Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vignoles - a great summer wine!

Vignoles, pronounced “veen-yoles”, is a grape that was produced by J.F. Ravat from France in the 1930's.   It is a white variety that is a cross between the Seibel grape and a Pinot Noir clone, probably neither being known to anyone here, including myself. Even though it was produced in France most of its popularity has been in the US. You can find this grape produced a lot in the northeast, especially the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY and parts of NH, as well as the mid-west including IL, MO and others.

This is a varietal that is more on the semi-sweet side, but with the right acidity and balance it can be a delicious wine to drink, especially in the summer months. On my recent trip to the Finger Lakes I even bought some Vignoles dessert style wines that I'm looking forward to opening at some point this summer. Since this grape has thicker skins it is able to hang on the vine a lot longer to produce a more concentrated, late harvest wine at times. With this grape you will typically get a lot of tropical fruit, melon, peach, apricots, honey as well as citrus on the palate.

If you get a chance to try this fun and yummy varietal I suggest you do!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sulfites, do they cause wine headaches?

This was one of the things that I used to hear time and time again “I like wine, but many of them cause headaches, which ones don’t?”  There has been a lot of research done on this and there are many assumptions, but no scientific explanations or solutions.  

The #1 cause of these headaches for many wine drinkers are believed to be the sulfites in wine.  Sulfites occur naturally in all wines due to the effects from fermentation, but some winemakers add sulfites to help preserve the wine and stop the yeasts from continuing to transform the wine.  Some think that organic wines don’t have sulfites, but this isn’t true.  Even organic wines have sulfites, it’s just that some of those producers choose not to add any more than what naturally takes place.  If a wine didn’t have sulfites it wouldn’t last.  The same goes for food.  If some food didn’t have sulfites it would spoil.  All my wine by now would be have gone bad in my wine cellar so I appreciate whatever it takes to build a solid wine that is age worthy.

Some people have sensitivity to sulfites due to allergies, but its causes more problems in the form of asthma and difficulty breathing than creating headaches.  Per Wikipedia, dried fruits and processed foods have way more sulfites than red wine and only less than 1% of the population is sensitive to sulfites.  Since we as Americans eat a lot of processed foods we are frequently consuming sulfites daily and if you are not getting headaches frequently from that, chances are that sulfites are not the answer.  

Wine also contains amines and in wine those amines are histamines and tyramines.  Red wines contain a higher amount of histamines than white wines so most folks seem to experience more headaches with red wines.  Some suggestions are to try taking allergy medication like a Claritin or Benadryl prior to consuming wine to avoid some of these effects.  I personally can’t see people popping allergy medication to try and put off future headaches from wine drinking.

My suggestion is to either speak with your doctor about your concerns, but even more so I would experiment with wines of all different countries, Old World and New World wines, and all different varietals in both reds and whites.  Not only to figure out what causes headaches for you and what doesn’t, but also because it’s fun and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you step outside your comfort zone and explore.