Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First Blog-a-versary

This week marks the first blog-a-versary for Joy’s JOY of Wine.  It’s been a year that has passed very quickly, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely!

I began this blog as a way to share my passion for wine.  Having owned a winery for over ten years, and worked in the industry for a few more, I wanted to find a way to share some of what I’ve learned about wine with other like-minded enthusiasts.

But wine blogging is not for the faint-of-heart!  What began as a novel idea in the early years of this century has grown tremendously.  In 2009, less than 800 wine blogs were said to exist and almost 600 of those were written in English.  Today, you can find wine blogs being written across the globe, in French, Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Japanese, German, Indonesian, a plethora of languages – all sharing information and a love of wine.

Wine blogging has become so popular; it has its own awards.  The Wine Blog Awards are awarded each year in various categories for excellence in wine blogging.

There is also a wine bloggers conference held each year. Since 2008, the Wine Bloggers’ Conference has been held in several US cities.  This year it will be held in Penticton, BC from June 6th through the 8th.

Both events were created with the assistance of long-time wine blogger Tom Wark who writes Fermentation, The Daily Wine Blog; one I “grew up” reading.

Wine blogs are written throughout the world by industry publications, wine professionals, wineries, wine shops, and consumers. 

But while there are numerous wine blogs, they are not all the same. Different genres offer different insights and observations into the world of wine. One of the most influential of all wine blogs is Vinography where Adler Yarrow shares his thoughts and explorations into the world of wine.

According to research compiled by Liz Thach for the 5th International Academy of Wine Business Research Conference in 2010, at least a third of the wine blogs out there are written solely to review wines. One of the best is Ken’s Wine Guide written by Ken Hoggins.

Other wine blogs may be more industry-related, dealing with wine and wine business such as Wine Business Monthly, and The Gray Report written by W. Blake Gray and winner of the 2012 Best Industry blog.

A popular blogging twosome deals with food and wine.  This type of blog can offer wine and food pairing suggestions, recipes on how to prepare certain wine-friendly foods, and even propose restaurants that offer a particular type of food and wines that will go well with it.  Most are local/regionally orientated.  Check out Food & Wine magazine for suggestions

Wine blogs may also be about certain regions or a specific country. Wine Terriors written by French photographer, Bertrand Celce takes a look at the French wine regions. On the Wine Trail in Italy by Alphoso Cevola is another great one.

Wine blogs can also be written by wineries as a way to tell about the wines they have available, to offer tasting notes, and keep readers up-to-date on events happening at that specific winery. The 2012 Wine Blog winner in this category was Jordan Winery,

Or, by the winemakers themselves who describe their vineyard practices, winemaking process, and give details on their latest releases. John M. Kelly does a wonderful job with Notes from the Winemaker

And then there are the wine blogs that attempt to inform and educate readers about wine, its culture, and its history. The most popular in this category is Dr Vino, written by Tyler Colman.  (This is the niche that I have happily written Joys JOY of Wine for.)

So many people have shared comments with me on Facebook and LinkedIn.  That has helped me to keep adjusting and researching what you’ve said you’d like to know more about.

So as I begin this second year blogging about wine, its culture and educational aspects, I’d like to say Thank You for reading, joining, following, and liking Joy’s JOY of Wine.  You can keep up with my latest on 
Blogger @

Now, let’s raise a glass to another year’s adventures into the world of wine!  Enjoy!!

~ Joy

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Decanting Wine – Is it Necessary?

Decanting is something some wine lovers enjoy doing, while others like to debate the pros and cons.  Does it matter?  It seems everyone has an opinion.

When you decant a wine, you pour it (decanting) into another container (decanter) for two reasons; to filter off the sediment so the wine is not gritty or bitter, and/or to allow it to ‘breathe’ by mixing air with the wine to liven up it’s flavors and aromas.

Decanting for Sediment -
Most young wines sold today in the US, do not need to be decanted for sediment.  The winemaking process clarifies and filters wines before they are bottled.  However, some ‘natural’ wines may contain sediment since they are not filtered in any way before bottling. White wines that are unfiltered will appear cloudy or hazy in appearance.

Older red wines, like Cabernets, Zinfandels, Syraz, and Ports, may have sediment, which occurs naturally as certain wines age.  Sediment may be found in the bottom of the bottle and looks like mud, or thick grit.  Removing this before serving will make the wine presentation much nicer and also help eliminate the dry, bitter flavors that come from the sediment.

Decanting a wine is not difficult, regardless of what you may have read, or been told.  Some wine lovers use special equipment such as a wine cradle and candle, but all you really need is a steady hand and another container (decanter) to pour the wine in.

Begin by letting the wine bottle stand upright for two or three days so the sediment goes to the bottom.  Pour the wine slowly into another container.  When the sediment begins to gather in the shoulder and neck of the bottle slow the pour even more, allowing sediment more to gather there.  The wine bottle is actually made to catch this sediment when the wine is poured slowly.

Decanting for Aeration -
When you aerate a wine, you are allowing air into it.  This is also known as allowing it to ‘breathe.’  The air allows the release of more aromas and flavors.  It is said that aeration also allows the tannins to ‘soften’, but that is debated in the industry.  The wines that benefit most from aeration are, again, the heavy reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Port.

Aeration may help a young, lackluster wine by brightening the taste.  It may also help a wine that has a slight, unappealing order.  This can be a common problem with ‘natural’ wines.  After allowed to breathe, these wines may become more palatable. If they become worse, dump the bottle as it may be corked.

To aerate a wine, simply pour it from the bottle into a decanter.  This does not need to be a special wine decanter, but simply a container with a wide bottom that will allow the surface air to mix with the wine.  Just pulling the cork will not allow enough air to reach the wine in the bottle. 

