! You have come to the right place to learn more about the basics of wine. From making wine to understanding wine to enjoying wine, we’ve got you covered to best prepare for every wine occasion.

    So for starters… what exactly is wine?

    Wine is basically fermented grape juice, where typically, natural sugars in grapes feed on cultured yeast to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is otherwise known as the alcoholic fermentation process.

    So you want to learn more about wine?

    Behind all the visual pizzazz, wine labels contain a comprehensive level of information that can prove to be very useful to the consumer. Understanding wine labels can become increasingly challenging when assessing European wines. Our objective is to keep you well informed when it comes to deciphering your wine.

    New World

    Old World

    Grape Varietal

    Wine is typically made from a single white or black grape variety (e.g. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir). When a bottle of wine lists that grape varietal on their label, that wine would contain at least a percentage of that grape up to 100%. The minimum amount would differ depending on the country’s regulations that dictate what the producer can/cannot do. (i.e. Across the globe, you would expect the minimum % to be roughly 75% of that grape variety).

    Wines that contain multiple grape varietals, or have specific names highlighted within their label, are wine blends. (e.g. Bordeaux/Meritage, Amarone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape). Some producers may choose to disclose the grape varietals composition within the blend, sorted in order by % of grape varietal within.

    Vintage

    The year that the grapes were harvested for the wine. If the wine does not contain a vintage, then the wine is made from a blend of grapes harvested from different years.

    Region

    An area or division of the country where the wine was produced. (e.g. Champagne region of France)
    Note: You may have heard of wine geeks referring to a wine as “Old World” or “New World”. Simply put, Old World wine refers to wines produced in winegrowing areas that have been heavily influenced by tradition and terroir to express a wine’s character. European wine is primarily Old World. New World wine refers to wines produced outside the aforementioned winegrowing areas but yet have been influenced by the same. Wine from Canada, as an example, is considered to be New World.

    Appellation of Origin

    A legally defined and protected geographical indication that outlines rules of what a wine producer can/cannot do when producing wine. (e.g. what grapes can be produced and to what allowable yield, specific viticultural practices that can/cannot be done). These rules differ for each wine producing Country.

    What is BC VQA?

    VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) is the Canadian appellation of origin and quality standard for wines regulated under their respective system in British Columbia (BC VQA) and Ontario (Ontario VQA).
    Comprehensive laboratory testing and review is required to qualify a wine under its respective VQA. If a wine is VQA-designated, its grapes used in producing that wine is grown in Canada (and its respective province).

    BC VQA By the Numbers

    • 100% British Columbia grapes
    • 9 Geographics Indications (GI)
    • 4 Sub-Geographical Indications (Golden Mile Bench, Okangan Falls, Skaha Bench and Naramata Bench)
    • 95% of grapes must come from specific region mentioned on the label
    • 85% of grapes must come from the vintage stated on the label
    • 85% of grapes must be the stated varietal

    Source: https://winebc.com/our-wines/what-is-bc-vqa/

    Wine Characteristics

    • How sweet or acidic a wine is will depend on the ripeness of the grape, as both the sugars and acids are present in the pulp. Sugars affect how sweet the wine is and the acid affects how fresh and tart it tastes.
    • The bitter and astringent taste comes from tannins, a polyphenol located in the skin, seeds, and grape stem.
    • The winemaking process creates alcohol and carbon dioxide when the grapes’ sugars feed on cultured yeast.
    • Body is how rich and heavy a wine tastes.

    Handling, Serving & Storing Wine

    How to Open a Cork from a bottle of Wine

    How to Open a Cork from a bottle of Wine

    How to decant wine

    How to decant wine

    How to Open a bottle of Sparkling Wine

    How to Open a bottle of Sparkling Wine

    Why decant a wine?

    The primary purpose of decanting a wine is to aerate the wine (allowing it to breathe), in order to allow the wine to express its flavour. Decanting a wine can also potentially help to soften its characteristics to make the wine a more enjoyable experience, e.g. soften the tannins. Other benefits of decanting a wine include the ability to filter/separate the wine from its sediment, and the pleasing aesthetic and potentially enhanced pouring ability.

    Why decant a wine?

