What’s in a name?

Did you know Chardonnay is made from Chardonnay grapes?

Chardonnay is an example of a varietal wine, and is made principally or solely with that type of grape.

U.S. law says that to call a wine by it’s varietal name, it must be at least 75% made with its principal grape. The minimum percentage in Europe and Australia is 85%. What that means is that other random grapes can be all up in your face and you wouldn’t even know it.

Most of the time those sneaky wine makers don’t let you know whether their wine is made entirely from the grape variety, or if they invited other stranger grapes to the party.

Which is weird because varietal wines are no better than non-varietal wines. Strangers can be fun too. They are just new friends we haven’t met yet. I personally welcome all grape varieties to my glass.

If a wine varietal has two or more grapes stated in the name–like Chardonnay-Viognier—the label must have the percentage of each, and those must be the only grapes in the bottle.

Wine makers don’t have a rule saying they have to name the wine by its varietal grape. They could call their wine John’s Special Elixir if they wanted. Most wine makers do this because it is easier to sell to North Americans with a varietal name.

European wines do their own thang. Many European winemakers name their wine for the region their grapes grow.

So Chianti, Cotes du Rhone, Valpolicella, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Beaujolais (and many more) are all regions and not names of grapes?!

Just when I thought I was beginning to understand! WHY!?

Here’s why, Europeans are smart. This system gives you more information about the wine in your bottle. Each region has different characteristics that are particular to that area. Sunshine, rain, soil, slope of the land, wind and altitude are all examples of how each region is different. All of these factors change the taste of the wine, and each region has different factors. Therefore, it makes sense to name the grapes by the region.

If the U.S. played the same name game, it would make no sense. If a wine were simply named California it would be far too broad. California is 30% larger than Italy, which has over 300 specific wine regions.


This is a photo of my friend Lindsey and I in Tuscany, where Chianti is from. (I’m so cultured, I know)


Show me the money!

I bet you didn’t know that in most cases, the wine in your bottle doesn’t cost more than $2.50 to make.

So why am I spending 100% more on the bottle you ask?

(I say this like I spend $25.00 on a bottle of wine. That is more of a general question for people that aren’t students who can afford such luxuries. Unless I’m bringing a gift for someone I am trying to impress, please point me to the $11.99 and under bottles.)


But seriously, I’m going to tell you why.

Economics 101: supply and demand

Was it a good season? What was the yield of grapes like? Fewer grapes equal less wine. Which means a lower supply and higher demand. AKA you pay more.

Were the grapes picked by hand or by machine?

You are paying for people to pick them by hand.

If the wine you choose is by a reputable house, they can charge you more.

Look for companies starting up to save a few bucks!

The cost of the land is also factored into the price. Some houses are paying a high rent; therefore you are paying more for your wine.

That means you are also paying “rent” for your wine to be aged in their house.

If you are like me, you like the oaky taste in your wine.

(I fear that I get this from my mother. If you look around my parent’s house, and many other houses of mid-fifty year olds, they LOVE oak. Doors, floors, baseboards, trim, cupboards…WHY?)

Anyways, you pay for that too. Generally the most expensive wines are produced with oak aging.

(Expensive taste. I know I get that from my mother.)

How to choo-choo choose wine!

This week I went on a field trip to The Winehouse. My friend Tom Bima invited me to join a staff meeting, and to my delight, introduced me to a second year CreComm student! (Hi Michelle, I just stalked you on social media. Follow me back , K?)

Tom filled me in on how he helps find the right wine for you by asking these three questions:

What’s your price range?

Is the wine for a friend or for you?

Do you want something full-bodied and heavy, or light and crisp?

Then his magical brain picks out the perfect wine for you.

For those of us that have no idea how to answer the last question, I asked Tom to give me some tips about how someone starting out can make the right selection.

Our palate has a natural progression, starting with sweet liquids. When we are sweet, six pound, eight ounce babies, we enjoy sugary juices.

So when we begin drinking wine we naturally start with the classic White Zinfandel. I like to think of this beverage as a liquid pink Starburst.

Next we move from sweet to dry whites:

Sauvignon Blanc



Then, the gateway red: Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir generally has less tannins, which means it’s not so bitter and dry!

Shiraz/Malbec’s tend to be a little more rich.

And the King of the red wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

This bad boy, and my personal favourite, tends to be full bodied and powerful. Remember closed mouth smiles for photos after a few glasses of this folks! Nobody likes corpse mouth.

After your palate has developed to enjoy these powerful reds, the next step would be something like scotch….

Until you are old and it’s back to the sugary juice!

*Joke cred to Tom Bima.

Tom’s advice is to find where you are on the scale and experiment! If you don’t like it, try it for 11 days and you will acquire a taste for it.

I’m going to try this with Vegemite and see how it goes. I will keep you posted.

Don’t go into the store and ask for a cab then expect a white wine. Apparently that’s a common occurrence.

