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Wine (the beverage) FAQ, part7 of 10 [LONG]

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Archive-name: drink/wine-faq/part7
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Copyright: (c) 1995-2000 Bradford S. Brown (Notices/Disclaimers in pt. 10)
Last-modified: 2000/06/01
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

This subject is enormous. Perhaps as time goes by I'll develop a listing,
but we'll start with some basics:
*"Drink red wines with meat, white wines with fish."*
Drink whatever wine you like that _you_ think goes with whatever you are
eating. There aren't any rules. The fact that there are some combinations
that "many" people think best complement food and wine is a good guide,
but if _you_ don't like it, or you like something else, do it! And red
wine goes very well with a lot of fish, thank you.
From a chemical standpoint, what you do when drinking wine can have an
enormous impact on what you drink (or whether you should drink at all).
Try an experiment. Dissolve 1/8th teaspoon salt in a gallon of water. Do
the same with sugar and another gallon of water. Take a sip of one then
taste a wine. Try it with the other. You may be very surprised. Since your
taste buds are extremely sensitive, eating food radically changes the way
a wine can taste. This is why tasting wine without eating the food you
intend to eat it with may steer you wrong when it comes to what you really

I don't necessarily agree with or have tried the food and wine
combinations that are related in this section. In fact, it is such an
overwhelming area, I don't even know if it is a good idea to start. But
since a FAQ should answer Frequently Asked Questions, here are some of the
ones that have come up a lot.

Wine and Chocolate_
Some will say this isn't possible. I think they're wrong. You'll find
chocolate notes in Cabernet and this can make it a decent match. Also try
Merlot or Zinfandel. A correspondent tells me that there is a chocolatier
near the Musee D'Orsay in Paris that has a whole sheet of suggestions for
wine with chocolate. Some of the best ideas are, he thinks: Vin Jaune, an
"incredible, almost sherried wine" from the Jura; Chateau Chalon; fine
solera Malaga; or an assertive young white port.
_Wine and Duck_
Peking Duck (with sweet sauce): White Hermitage, Pinot Gris, Sancerre or
Pouilly Fume
Plain Roast Duck: Bordeaux, Cabernet, Australian Chardonnay, California
Pinot Noir, Madiran, Cotes de Buzet Misc.: Spanish Rioja, preferably and
Reserva or Gran Reserva


