Wine Question Time
I am regularly asked questions about the many facets of wine. So this month we’ll investigate some of the common questions that may help you clear up a few things next time you’re looking for that little Tuesday nighter or a boutique number that you need to buff your enthusiast friends with.
Q: I’ve noticed some red wines seem to be fuller in body than others. Why is there a difference?
A: On the greater wine scale from lightest to heaviest, the more common varieties would range in this order: Pinot Noir – Merlot – Grenache – Tempranillo – Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz. However in many cases some of the above varieties may vary slightly due to factors affecting fruit ripening, climate, region or the style the winemaker sets out to achieve. No wine style is ever hard and fast.
Q: What is the difference between a $10 wine and a $50 wine? Will I be able to taste the difference?
A: All wines start in the vineyard. You will hear a grower say this and you will always hear the winemaker back him up. Think of it like this – do you walk into a supermarket or your greengrocer and head straight to the clearance table with the fruit and vegetables that have blemishes and a few bruises? The fruit used to produce premium wine can command in excess of $5000 per tonne, allowing you to press off around 600 litres of juice for each tonne. Throw in some new French oak barrels worth $1200 a piece plus production costs and you can see how quickly outlay costs compound. Alternatively, if we are only interested in producing a quaffer, the price may fluctuate as low as $150 per tonne with fewer overheads that are required for a cheaper style of wine. As for tasting the difference – plush dark fruits with lashings of mocha, black pepper and vanillin matched with that charred grilled sirloin and red wine jus? It costs money to accrue those nuances.
Q: Why do some red wines give me a headache after a couple of glasses?
A: Red wine has an array of organic compounds and to a much lesser extent, added chemical compounds. One of the main factors which causes some of the trouble is an organic compound called tannin which is part of the phenolic family. Sourced from mainly oak barrels, it is also extracted in lesser amounts from the skins, seeds and stalks. Red wine also has low levels of histamines along with similar organic compounds that may trigger receptors attached to prostaglandins which may also cause headaches. Try a red that has no oak or minimal oak impartation which may include (but not in all cases) varieties such as Grenache, Pinot Noir and quite a few Italian numbers. Alternatively, there have been trials, with good results, with small amounts of Aspirin and Ibuprofen ingested about an hour before wine consumption, which alleviates some of the constriction of the frontal lobe capillaries by increasing blood flow to the area. You should always see your physician if your pain is ongoing.
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