Do go check them out.


That awkward moment when the server asks if you want to taste the wine…

A sip of wine is like a sip of Dr Pepper. You have got a lot going on in that mouthful, with a lot of subtle flavours and sensations. With that, I present you with the two crucial rules of wine tasting,

  1. Whoa Nelly, slow down!

Drinking and tasting are not the same.

  1. Pay attention.

Wine tasting has three steps. Only one of these steps involves actually tasting the wine.


Tilt the glass of wine on its side against a light background. Notice the colour and if it gets lighter towards the edges. Is it clear, dark, pale, brilliant, cloudy?

Check out those legs! Actually don’t, the legs or tears that run down the side of your glass used to be thought of as a sign of a rich, high-quality wine. It really has something to do with evaporation and surface tension.

Tip: Make sure your glass is only half full. Red wine is hard to get out of your friend’s couch.

Swirl and sniff

This is fun to do with a group of friends! This step is important because a lot of what you taste come from the aromas of the wine. Swirl the glass three or four times and quickly smell the wine. What do you smell? The best part of this is that nobody can really tell you that you are wrong-unless you take a wine tour in Napa, and the sommelier says you are way off.



When you swirl, the aromas in the wine vaporize, allowing you to smell them #science.

Do this a few times. You may smell some weird scents like mold, gas, or rotten eggs. When you enjoy what you smell, take a mental note to look for these in your next wine purchase.

Sometimes, it’s just bad wine. Wine judges call these DNPIM – Do Not Put In Mouth. Which immediately makes me think of the commercial we used to see as kids with the fluffy blue creatures. Are beets a treat? And, you are welcome for having that tune stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Go ahead and taste it

First, take a medium-sized sip.

Don’t swallow just yet! Purse your lips, suck in some air over the wine.

(You may want to practice this in private before you are trying to impress your date.)

Swish the wine around in your mouth so you hit all your taste buds. The basic tastes are sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (a strong meaty taste).

Finally, swallow the wine. If you like it, it’s a good wine! Remember that drinking wine is personal. People perceive taste differently so don’t base all of your opinions of what’s good on your friend’s choices.

Until next time, keep fit and have fun!

Alicia’s Centre for People Who Can’t Drink Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too

Hello everyone! My name is Alicia Kondrat, I am 25 years old and currently taking my next step towards becoming a real adult at Red River College in the Creative Communications program.

Just so you know, I love wine, winey wine wine. Most people in my life share this particular passion, and for something that I enjoy, I know very little about how to pick a good bottle (or box).

I often find myself at social gatherings talking up my wine tasting skills and knowledge but in reality, most of my selection is based on the label. I hear you should never judge a book by its cover, but when a wine is labeled “Fat Bastard” and it’s only $15.99, that’s a winning bottle in my mind.

I invite you to join me on my quest for wine knowledge. I have had a copy of Wine for Dummies on my shelf for about a year and I am excited to crack it open. I have questions such as,

Why is this bottle $8 and that bottle $75?

Why do I love this Shiraz, and that one tastes like feet?

How do you pronounce Syrah?

If wine is made from grapes, why can people taste pear, melons and other fruits?

And other inquiries for experts on the subject.

I have comprised some facts from the book, Wine for Dummies by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan to peak your interest. After reading this valuable information, you’ll be able to share it at your next dinner party, around the office or even to impress a new fling, because soon you will be a classy and cultured wine expert!

Brace yourselves, wisdom is coming:

  • Sugar from grapes turns into alcohol. Therefore, the sweeter the grapes, the higher alcohol content.

I’m going to use this as an excuse for the loopy Gallo White Zinfandel nights when I was younger.

  • Sulfur dioxide is added to wine to prevent it from turning into vinegar. Generally, the less sulfur dioxide the better.
  • White wine can be made from green, yellow, pinkish yellow grapes, or the juice of red grapes! The skins are removed by using rollers to squeeze the juice out.

People don’t step on the grapes anymore?

  • True Champagne is only from a certain region of France. However, champagne (lower case c) can appear on all sorts of bottles. Most bubbly is referred to as sparkling wine.

Cue Waynes World video clip-

  • A pushed up cork is a sign of a cooked wine, AKA a bad bottle.

Let’s talk tannins. Tannin is a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance. You can find tannin in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves and fruit skins. (Thank you dictionary.com)

  • People who drink red wine and suffer from headaches usually                blame sulfites. This isn’t true. Red wine has the least amount of sulfites because tannin, from the skin of red grapes, acts as a preservative.
  • Tannins taste very bitter when wine is cold. If a bottle of red feels cool to your hand, that’s the ideal temperature to consume your delicious beverage.                       (I told you so mom)

Cheers everyone!

If you have any questions you want answered, ask! This may be a long journey, but nothing a glass of wine can’t fix.

Have a grape day!