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By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Dr. Vino's Verdict

Seriously, Don't Sniff the Cork

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think it’s absurdly pretentious—not to mention pointless—to sniff the cork at a restaurant? Looking at the cork makes sense. If wine has seeped all the way up the side of the cork, that may mean the wine has been damaged due to poor storage. But in general, there’s nothing to do with the cork other than leave it on the table.

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Dr. Vino's Verdict

Wine by the Glass: Not Just for Suckers

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think wine by the glass is a rip-off? It's true that the markup is high. You'll usually pay as much for the glass as the restaurant paid for the whole bottle. On the other hand, it's much less expensive to try something new by the glass than by the bottle, and most restaurants are happy to pour you a splash before you even commit to a full glass. With the advent of wine preservation systems like the Coravin, more sommeliers are offering individual pours from rare bottles, too. These choices usually are expensive, but they can be a fun way to taste a fantastic wine when the cost of a full bottle would be prohibitive.

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In Search of Good Cheap Wine
Gifts for Wine Lovers

Dr. Vino's Verdict

How to Tell When a Wine is Flawed

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

When is it OK to send a bottle back at a restaurant? When there's something clearly wrong with it. The most common fault is being corked, meaning that a faulty cork has tainted the wine with trace amounts of an element called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole, or TCA for short. The scent will suggest wet cardboard or mold. Other flaws include oxidation (which can make wines taste more nutty than fruity, and turn white wines brownish) and heat damage (which can make wines taste flat and increase their risk of oxidation). Flaws like these are always legitimate reasons for rejecting a wine. If you simply don’t like what you ordered, that’s a different case.

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A Winemaker's Oregon Nouveau Party

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Oak-Chipped Wine? Not a Bargain

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think using oak chips to flavor wine is cheap and sleazy? A winemaking shortcut mostly used for low-priced wines, the practice was banned in the U.S. until 1993 even though it was widely used anyway. Now, hundreds of tons of chips are legally dunked like giant tea bags in tanks of American wine every year, and producers also use methods involving oak staves (planks) or even bags of oak dust. These practices impart oaky flavors without the expense of aging in pricey oak barrels, but the effect is usually unappealing: obnoxious, overpowering and fake-tasting notes of toast and vanilla. Better inexpensive wines are often unoaked, with no weird woodiness to obscure the wine's inherent flavors.

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In Search of Good Cheap Wine
Affordable Aged Bottles

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Don't Fear the Sulfites

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think the risks posed by sulfites in wine are completely overblown? You’re right. Wines do contain the compounds, but they're not the reason you feel sick the day after overindulging. Sulfite reactions are both rare and severe; they include anaphylaxis, not a hangover. If you're still in doubt, here's a test: If you can eat five dried apricots without any adverse effects, then you don’t have a sulfite allergy. So, what's with the warning on the bottle? The intention of the phrase “contains sulfites” on wine labels was originally “not to inform but to frighten,” writes Thomas Pinney, in his book A History of Wine in America, Volume 2. Anti-alcohol lobbyists were trying to scare people away from wine in the 1970s and ’80s, and they found their man in Washington in the form of Strom Thurmond. The senator fought for the legislation that required the language. Of course, dried apricots don’t have warnings—because there's no anti-dried fruit lobby.

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Fantastic Australian Wine Values
How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Wine and Spice Don't Have to Fight

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think spicy foods taste best with sweet, low-alcohol wines? Because alcohol amplifies heat, a fiery dish with a high alcohol wine is the culinary equivalent of a shouting match. To tame the heat in spicy foods, try a white with low alcohol and a little sweetness, for instance a Spätlese Riesling or demi-sec Vouvray.

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Spicy Recipes
America's Best Riesling

Dr. Vino's Verdict

How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think the percentage of alcohol on a wine’s label should accurately reflect what’s in the bottle? Often it doesn’t. The government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau separates most wine into two tax brackets by alcohol level: 11 to 14 percent, and 14 percent-plus. Within those brackets, producers have wiggle room between what the label says and what’s really the case, up to 1.5 percent in the lower bracket and up to 1 percent in the upper. So a wine labeled 12.5 percent alcohol could really be 14 percent, and a wine labeled 14.9 might actually be 15.9. And a UC Davis study of more than 100,000 bottles of wine found that producers overall understate alcohol levels by 0.3 percentage points.


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5 Great Wines for $12 or Less
An Anti-Snob Wine Dinner in Sonoma

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Climate Change: The End of Pinot Noir?

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think global warming is going to be disastrous for wine? In the past three decades temperatures have risen and growing seasons have lengthened in many wine regions. Because of that, grapes ripen faster and reach higher sugar levels, which means higher natural levels of alcohol, among other considerations. Climate scientist Greg Jones estimates that by 2049, temperature increases will prevent some early-ripening grapes from being grown in their classic regions (like Pinot Noir in Burgundy)—and some warm regions may become too hot for any grapevines at all.


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Affordable Summer Wines: Chillable Reds
Wine 101: Pinot Noir and Red Burgundy

Dr. Vino's Verdict

High-Proof Pinot: Brilliant or Bogus?

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think Pinot Noir with more than 14 percent alcohol is an abomination? A few years ago, star sommelier Rajat Parr incited controversy by banning Pinots above that threshold from the list at his San Francisco restaurant RN74. Some interpreted this as an across-the-board indictment of higher-alcohol wines, but Parr has said that the rule was simply put in place to pay homage to Burgundy, the French region where the weather is cool and the reds mostly range from 12.5 to 13.5 percent alcohol. In New World regions like Sonoma, where growing seasons can be warmer and grapes harvested later, Pinots can climb easily above 14 percent. Those wines have plenty of fans as well, and many experts would say that Pinots with that much alcohol can certainly be balanced and delicious.


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Wine 101: Pinot Noir
Fantastic Pinot Noir Pairings

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Why You Should Ask for Boxed Wine

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think we should try to shrink wine's carbon footprint? Drinking local wines helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation (worldwide consumption is estimated at the equivalent of 32 billion bottles yearly by one trade organization). Not everyone is fortunate enough to live next to a wine producing region of either quality or quantity, though: In the US, while 90 percent of the wine is produced in California, two-thirds of the population lives east of the Mississippi. It takes a lot of trucking to connect the two. Not to mention that most wine obsessives want variety. But an increasing number of good wines are being sold in lightweight packaging, which is a step in the right direction because it saves energy during shipping. The more consumers signal their willingness to buy quality wines in boxes, cartons and plastic bottles, the more good producers will be willing to package their wines in eco-friendlier ways.

An F&W-approved boxed wine to try: The spicy, berry-rich 2011 Domaine La Garrigon Côtes du Rhône.


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Affordable Dry Rosés
Chillable Reds

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