Ten Things to Know About Italian Wines

1. Italy is the world’s second largest wine producer, trailing only France in annual production. In the old days, it used to be the global wine-trading center. It was even called enotria, which means “land of wine”. This is not surprising because the entire Italian peninsula has excellent soil and climate, satisfying the most stringent of French terroir requirements.

2. Like France, Italy also follows a tightly controlled appellation system that enforces rules and regulations that guarantee vineyard quality, yields and winemaking standards. If you know about French wine, then, rejoice. You are in familiar territory.

3. Based from the Italian appellation system, there are more than three hundred wine labels under the Denominazioni di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), produced by at least fifty thousand wineries.

4. There are twenty wine regions in Italy. Each produces different type of wine and grape varieties. For example, Nebbiolo and Barbera grape varieties are primarily used in the Piemonte region. Perhaps you are acquainted with the former because it gave the world the spectacular Barolo and Barbaresco wines.

5. Italy prides itself with producing high quality wines from Italian indigenous grapes or traditional varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Fiano, Sagrantino and Teroldego. These varieties is said to set Italian wines apart from international grape varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Tuscan vintners such as Piero Antinori are credited to have made this possible when they led the local wine industry towards the recent Italian wine revival through their innovations in winemaking process.

6. Sangiovese is the most popular grape variety for red wine in Italy, serving as the main grape of popular Italian exports such as Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino.

7. Amarone wine is the most distinctive and symbolic of all the Italian wines.

8. The best Italian sparkling wines are produced in the north, at the foot of the Italian Alps. Particularly, the regions, Trentino and Franciacorta are famous for it, with established regulations that strictly control the cultivation of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties.

9. Wine producers in Italy are classified into three: single producers, cooperatives and large wineries. This information is important in finding rare wines.

10. Tuscan Wines made from or with international grapes such as Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet-Sauvignon used to be classified as Vino da Tavola, a low quality category. However, modern Italian vintners have successfully created quality wines using these unsanctioned varieties, blending them with indigenous varieties. These bottles are now called Super Tuscan, wines that rival the best in Bordeaux and Napa Valley. Interestingly, these wines were produced by superseding Italian wine law. There, that is where the titular “super” came from.

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How Wine Changed the World

Sure, a world without wine, might just trudge on, with nary a wine merchant or fancy wine selections during the special occassions, one could not begrudge this potent potable with nudging the course of history here and there along its course, perhaps changing it in the process. Here are some notable incidences where the spirit of wine has altered the unraveling of history.

Wine and the Taming of the Humans

No less than Thucydides declared that man emerged from barbarism because he learned to cultivate olive and the vine. Indeed, if on takes a closer look at the development of great ancient civilizations such as those in Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia, wine was integral in rituals, practices, ceremonies and values associated with refinement, royalty, the elite, creative undertakings and culture.

Religion

This list would never be complete without the wine immortalized in the Last Supper, the final meal in Christian belief that transpired before Jesus’ crucifixion. There are those who believe that it must be Passum, a sweet, raisin wine, which maybe the same as the moder Italian passito (see for instance the 1999 Riecine Sangiovese Passito). Together with the bread, Jesus alluded to wine as his blood sacrifice. Eventually, Christianity would consider wine as one of its sacraments. It has been said that the use of wine in the sacraments was the reason why wine consumption spread through France in the first place.

Auld Alliance

In 1295, Auld Alliance was signed between France and Scotland. It was a military alliance between the two nations that – for most part – effectively curtailed the English expansionist ambition in Europe. Unbeknownst to many, wine was critical in sealing the deal. In order to persuade the Scots, the clever French threw in wine in the negotiation knowing fully well the former’s love for the liquor. The Alliance involved a specific condition that allowed the Scots to have the first pick of Bordeaux’s finest wines. Back then it was considered a great honor to do so.  A subplot to this affair was the English grumblings because the offshoot was that they were left with inferior bottles. So the French and the Scots partnered happily after, coming at the English target united if a little intoxicated in the process.

