WINE 101 > FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Some of these are responses to questions about us and our site but most are common queries about wine. Don't find the question that's been bugging you... Ask Marcus.
Who or what is artisanvineyards.com?
Artisanvineyards.com is a online wine store created by us winelovers to share our passion with you winelovers. A special thanks to wine shops who provide to you ecommerce access to these fine wines throughout the United States. The site was designed and is maintained by an importer of fine wines which just celebrated its 21st year in business. Many of our staff have worked with wines years longer than that. Not only do we try to find interesting, unique wines but we deliver them to you in great shape. We have always shipped in temperature controlled containers years before even the biggest United States wine importers and most of those still don’t. We have an air-conditioned warehouse and we actually turn them on. When our European suppliers tour the United States they often tell us that their wines taste most correct and pristine when they have been handled by us.
How does this work
We’ve just added our entire portfoilio online to what is already available in your favorite wine shop. The first time you make a purchase through the artisanvineyards.com site you’ll be required to designate a store that will do the retail transaction for you. Revolutionary new software will transfer you to that retailer's e-commerce merchant account to make your purchase. In Minnesota the order is prepared and shipped to your local retailer for pickup or delivery by them to your home or office. In all other states, the retailer will arrange shippment to your home or business.
Will I save money?
Probably not, you’ll just get more for your money.
No more buying blind, no more taking a flyer. No more embarrassment over saying to your merchant “Remember that wine I got last time?” and getting a blank look, ‘cause we will remember. Thus more memorable wines, less plonk.
What if I get a bad bottle?
Just let us know; we’ll send a replacement with your next order.
How do you choose the wines you represent?
Admittedly we sometimes use an Ouija board but more often apply my 30 years of experience along with that of our portfolio manager who is a member and educator with the International Sommeliers Guild. We visit wineries every year to choose what we’ll be buying.
How do you know what wines I’ll like?
We’ll start out getting some idea of your likes through the recommendations questionnaire you fill out when you subscribe to our site. We’ll slowly learn your preferences and your risk tolerance to trying new things just as your merchant should have.
How can I keep track of which wines I like?
Use our personal cellar feature. When you make a purchase you add it to your personal onsite cellar then once you’ve tasted it come back and rate with our simple five star system and add personal notes if you’d like.
How can I learn more about wine?
First, pay attention. Think for a moment about the wine you are drinking. Now, to be sure one must have established a context within which to judge a wine beyond the “I like or I don’t” for which there are only hedonistic criteria.
The most important function of this site is guiding you along that path. One of the most interesting and fun ways to learn more is our tasting kits. You can choose from several variations, then taste the wines in your own home at a time convenient to you, with the included DVD, you’ll see and hear us do the same tasting right along with you. You’ll learn a lot and if you have questions; Ask Marcus.
Why do expensive wines cost more?
Clearly you’ve already reached the conclusion that it’s not because they necessarily taste better. Too many times a winery owner’s ego sets the price of a wine. In many cases, however, the price variation is simple economics; supply and demand. The best wines are resultant not of wineries but of great vineyards and these vineyards are not by man but by nature defined. The unique combination of soil, drainage, elevation, microclimate, wind and much more that that define a terrior. There will be only 4.45 acres of Romanee-Conti forever.
What ARE the wines that aren’t varietally labeled and what do those labels mean and why don’t they just make it simple? Why doesn't this bottle of Puligny-Montrachet SAY Chardonnay?
Wines from the old world are usually labeled with a place name such as Puligny-Montrachet, Barolo or Sancerre. When offered a wine of one of these places a certain experience can be expected even if one did not know that the grape variety is Chardonnay, Nebbiolo or Sauvignon Blanc. On the other hand, if one were offered a glass of Pinot Noir expectations must be painted in the broadest strokes until its origin is known. A complicating factor is that wines of many locales are blends of several varietals. It is much easier to say Chateauneuf-du-Pape than to recite the 13 varieties that may have been included in the wine.
What about sulfites? Are there any "No sulfite wines"?
Sulfites are added to wine, as they are to many other food products, to prevent spoilage or oxidation. An estimated 0.4% of the population is allergic to sulfites but many more people are sulfite-sensitive and may experience hives, cramps, heartburn or flushing of the skin. One is unlikely to ever find a wine totally free of sulfites. Sulfites in amounts ranging from 6 to 40 parts per million are a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. Wines low in sulfites or free of added sulfites do exist. People should look to organic wines for low levels of sulfites.
What about organic wines?
Organic wines are produced using organically grown grapes. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic chemicals of any kind are used in the vineyard. 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 stabilize and manipulate wines.
What about screw caps? (What the hell is Stelvin?)
Stelcap-vin was produced first in the late ‘50s in France, the name was later shortened to Stelvin. At no time in history has the Stelvin closure been as popular as a closure for wine. The biggest reason is a growing awareness and expense of corked wines, exacerbated by the accelerating price of good corks. Widely considered to be the best closure for wines to be enjoyed in the first few years after vintage it is still a matter of debate as to their appropriateness for aging wines. Someday, we’ll get into this in greater detail.
Does glassware really matter? Why?
The best money you can spend on wine is what you spend in buying Riedel stemware. $25 for a nice bottle of wine and the pleasure is over at one sitting. Spend $25 on stemware and every bottle thereafter is enhanced. As to why, it is complicated so I refer you to the Riedel stemware section of this site.