Starting Out

In college what we drank was jug wine, Sangria, sloe gin fizzes, and the
occasional 100% grain alcohol that the pre-med guy would get from the lab.
Taste wasn't exactly the idea. For many years, we didn't exactly drink
much in the way of any wine at all. Then we were introduced to "good"
wine. This wasn't something that you just drank, it was another facet of
the meal, food to be enjoyed just like the entree or dessert.
About this time a local "fancy" market started doing "winemaker dinners."
This being California, there was no lack of some of the best people in the
state showing up. The market was trying to get business, so it was
inexpensive and the 5-course meals were great. And so was a lot of the
wine. While it was interesting to listen to the stories the winemakers,
cellarmasters and producers would tell (and try to decipher some of the
questions that the knowledgeable folk asked), the most important part was
that this was a way to be introduced to a lot of different wines, alone,
and with food.
Dri, who has the memory between us, could remember what was good, or what
she or I liked, and still can to this day. I'm a lot slower and my test (I
thought I'd invented it, but then saw it in a magazine--later) was the
"GDE" test. Did it "go down easy?" Matching wines was Dri's job and I knew
I liked what I drank. I also started to know what I didn't like. Dri and I
don't always agree. Neither will you.
We bought a few books and started to visit wineries, mostly in California,
some in Washington and Oregon. We went on the tours, some of which were
big and crowded. As we gathered up our nerve about us, we found that we
could make appointments at little wineries which would show just the two
of us around (often it would be the owner/winemaker doing the tour), talk
to us for hours about their operation and about wine, and let us taste
some of the "good stuff." (Word of mouth is always good advertising.) It
also turned out that some "big" wineries will do the same, just for the
asking. After a while one tour looks like another, but we just like being
in the usually cool winery and drinking in the scents of grape and wine
and wood that jump out at you--and learning about the winemaker/owners.
Even when there is no tour, many small wineries will, on appointment, let
you taste. (Please, don't be pushy with them. They're doing you a favor,
too. They have a business to run and lives to live. We always ask if they
have time and when is best for them!)
We didn't try to hit every place in Napa, we slowly picked a few places
that we thought had good wine, and went and spent time. And bought some to
So now we drink more wine and we're still learning. We found, as most will
tell you, that the best way to learn about wine is to drink it. So true.
Lectures, books, magazines, this guide, other people, etc., will help you
and maybe get you started along the right track. But what they have to say
are just clues to the easily solved puzzle of what _you_ will like.
Two interesting learning tools: restaurants that serve fine wines by the
glass or have multi-course fixed price meals serving different wines for
each course and wine tastings (often of verticals that will let you see
just how a wine ages and when it is young, ready, or too old all at one
sitting). Many restaurants have wine tastings as do wine clubs and
You can also do your own wine tastings (everybody brings a bottle of
something, perhaps all reds, or all one varietal, etc.). Perhaps you host
and have the guests chip in on the costs. This way you avoid duplication
of bottles.
Read Kevin Zraly's "Windows on the World Wine Course", a very easy to read
book with lots of graphics.
Take a wine appreciation class. These can usually be found through
university extension, junior/community colleges or even large wine shops.
These will introduce you to terminology, basic wine types, how to evaluate
wines, etc.
Find a tasting group, or a good wine shop that puts on tastings,
preferably both. It is prohibitively expensive to taste a lot of wines if
you have to buy a full bottle for each wine. Typically, a good wine shop
should be able to point you to a few good tasting groups. There's used to
be a "Les Amis Du Vin" chapter in most major cities, but I'm told the
national organization has disappeared. A new organization called "Wine
Lovers International" is trying to incorporate as many of the old Les Amis
chapters as it can. Get copies of wine tasting newsletters, and try
several wines recommended by each of them to see which ones most closely
match your palate, then subscribe to the most appropriate ones. There's a
listing of these resources elsewhere in this document.
If all else fails, get some friends together (who at least enjoy
wines--and maybe even if they don't) for wine tastings. It's also not a
bad idea to make friends with people who have cellars full of wine (!).
An important thing to do for any person who wants to start drinking better
wine, is to find one or two wine merchants that you like, and to become
recognized as a loyal customer, even if you don't initially spend a great
deal. See which shops have tastings open to their customers. Tell the
proprietor about your interests, taste, and budget. Many wine shop owners
are enthusiasts who love to help (and talk) about wine. Try the offered
wines then decide whether the wine is as the proprietor described it? Is
it about what you asked for? If so, go back for more. A good merchant will
repay your loyalty (and you'll repay theirs, and so on . . . )



The extraordinary fast growth of the Internet and proliferation of
multimedia personal computers makes it close to impossible to keep up with
the changes available in electronic media. Here we'll offer some tips and
perhaps a few definitions for people new to the electronic arena. Have a
glass of wine while sifting through this one!

_The "Internet" isn't exactly a thing. "Newbies" (people new to the
Internet, generally considered to be unknowing of the conventions which
have grown up to try to "civilize" its nature), often conceptualize the
Internet like some giant America On Line or Prodigy or Microsoft Network.
It isn't. The Internet is a system where a lot of people got together and
agreed on rules by which lots of computers networks (and sometimes merely
individual computers) could transfer information amongst themselves. When
a computer or computer network "links" into the Internet, information is
passed around using those rules. With a few semi-exceptions not worth
explaining in a Wine FAQ, the Internet is really just one vast e-mail
system where information ("data") can and may pass between and among any
machine connected to the network.
How you get to and/or view this electronic mail which is passed around on
the Internet (sometimes called the "Network of networks") may take a
number of different forms: for example, what we call "e-mail," World Wide
Web pages, telnet, or Usenet. Since an ever increasing number of people
are using a single tool, such as as a Web Browser to do all these things,
there is a tendency to say that all these things _*are*_ the Internet.
This isn't the place to argue the semantics of the 'net, but I mention
these things to avoid the inevitable quibble that many of the things that
I will refer to as part of the Internet are available in other ways or
aren't _*technically*_ the "Internet." Fill your glass and don't worry
about it.