Social Systems

Wine is also responsible for the development of social, political and even economic systems in Europe. During the Carolingian era, for instance, the new system of land development – which had far reaching impact on European society – was considered an outcome of the spread of viticulture.

Way of Life

A study conducted in November 2011 found that the consumption of wine reduces energy usage in households, particularly electricity use and lounge temperatures. The report concluded that wine facilitate small-scale household events that significantly affect energy use behaviors. If this is true, then wine is contributing meaningfully to the world’s reduction of energy footprint, which means less use of fuel that harms the environment. My counterpart wine blogger in the future would probably look back to this day as a pivotal period when wine was recognized as one of those responsible for cleaner and healthier world.

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Seven Best Wine Apps

To say that mobile phones today are ubiquitous is already a cliche. I myself could not leave my phone back home and tend to suffer panic attacks during such unlikely events. I am joking, of course. But, seriously, eve I seem to be developing that smartphone tic, where my eyes constantly drifting down my hands every minute or so to check messages, mails and whatever inane notifications Facebook, a bunch of my games and social media apps choose to throw my way. In such a world, one is hard-pressed to not find apps for just about anything. And I would, of course, be talking about apps for wine. Suppose you are an Android user, a quick search in Google Play would yield at 56 applications dedicated to wines. Apple’s App Store, with its more developed app ecosystem, offer significantly more. When I searched wine apps for my iPad, for example, I have already counted 140 apps and gave up because the search results still kept on coming. So, anyway, here is a list of the best applications for you vinophiles out there.

Hello Vino

Dubbed as the personal wine assistant, this app is top rated and widely downloaded in App Store and Google Play. It is also critically acclaimed with no less than the snobs at the New York Times nodding in grudging agreement, citing it a helpful app for everyone especially when navigating a wine list. That actually makes sense because this app could come in handy if you are in a restaurant while a date patiently awaits to be impressed. A quick flick of your fingers and, voila! You are an instant wine expert, dazzling even the most jaded of sommeliers in the establishment. This app is free.

My Wine Cellar

MyCellar is exactly what its name indicates. It lets you take photograph of your wine back home and store in the app cellar for quick access. This can also serve as an Evernote-type of app where you take note of wines you chanced upon either in a wine store or over the net. You store the info and get back to them when the occasion requires it. It has beautiful interface, capturing the essence of what wine is about. This app, however, will cost you $0.99 dollars.

The Wine Ratings Guide

For $3.99, you can have this app, which functions as a personal sommelier on your pocket – accessible anytime and anywhere. What sets this app apart is its 1 million-strong wine database, which serves as the foundation of excellent app services like flavor profiles, wine-food pairing suggestions and the power to rate bottles as well. This is app is available in Android and iOS platforms.

Snooth Wine Pro

I have an app called SoundHound in my phone and what it does is listen to a snippet of a song being played in a radio or even as it is being sung and it can scour the web for related information such as the title, the lyrics and where it can be downloaded. This is what exactly Snooth Wine Pro is all about. You can take a picture of a wine and it will search the web for important information, reviews, where it can be purchased, where you can buy the cheapest or the best deals, and so forth. There is a free version but the paid app has the best functionality.

AG Wine

The app AG Wine, short for Approach Guide Wine is a repository of wine information and is designed for those amateurs seeking to become wine geeks and wine experts. It will help you understand wine styles, varieties, appellations and pairings, among others.

Drync Wine Pro

If you like to buy wine from online merchants, this app will be very helpful. It collects thousands upon thousands of reviews for numerous wines. It does not only collect reviews from critics such as WineSpectator and Wine Enthusiast but also actual wine consumers who have tried and tested every bottle in the wine list.

