Five common wine questions answered
Why do I always have a headache after drinking red wine?
Many people believe sulfites in red wine cause them to have a headache after drinking. This is false. Sulfites, which have antioxidant and antibacterial properties, naturally occur in all wine. White wines often have more sulfites than red because the tannins and flavonoids help to preserve red wines.
The likely cause of your headaches are the histamines. Red wines have more histamines because they exist in the skins of the grapes and red wines spend more time with the skins macerating to extract the pigments, tannins and flavors. Try taking an antihistamine before drinking red wine. Another reason for a headache might be dehydration. Drink water alongside your wine to curb those headaches.
Vintages: What are they and why should it matter?
The vintage of a wine is simply the year the grapes were harvested. Chile and South Africa require 75 percent of grapes are from the stated year on the bottle. Australia, New Zealand, European Union, and the United States require 85 percent. The exception to this is any wine designated with AVA in the Napa Valley where 95 percent is the requirement.
Every year grapes are produced, there are different weather conditions that affect the taste of your wine. Too much rain when the grapes are ripe is bad. Drought conditions are much better. (The last few years for NAPA and Sonoma in California have been great years.) The grape production will be smaller, but it will produce more intense flavors in the wine. Winemakers try to compensate for this by blending other grapes into the vintage.
Only so many grapes are harvested each year and when the wine is consumed for that vintage, it will be gone from the shelves. Next year's vintage might be better or worse depending on the weather conditions. When you find something you love, buy it and drink it before it is gone.
Are reserve or estate wines of better quality?
These wines might be high quality, but in the United States there is no governing body that controls the usage of these terms. Most wineries use these terms to signal a better wine and subsequently charge more for the wine. Others might use this term for propaganda purposes only.
What is a house wine?
The house wine will often be one of the most inexpensive wines on the menu, but it should be high quality. Restaurants should not serve the cheapest wine available in the largest bottle. A great restaurant will have a great house wine at a great price.
Are corks or screw caps better?
Corked bottles do not necessarily mean the wine is better quality. Natural corks actually are imperfect and can cause wine to be tainted or corked. This occurs because of a chemical reaction caused by bleaching corks before use. Screw caps are much more uniform and provide greater seals. I doubt that we will ever see all wines in a screw cap because drinking wine is an experience and you lose part of that experience of the initial smell of the cork. Some winemakers use screw caps with wine to mean it should be consumed immediately as opposed to aging in a cellar.