Decanting times vary depending on the wine.  For a young wine, let it breathe for 20 minutes, up to an hour.  For an older wine, try 10 or 15 minutes. The longer an older wine aerates, the more the flavors can deteriorate. Vintage Ports may be allowed to ‘breathe’ longer.

If you’re not sure how long to aerate, check the wine by pouring a splash into a glass and tasting it every 15 minutes.  Aeration is supposed to liven up the wine, making it taste more vibrant, more flavorful.  Just be careful not to decant for too long because the flavors can disappear.

Remember, most wines are to be consumed within a couple of years of their release.  While aeration might help them, it is not mandatory.  The best way to find out is to experiment.

In the end, the decision to decant is best made according to each bottle.  Decanting for sediment makes sense to avoid a mouthful of bitter grit.  Aerating a wine is more of a personal preference.  If you find that you enjoy a certain wine more when it’s decanted, then feel free to do it.  If you really can’t tell the difference, then don’t worry about it.  Wine is meant to be enjoyed, so forget the “rules” and enjoy it the way YOU like it!!

~ Joy

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The “Noble Experiment” Begins – Prohibition

Ninety-three years ago today, Prohibition became law in the United States. And as a result, the country would never be the same.

On January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment was added to the US Constitution, and one year later it was put into effect.  It had taken two years of diligent work by the Senate, the House, numerous religious groups, the Anti-Saloon League, and 36 states before Prohibition was enacted.
It was President Herbert Hoover who called Prohibition "The Noble Experiment," because some felt it was a way to attempt to keep families together, while doing away with alcohol abuse.  Prohibition was considered an experiment because those in the larger cities saw nothing wrong with drinking in moderation.

Prohibition called for a nation-wide ban on the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of alcohol.  This included wine, beer, and spirits – any alcohol over 0.5% by volume.  But it did not outlaw the possession or consumption of alcohol.  The Volstead Act was enacted in order to achieve this.  But there were still loopholes in the laws.

One such omission allowed pharmacists to legally dispense alcohol by prescription.  It didn’t take the criminal element long to figure out that owning a pharmacy was the perfect façade to bootleg liquor from.

 Another loophole allowed wine to be obtained and used for religious purposes. Self-ordained ministers and rabbis suddenly appeared to purchase wine for their ‘congregations’ across the country.

Prohibition was brought about to curb excessive drinking and loose morals, while touting the increased economic effects that would result.  Some predicted that this “noble experiment” would not go well.

This ban on alcohol had been tried before – on a smaller scale.  In 1844, a Massachusetts town had made the sale of alcohol illegal.  This led one tavern owner to then charge admission to customers to see a striped pig in his saloon.  Once inside, drinks were provided for ‘free.’

The state of Maine became the first state to ban the sale of alcohol in 1851.  The state’s Irish population and those of the working class revolted.  By 1855, opinions had seethed until a deadly riot broke out in Portland.  The law was quickly repealed.

Proponents of Prohibition were sure that once the sale of alcohol was banned, people would become more moral and family–oriented. Health issues were expected to improve. Supporters believed that the economy would get better because workers would become more productive and many men would stop spending all of the family’s money on drink. Crime rates were expected to decrease dramatically.

Instead of bringing about these conditions, Prohibition was a fiasco.  Besides the loss of billions of tax dollars, thousands who had worked in the alcohol industry immediately lost their jobs when distilleries, wineries, breweries, and saloons closed.  Restaurants began to fail when they could no longer make a profit from the sale of alcoholic drinks.

Prohibition cost the Federal Government $11 billion dollars in lost revenue from the excise taxes on alcohol sales.  States that relied on excise liquor taxes to fund them, suddenly and completely lost that income. (The State of New York derived almost 75% of their budget from these taxes – and it was gone, overnight.)  With an eye toward getting more money in the coffers quickly, income taxes were enacted and became the new way to fund state and the Federal budgets.  (And, interestingly, were never done away with after Prohibition was repealed…) It appears no one took into account the cost to enforce Prohibition – which grew to over $300-million dollars.

Millions of Americans became criminals, thanks to Prohibition.  Moon shiners cropped up all over the country, taking grain and distilling it into corn mash and hooch to be sold. Bootleggers smuggled homemade alcohol to those who wanted it, for an outrageous price. Many people attempted to make their own wine at home by following the ‘warning’ labels attached to jugs of concentrated grape juice. These labels described what not to do to cause the juice to ferment and become wine.

Organized crime was now thriving in major cities such as Chicago and New York, thanks to Prohibition. With the passing of the 18th Amendment, alcohol sales went underground.  Speakeasy clubs sprang up in all major cities. Operated by gangsters, these illegal clubs allowed entry to anyone who knew the password or secret knock.  Once inside, a customer could enjoy illegal drinks and socialize with like-minded people.

In New York alone there were reports of between 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasies in business by 1925. With only 1,500 Federal Prohibition agents to enforce the new law, vice spread quickly throughout the country.

Prohibition also brought about health issues.  Now that alcohol was unregulated, black market hooch could be contaminated with acetone, antifreeze, various aldehydes, or by the coils used in the stills, which contained lead or glycol. It was estimated that over 1,000 people died every year during Prohibition from drinking impure and harmful alcohol.

By 1933, lawmakers were ready to admit that the Noble Experiment had been anything but noble.  After almost fourteen years, the 18th Amendment was abolished, making alcohol legal again.  This is the first and only time an amendment to the US Constitution has been repealed.

So tonight, pour a glass of your favorite wine, beer, or spirit, and toast the fact that the right to drink alcohol is a personal decision and not one controlled by a national or state law.

Cheers! Prohibition is no more!

~ Joy