Berry Bros. & Rudd

If you want an app with an equally badass pedigree as your wine, buy a Vertu, that super exclusive and expensive phone that only the British could produce. It has an exclusive wine app called Berry Bros. & Rudd, which is almost like Snooth Wine Pro in the way it lets users identify wine label based on a photo. But it directs the query straight to Berry Bros. & Rudd, the UK-based wine merchant, which promptly provides tasting notes, buying tips and interesting wine alternatives.

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How Wine is Made?

We are so inundated with marketing messages that despite our familiarity and steady consumption of wine, our knowledge is still limited to how a bottle looks like, the reputation of its maker, the information on the label, reviews from the snotty wine critics and everything in between. If we think about it, most of what we know about is quite insubstantial. Unbeknownst to many, the story behind the scene – how wine is made – is a straightforward but interesting affair as well.

The process is simple: the grapes are harvested, crushed, fermented, bottled and aged. But this what would happen for a basic wine. Things get interesting when winemakers diverge in their practices to produce different wine varieties. In addition, vintners add their own brand of traditions, secrets and enhancements, resulting in a highly diverse winemaking practices.

The stage where the grapes are crushed and fermented is where the divergence occurs between the production of white and red wine. Red wine involves the fermentation of crushed grapes that includes the grape skin. This is what gives the wine its red color. White wine is fermented without it. In a very distant past, I falsely assumed that red wines are made from black grapes and white wine from green grapes. So you see my mistake. There is another variety called rose wine. What happens is that vintners allow the pulp to come in contact with the grape skin for a short period of time. The outcome is a diluted color that eventually results in a wine called blanc de noir.

The actual fermentation ranges from about a week or two. At this stage, yeast is added as fermenting agent. The yeast will convert all the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. A second fermentation follows, which – in turn – result in further chemical change. This is what mellows the wine, reducing its acidity and giving it its rich and soft flavor. Afterwards, the wine is transferred to tanks, barrels, or bottles for the aging process. Wine aging can take from a few months to as much as 20 years.

Here are some interesting variations in the winemaking process that result in the production of different wines:

  • Regular wine involves the release of carbon dioxide. But an additional fermentation that traps them instead would result in the production of sparkling wines such as the bubbly Champagne.

  • Vintners retain some residual sugar after the fermentation in order to make sweet wines. This can be achieved through various methods such as harvesting late, infusing sweet grape juice after fermentation, freezing the grapes or infusing an additive to kill the yeast.

  • Vintners mix different batches of wine – those made with different grapes, condition and age – in order to calibrate taste either according to a standard or to produce a new varietal.

  • Sulfur is added to wine as a preservative. It admirably does this function by killing bacteria and by acting as antioxidant.

For some producers, winemaking is an art and for some, a scientific process. Both of these are correct. Countries like France have long perfected oenology, establishing an elaborate and unique winemaking tradition. This is built on primitive wine making skills and technologies, eventually evolving into sophisticated practices. Then, there are vintners who have embraced technology, making the process simple, fast and highly technical. Both of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. They can also lead to different wine quality.

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Craziest Wine Bars Ever

Pelican Bar

There is a time – always a time – in your life where you feel like leaving everything at the drop of a hat and ship yourself off somewhere where no could reach you. Somewhere far. Perhaps in this joint called Pelican Bar in Jamaica? In the middle of the sea. You might have noticed that it is a bit a strange place for drinking, yes? It is only accessible by boat. There is no electricity, no signal whatsoever for your phone or the Internet. You got nothing but the bar (which is actually a rickety shack) your drink and the bartender to pour them for you. Perhaps, there would also be another patron, which should most probably be a kindred soul. So there: another charm for you.

Dans Le Noir

As the name suggests, Dans Le Noir is big on the dark theme. This bar, which has branches in Moscow, Paris, Brussels and London boasts of the strangest theme I have ever heard. At the entrance you deposit all the implements that emit light – cellphone, flashlight, your cat (the eyes?), and so forth. Once inside you are plunged into pitch-black darkness. You will be ushered to a table – none the wiser – since you could still see nothing. You don’t get to order your food because a surprise menu is already prepared. This is absolutely not my cup of tea. But, apparently, there are those who get their kick from frequenting this weird establishment. For what its worth, you could do things here with your morally corrupted friends without inciting any disapproving glare.