A "bulletin board" system which uses the Internet to make available the
public discussion of topics of interest. Where private e-mail goes (more
or less) from one person to another, Usenet messages go from one person to
everybody on the Internet who want to see them. There are about 15,000
"legitimate" (whatever that means) topics on Usenet as of this writing.
Not all internet service providers (the method by which most individuals
connect to Internet) give you access to every usenet topic. If the wine
groups are not available to you, ask your site administrator to add them.
There are currently two general Usenet groups that deal with wine: [] and [] .
Depending on how you are reading this, your Internet connection, and your
system, clicking on one of those names may take you directly to the group.
For other more regionalized news groups, check out Usenet in Appendix A,
The Wine Bookmark Page.
Because is more widely propagated (that means more sites
make it available), time was when it carried most of the wine-related
discussions. With the growth of the Internet it seems as if
has gained greater acceptance as the group of choice. Someone with time to
spare might take the effort to establish a ("Rec" groups
tend to be much more widely accepted than "alt" groups). If you think you
would like to take these steps, more information is available on the
process on Usenet in the news.answers [news.answers] group. (Many people
post wine-related information to alt.bacchus. I have refrained from doing
so as it is my understanding that the charter for that group is for other
Where "web pages" provide an excellent place for static information from
single individuals or companies, Usenet is the place to get quick answers
from the world. In fact, the FAQ is mostly an outgrowth of Usenet. After a
group has seen (and maybe answered) a question for the 1000th time, it is
a lot easier to tell newcomers to read the FAQ (for "Frequently Asked
Questions") _before_ posing the question for the 1001th time. Usenet FAQs
are usually prepared and maintained by volunteers who feel the urge to do

Where Usenet is totally public and e-mail is totally (sort of) private, a
listserv falls somewhere in between. A listserv is like a private mailing
list. A person sends mail to the listserv (a computer which is set up to
deal with that mail). The listserv turns the mail around and sends it to
every member of the list. When dealing with listservs, it is important to
know that the mail address of the listserv for purposes of _*joining*_ the
list as a member is invariably different than the address of the list for
purposes of being part of the discussion. Usually you can get information
on how to join a listserv group by sending a message to the joining
listserv address with the word "help" in the subject line.
For information on wine-related listservs, see the discussion on Internet

_Gopher and the World Wide Web_
My how the 'net has grown. When I started this document, the Internet
seemed a smaller world of private individuals using educational, corporate
and military computers to connect to the world in a community minded way
(I'm ignoring the true reasons that gave birth to the Internet, that's
another book or twenty)
Besides Usenet as a source of information, people would place
informational pieces on their own computer systems which were also open to
the Internet. The trick wasn't access but figuring out that they existed
at all. While there were other systems that came before, one of the first
really useful wide-spread methods of finding and retrieving material was
by "gopher." Gopher software lets you visit a computer and view a listing
(by text menu) of the documents which are being made publicly available.
If you make a menu choice, the document is displayed for you. Still you
had to guess what computer system had something you wanted. What if you
got a computer to look at all the other computers and see what's there,
keeping a list? Then you would have Veronica. The good news was that you
could send a key word request using Veronica and get back a listing of
files that might be useful. The bad news as that there were only five or
eight or so computers in the world that would let you ask. Getting your
request in got to be almost impossible.
Just as things were getting pretty bleak, along came the World Wide Web.
Still just a variation on the e-mail theme (you are really still sending a
message to another computer which asks it to do something and sends back
the information), the key here was that the software incorporated two
major elements: graphics and hyper-text links. Now you could have
something pretty to read and could skip around a document or from document
to document around the world in an instant. Big Business got interested.
Web Browsers became more and more sophisticated. Search engines (much like
the Veronica idea, but enormously faster and ridiculously vast) came on
line. While there are predictions that the system will again choke up, it
hasn't happened yet. 