Do I really need a “cellar” to keep my wines?
No, not unless you’re laying down wines for extended aging. If you want to keep a few bottles or a few cases on hand for convenience, flexibility and spontaneity you’re fine with a dark space away from vibration and frequent or rapid temperature change. (Wine storing tips) The designers who put wine racks above the refrigerator or under the counter next to the dishwasher should be shot.
How long can I keep this bottle before it goes bad?
Allow me to rephrase your question, “When will this wine be at its best?” Use our Ask Marcus feature, just tell him the name and vintage of the wine. With the caveat that everything hangs on how the wine has been stored, he’ll give you an idea.
How do you get wine stains out of (anything)?
There are only two things worse to get out of clothing, napkins or a table cloth; blood and pumpkin seed oil. Pumpkin seed oil, forget it but for wine I use Wine Away. We’re not offering it on our site but we should. Good wine shops carry it. Ladies there is a size small enough to carry in your purse, you could save a favorite blouse. You’ll have to leave the restaurant with a big wet spot but, hek, you’ll probably never see any of those people again anyway.
How long before serving should I open wine?
That is a far tougher question today than when I started selling wine. Thirty years ago there existed long established guidelines that were for the most part widely applicable. Winemaking styles have changed with the generations and convention. Even rooms are much warmer than when these fundamentals were laid down. And what about micro-oxygenation don’t even get me started. In the end my solution is to open a wine, pour it in a good glass and taste it immediately enjoying the prelude to one of the most fascinating evolutions of flavor and fragrance to be imagined. Marcus likens it to a dance of the seven veils. He’s such a sybarite.
Sometimes there’s gunk in the bottle. What is that?
Wine is a natural product in a constant state of flux, stuff in suspension can precipitate. The most common are those crystals that look like broken glass. Grape juice contains a lot of tartrates but the alcoholic solution which is wine is less able to keep these in suspension. Most of these are removes before bottling but prolonged or severe chilling can result in further crystallization in the bottle. The stuff that sticks to the side of red wine bottles is most likely precipitated as a result of a reaction between proteins and tannins. None of these is harmful. In fact, they indicate that the wine has not been overly fined or filtered which can strip flavors and aroma.
How long will wine last after it’s opened?
Depends on how many people are sharing it. Seriously, wine begins breaking down immediately upon exposure to air. Initially that decay is into glory, its moment in the sun; if you refrigerate it until tomorrow it will be like meeting a friend you haven’t seen in years. Use Private Preserve, you’ll find the wine will remain recognizable for 3 or 4 days.
How is Rosé made?
Ah, Rosé, one of my favorite diversions in life. There are two ways in which rosé is made. If the winemaker’s primary objective is rosé, the juice will be separated from the skins in 2 days or so. All of the color and most of the flavor from grapes (granted there are exceptions) come from the skins. The second way is widely known by its French term saignee. Here the rose is a by product of improving a red wine by “bleeding” off a portion of the must to increase the ratio of juice to skins in the red wine. The juice removed is then fermented and often results in very interesting rose.
How cool should my cellar be?
55 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for long term aging but don’t worry too much about this. Wines will flourish at a range of temperature if you eliminate rapid and frequent fluctuations. I like to keep my cellar a bit warmer, 59 degrees. Wines stored for a long period of time at 55 or below will be maturing properly but do not show their best directly from the cellar so require 2 to 3 days at room temperature to sort of unwrap before you bring them to proper serving temperature. This observation is from long experience, I don’t know the science behind it.
How is sparkling wine made?
First you catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Or a Champagne producer makes a still, non-sparkling, wine in their house style from the three grape varieties permitted; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A syrup of sugar and wine is added along with yeast. The wine is bottled in a champagne bottle and sealed, usually with a crown cap. As the yeast converts the sugars to alcohol the byproduct of carbon dioxide is trapped in solution creating the effervescence in the wine. There are several steps in finishing the wine but this is how bubbles are introduced to wine, which I think is what you’re asking.
What is the correct temperature to serve wine?
Don’t serve whites too cold nor reds too warm. For practical purposes there is a range for both but most important is to recognize that a wine’s weight or body defines its place along the scale. Big wines at the warmer end, lighter wines at their respective lower end. Enjoy a Beaujolais or Loire red with a slight chill but drink a big Chardonnay at the less cool end of the white scale.
What is it in the wine that gives me a headache?
Remember this is a layman’s answer but I expect it’s the histamines particularly in red wine. I have a couple of friends who use antihistamines before evenings of copious red wine consumption.
What does Biodynamic mean?
Biodynamics considers the vineyard as a living system; every facet is interconnected and its energy draws from the health of the pieces. Biodynamics also sees the vineyard in the context of the wider pattern of lunar and cosmic rhythms. Does it affect the quality of the wine, I think so. It puzzles me that a wine can have serenity and vitality?
How do you decant a wine and why?
Decanting is done for a couple of reasons beyond the aesthetics of serving your wine from a beautiful vessel. One reason is to separate the clear wine from sediment. With a source of light behind the neck of the bottle slowly pour the wine into the decanter until you see the sediments entering the neck. If you’re doing this I’d guess the wine was older. Remember that older wines can be frail and you should decant just prior to serving. The other reason is to let the wine breathe; to evolve its bouquet and open the flavors. I’m not a big advocate of this except if the wine has a funk going then this can be beneficial.