The Red Sea Star

An enterprising Israeli decided to open a bar under the Red Sea wistfully naming it the Red Sea Star. Of course, he had taken pains in ensuring that the ensuing onslaught – once such opening was done – were eager customers and not a torrent of salt water. Anyway, this establishment has a supposedly tacky interior but you will not pay them a visit for that very factor, yes? Otherwise you would have been sitting smug at a posh Tel Aviv bar such as October. But, I wonder: This is the Red Sea that we are talking about. It is not exactly known for its biodiversity. So should we expect the Dead Sea scrolls?

Sky Bar

Sky Bar is at the top of the towering 50-floor The Lebua hotel right at the heart of bustling Bangkok. It is supposed to be the highest of its kind in the world. So, imagine sipping a super fabulous cocktail while the rest of the city is spread before you in all its guttering glory. That would have been magical and romantic. But you need to factor in the height and perhaps the element at that level. So you would probably have to reconsider the adjectives used and go with « giddy », « exhilarating » and « spectacular » instead.

Cova d’en Xoroi

Leave it to the Spaniards to be thoroughly rustic in their approach to the crazy. Take this Cova d’en Xoroi, for instance. This is actually a cave and its caverns and terraces are set on a high cliff, opening up to the beautiful view of the sea. These are converted into beautiful clubs and bars at night. The setting is incredible and, most importantly, dangerous. Imagine if you have your wits scattered on the floor on account of having too much wine and you are just inches away from the precipice. A bit of nudge here or even a sneeze there would immediately send you plummeting towards the tumultuous embrace of the waves below.

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10 CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS THAT WILL KNOCK YOU OFF YOUR FEET

Searching for gift inspiration for Christmas?

Stop now and save your time, money and energy for other things. We did it for you! We bring you the 10 best ideas for unforgettable and original Christmas gifts.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS IDEA #1: TANK DRIVING

Christmas gift idea

Don’t buy your dad, husband or boyfriend something expected, usual, boring for Christmas. Afford them something different, completely crazy, exceptional and extraordinary. Give them an experience they will never forget. You don’t have to buy them a tank, but you can buy them a drive in one for 159,00 €.

http://www.panzerschule.de/

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #2: MINI PROJECTOR – CELL PHONE

Christmas gift idea

Portable projector that connects to multiple devices for a “big screen” is simply brilliant and cool. It is convenient for Business Presentations, Movies, Video Games, Web Videos, Sports & TV Shows for 170,99 €.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #3: WINE SUBSCRIPTION

Christmas gift idea

Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy, said Fleming. Make your beloved happier with a monthly wine box curated by sommeliers. Each month, you’ll discover new best wines, delivered to your door for 49 €.

www.wiine.me

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #4: AUTOMATIC WINE OPENER

Christmas gift idea

Electric wine opener with one touch operation provides effortless and smooth cork removal in just a few seconds. The great thing about this opener is that you can’t lose it, what can happen often with small and manual wine openers. The price of this baby is 55,95 €.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #5: BATH CADDY

Christmas gift idea

Fancy dinner and a night in a exclusive hotel is out of most people’s price range. But why would you need something like that. Bring some of this charm into your own bathroom. Your wife, fiance or girlfriend will be grateful. It costs only 34,99 €.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #6. LAND ON THE MOON

Christmas gift idea

When your neighbour shows off with his real estate on Mallorca, Greece or Italy, shut their mouth by showing them you own piece of land on the Moon. You will be the most popular guy in your company with this unique and novel property for 49,95 €.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #7: CHEESE SUBSCRIPTION

Christmas gift idea

The most popular Christmas gifts this year are various subscriptions. If you subscribe to cheese boxes you will in a fun way discover artisan, local, and small-batch cheese and cheese products. Each month, you’ll get cheese from renowned cheesemakers and craftspeople delivered to your door for 25,90 €. And don’t forget to pair them with adequate wine!