And just think, all this happened in about 18 months.
Now, when surfing the web, I'm not sure whether what I read is truly
informational or a blatant act of fiction promulgated overtly or covertly
by commercial interests. For that matter, why believe anything *I* say?
And even if not fictional, am I getting the *whole* story when the site I
visit limits their "information" only to advertisers/supporters of the
site? There seems no way to stop the rush to commercialization of the
World Wide Web, but I can complain about it, can't I? More sites than not
are commercial, others at least appear to be private. _Once again_,
_*caveat emptor,*_ "Let the buyer beware."
There is no way a FAQ came keep up with the proliferation of web sites
that deal with wine. All we can do is point you to some useful Internet
Resources, just below.
_Internet Resources_
Internet Resources break down into two major divisions: search engines
that sample the entire web and index it and sites that create lists (often
from submissions). The beauty of the first is that you might find
everything (if you phrase you question narrowly enough), the nice thing
about the latter is that they may do the sifting for you in advance and
you may get information that is not directly from a web site (listservs,
for example).
*Dean Tudor's Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net
[] . *_One of the best places to
start looking for wine-related information without being inundated with
every site on the web is Dean Tudor's list. It is posted monthly to Usenet
groups dealing with alcholic beverages, as well as being available at The list includes usenet groups,
electronic mailing lists (listservs), gophers, FTP sites, WWW sites, IRC
("International Relay Chat") channels, Bulletin Board networks and
systems, Commerical On-Line system forums and miscellaneous other
information. With Mssr. Tudor's gracious permission, this FAQ provides a
_Wine Bookmark Page _which is a sub-set of his list that is, more or less,
limited to wine sites. You will, however, obtain the most current
information by going directly to the original list.
You can try the ubiquitous
[] _for more in the style of
compiled lists.
Or go the keyword route using a search engine. A good listing of engines
can be found at the _All-In-One_ Page  at
 The _All-In-One whichh lists just about all the web search engines that exist 
is located at