    The primary purpose of decanting a wine is to aerate the wine (allowing it to breathe), in order to allow the wine to express its flavour. Decanting a wine can also potentially help to soften its characteristics to make the wine a more enjoyable experience, e.g. soften the tannins. Other benefits of decanting a wine include the ability to filter/separate the wine from its sediment, and the pleasing aesthetic and potentially enhanced pouring ability.

    How long to decant a wine?

    There is no hard rule on how long a wine should be decanted for. This will depend on the age and style of wine. Generally speaking, older wines require decanting as they do need to “wake-up”, whilst they may have developed sediment from being dormant (e.g. an old Bordeaux). The best thing to do, is to pour a sample of the wine and taste it, to determine whether the wine is tight and/or whether the flavour is muted and to what degree. Wine can either be decanted from within the bottle, and/or in a wine-specific glass carafe and/or even from swirling the wine in your very own wine glass. The former option is the least intensive, with the latter option being most intensive.

    At that point wine can be decanted in a number of ways. For example:

    • From within the bottle by simply removing the closure and letting it aerate
    • In a wine-specific glass decanter
    • From swirling the wine in your very own wine glass

    The first option is the least intensive, with the last option being most intensive.

    Serving Wine

    Cabernet

    Steak, gamey meats with rich sauces, braised beef short ribs, portobello mushrooms, aged cheddar or gouda.

    Burgundy

    (Aka French grown Pinot Noir) saucisson sec, rabbit or chicken with creamy mustard sauce, rack of lamb with herb crust, duck breast with sour cherry sauce.

    Bordeaux

    Cab forward: Butterfly leg of lamb, Cote de boeuf, beef wellington, Roquefort cheese, brie or Camembert.

    Merlot forward

    Leg of lamb with a morel mushroom or truffle sauce, grilled lamb or pork chops, pork casserole with apricots, Italian style sausages, roast chicken, roast duck and Chinese crispy duck pancakes.

    Chardonnay

    Pate, fish with light sauces, vegetable terrine, risotto, vegetable soups, oysters, fish pie, Caesar or chicken salads, grilled veal chops with mushrooms, pumpkin ravioli.

    Zinfandel

    Rigatoni with eggplant sausage in a zinfandel sauce. Braised pork with truffled polenta, BBQ ribs, Texas style smoked brisket, roasted tomatoes, roast turkey.

    Pinot Noir

    Cedar plank salmon, roast turkey, coq au vin, ham and cold meats, goat cheese, grilled asparagus, pea and pecorino risotto, carpaccio. Gorgonzola and brie cheeses.

    Champagne

    Aged parmesan cheese, salmon, cheese souffle, strawberries, caviar, pad thai, sashimi, smoked salmon and blinis, jackfruit curry.

    Storing Wine

    Storing Wine

    STORING TIPS:

    – General temperature should be 12-13°C
    – Wine kept below-3°C and above 20°C for a prolonged time will become unstable
    -Store wine bottles horizontally, away from sunlight
    -Store away from vibrations to avoid cork seal from drying out
    -Store in dry, dark basement, wine fridges, commercial wine storage facilities)

    How Wine is Made

    Introduction To Winemaking

    Introduction To Winemaking

    Day In The Life of a BC Winemaker

    Day In The Life of a BC Winemaker

    Winemaking with Phantom Creek Estates Winery

    Winemaking with Phantom Creek Estates Winery

    Did you know…

    Terroir

    The variation in wine production is heavily dependent on the producer’s vision/objective and on wine terroir. Terroir, is a French term that means “a sense of place”. Terroir is a natural environment to which a grapevine is exposed to, and impacted by, various traditional elements.

    • Climate

    A vineyard’s growing season is influenced by temperature, rain, and sunlight. Hot weather will ripen the grapes at a faster rate, while excess rain can spoil the grapes.

    • Soil

    The flavor and quality of wine can be affected by the soil. Variant soil types have different pH levels and water retention.

    • Topography

    Wine is affected by the slope and altitude of the vineyard. The slope relates to the amount of sunlight the grapes are exposed to and a higher altitude means cooler temperatures.

    • Microbial Terroir

    A wine’s characteristics can be traced back to the bacteria and fungi present in vineyards.

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