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #8: VIRTUAL KEYBOARD

Christmas gift idea

Ideal for situations where you have to write many e-mails quickly or make large notes on your cell phone or tablet computer. Brilliant, smooth, as if it is from a SF movie. One thing is for sure, everyone will envy you for 149,90 €.

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #9: COOKING SUBSCRIPTION

Christmas gift idea

Every week chefs create for you amazing recipes that are easy to prepare. You choose the meal you want and they will deliver to you recipe together with ingredients every week. You can skip the supermarket and cook a great and healthy meal in 30 minutes or less for 5,45 €.

http://www.hellofresh.de/impressum/

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA #10: WHISKEY SET

Christmas gift idea

You can’t make a mistake by choosing this set as a Christmas gift. It’s a classical gentleman’s drink so your hardworking friend, boyfriend or husband can relax after rough day with a glass of good Whiskey. Cheers! You can buy it for 52,95 €.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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5 Things to Know in Opening a Wine Bar

If you love wine, then did the idea of opening up your own wine bar ever cross your mind? This prospect should be quite attractive because there is a lot of perks involved: 1) You would be your own boss; 2) you would look forward to every working day because you would love what you do; and, 3) you can take a sip out of as numerous bottles as possible. If I am to list the top things to know – supposing you are, indeed, interested – in starting up a wine bar, here is the top five:

Entrepreneurial Mettle

owner

Giuseppe Gullo leads the team behind the very successful Dalla Terrra Wine Bar in London.

The first thing to know is more on the personal side. You would have to evaluate if your skills, temperament and attitude are suited to entrepreneurship. Erstwhile New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg – who is first and foremost a successful entrepreneur – once said, for instance, that an entrepreneur must be prepared to fail. So ask yourself, do you have what it takes to deal with the challenges and failures that are often entailed in running a business? If you say no, then – by all means – stick to your job with all the stability that it could provide. Otherwise, read on, because at this early, you just have proven your entrepreneurial mettle.

Market

Variables such as location, competitors and consumer demographics and preferences can be condensed in one important factor – the market. This can be addressed with proper research and must be included in a business plan. For cool ideas, check the wiine.me business model or the wine adventures and business tips of this girl or the market insights from this wine industry insider.

Wine Producers

The quality, diversity and the length of the wine list is a big consideration why people troop to a particular wine place. It is a big factor that defines the character of the establishment (in addition to the employed sommelier who must know his business, the ambience of the place and, of course, the crowd). Therefore, it is imperative to know wine producers both on the local and international levels. International wine merchants could provide tremendous assistance in this respect. Based on this information, an excellent wine list could be developed. In addition, a systematic and cost-effective approach to procurement and supply management also becomes possible.

Regulations

The business will sell alcohol and, therefore, it is covered by certain rules, ordinances and statutes. If you are in the US, for instance, you might find this article and this legal resource for alcohol and wine retail enlightening. There are establishments that were closed down or, worse, have faced criminal charges because of non-compliance. More than ever, ignorance is not an excuse. For instance, there is the case of selling alcohol to minors and the age restrictions in bar employees. Knowledge in this respect will keep you out of hot waters.

Numbers

inventoryA critical information – if ever you intend to succeed with your wine bar – is what I sweepingly categorized as “numbers”. This includes  all the costs, pricing, inventory, salary of staff – yep, the figures which many of us tend to avoid like the plague. These must be understood and managed in order for the bar to run effectively and profitably.

Many of small wine bar owners start small, counting themselves as the first employees. It saves money and allow a degree of control given that the business circumstance can be brutal and frustrating at times. But equipped with sufficient knowledge and in addition to hard work, optimism and determination, you might just steer your wine bar into a successful venture and a source of your pride and contentment.

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