I haven't seen either of these products, but they're out there!
_*Microsoft Wine Guide CD-ROM*_ by Oz Clarke, whom many say a lot of good
things about.. Reviewd by John Dvorak on C|NET Central as a "buy it."
_*Wines of the World CD-ROM*_ on wine browsing, making wine, wine
appreciation. On-line videos of wine regions, wine making processes, etc.
Windows and Macintosh.
_*Best Bottles Wineletter*_. Box 21011 Stratford, Ontario Canada N5A 7V4.
Written and produced by William Munnelly, who purchases and tastes all the
wines reviewed. About 30 to 40 pages double-sided. The focus of the
publication is wines around or under $10--the idea being you don't have to
pay a fortune for a good bottle of wine. Published every other month, by
subscription only. Annual subscription fee is Canadian $40 (including GST).
_*The California Grapevine*_. 6 issues/yr. Approximately 20 pages per
issue, U.S. $30/year. P.O. Box 22152, San Diego, CA 92192, (619) 457-4818.
Focus on California wines, particularly Cabernet and Chardonnay. Some
coverage of classified Bordeaux. Book reviews by Bob Foster. Articles by
Dan Berger. Wines are evaluated by a panel of 10 to 12 on a modified Davis
Scale (20 point scale). Due to the large panel size, the wines that are
recommended tend to have wide appeal. [Note: Dan Berger is the wine writer
for the Los Angeles Times. This household tends to agree with his palate
and writings a great deal of the time!]
_*Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine*_. Monthly, no advertising.
Approximately 16 pages per issue, $42/yr. P.O. Box V, Alameda, CA 94501,
(510) 865-3150. Focus is strictly on California and U.S. wines. Each issue
reviews two to three classes of wine, with 20-40 wines per class. Wines
are evaluated by a panel of two on a 5-point scale (0-3 Puffs + Pour it
down the drain). Reviewers are said to have "California palates", which
means they like big, intense, chewy wines. [Opposing comments welcome!]
_*Decanter*_. Glossy British wine trade publication recommended by some.
U.S. $75 to $80 per year. Available at some large bookstores and magazine
racks in the U.S.
_*The Fine Wine Review*_. Approximately 16 pages per issue. U.S. $28.93
per year. 2449 Jackson St., San Francisco, CA 94115-1324, (415) 922-2755.
International in scope, each issue tends to focus on one wine type, for
instance, Northern Rhones. An individual reviewer, Claude Kolm, evaluates
on a 100 point scale ("objective, no context scale"), and also A/B/C/D/F
("how good the wine is compared to other wines of the same type"). Some
feel Mr. Kolm is more reliable than some of the other wine critics.
_*La Revue du Vin de France*_. 9 issues per year. 70p+8p per issue, 430FF
per year. 18-20 rue Guynemer, 92441 Issy les Moulineaux Cedex, France;
telephone: 33 1 40 95 86 00; fax: 33 1 40 95 18 81. Mainly French wines.
Two special issues per year, one devoted to the new vintage (usually in
June), and the last of the year called "les 500" which featuring the 500
best wines tasted during the year. Each issue contains 8 pages of tasting
notes called "le cahier de degustation." Also articles about a special
regions, a chateaus. Wines are either given a note (out of 10) or
evaluated using a 5 stars notation for hard to judge wine.
_*New York Wine Cellar*_. Tanzer Business Communications, Inc. P.O. Box
392, Prince Station, New York, New York 10012. Interviews, ratings.
Bi-monthly US $48; foreign air mail US $60.
_*The Quarterly Review of Wines*_. 4 issues per year. Approximately 70
pages per issue. U.S. $13.95 per year. P.O. Box 591, Winchester, MA
01890-9988. Glossy magazine. Mostly articles, few reviews. Doesn't give
_*Underground Wine Journal*_. Wine Journal Enterprises, 1654 Amberwood
Drive, Suite A., South Pasadena, California 91030. (818) 441-6617. U.S.
$48/year. International in scope, with good coverage of German and French
wines, vertical and horizontal tastings of individual wine producers.
Wines are evaluated by two or three reviewers on a modified Davis scale
(20 point scale). Some say "very reliable reviews."
_*The Vine*_. British newsletter by Clive Coats.
_*The Wine Advocate*_. From Robert Parker, Jr., an "independent consumer's
guide to fine wines" published 6 times a year. The 1993 Parker's Wine
Buyer's Guide says that The Wine Advocate costs $35.00 for delivery in the
continental United States, $45.00 in Canada and $65.00 by air-mail
delivery anywhere in the world (I'm assuming all prices in $US). For
subscriptions or a sample copy write to The Wine Advocate, P.O. Box 311,
Monkton, MD 21120, or fax to 410-357-4504. Mr. Parker is said not to be
afraid to take a stand on a controversial wine, but some don't agree with
his conclusions (why should they, to each their own!).
_*Wine Enthusiast Magazine*_. 6 issues per year. Approximately 52 pages
per issue. U.S. $17.70 per year. 800-356-8466 to subscribe. Published by
Wine Enthusiast Companies which consists mainly of a wine gadgets store
and the magazine. Mostly articles and a few reviews. Web
[] at
_*The Wine News*_. 6 issues per year, approximately 40 pages per issue.
U.S $18 per year. 353 Alcazar Avenue, Suite 101-B Coral Gables, Florida
33134. Includes review magazine "Inside Wine" Said to be similar to "The
Wine Spectator" with large format and the same coverage.
_*The Wine Spectator*_. A large, glossy format with lots of pictures.
While considered by some "serious" (too serious?) types to be a lot of
fluff ("the National Enquirer of wine"), it can be fun to read and is
every bit as informative as a handbook at least to someone with little
experience, and to the experienced as well. Lots of wine buying guides,
reports from vertical tastings, and even restaurant recipes. Some have
speculated about the cause and effect of advertising on ratings.
1994--Cover price: Canada $3.95; US $2.95; UK Pounds 2.50. Subscription
Price US $40/year, $75/2 years. Call 1-800-752-7799 or send to P.O. Box
50463, Boulder, CO. 80321-0463. Web
site []
_*Wine Tidings*_. 8 issues per year. Approximately 30 pages per issue.
U.S. $35 per year. 5165 Sherbrooke St West, Montreal QC H4A 9Z9. Mostly
articles. Some reviewers felt that it was a bit expensive for what you get.


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