A short primer on finding good deals on wines you‘ll be proud to share and savor

Friends dining outside and enjoying wine.
Image source: jacoblund.

As a wine professional, I understand how expensive wine is. Truly, I do. Throughout my experience in the wine world — first as a bartender at various restaurants, then as the general manager of a French wine bar in Washington, DC, and currently as a wine science graduate student in Bordeaux, France — I’ve had my fair share of good (and very expensive) wines. I’ve tasted wines that cost $10 per sip. I’ve seen people throw down hundreds for a bottle at dinner and thousands on birthday party tabs. …

Riesling is like Rosie the Riveter: it’s got some gentle features, a sweet personality, yet a perfume that smells distinctly like gasoline.

Riesling is like Rosie the Riveter: it’s got some gentle features, a sweet personality, yet a perfume that smells distinctly like gasoline.
Rosie the Riveter (Photo by NC AFL-CIO)

This gasoline odor comes from a big molecule called TDN (1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene) which belongs to the norisoprenoid family of aromas.

Norispoprenoids are a class of varietal aroma, meaning they originate in the berry. (Remember, varietal aroma families include terpenes, pyrazines, thiols, and norisoprenoids!)

Here are some common norisoprenoids and their corresponding aromas in wine:

  • TDN: petroleum
  • ß-Damascenone: sweet and fruity, also an aroma enhancer (think of it like the MSG of wine aromas. …

If you’ve ever smelled a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you’ve smelled thiols (“thigh-all”, rhymes with “style”). These are the aroma compounds that smell like grapefruit, guava, passion fruit, and yes, sometimes cat pee.

A guava, passionfruit, and grapefruit personified, holding up glasses of white wine
(Shown are guava, passionfruit, & grapefruit aromas) Drawing by Anna Sprenger

What are thiols?

Thiols are odorous compounds that contain sulfur. Our understanding of thiols is a recent development in the wine world. In 1995, some researchers in Bordeaux identified a volatile thiol, called 4MMP for short, which is a dominant aroma in Sauvignon Blanc. They found this compound after they realized that adding copper to the wine removed tropical fruit smells. …

How restaurant-style kitchen hacks can reduce your food expenses

Image credit: CentralITAlliance

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out, those long months of being cooped up inside will (hopefully) fade away. Our lives will return to their old, busy ways, with early morning commutes, quick lunch breaks, and workout classes at the gym. As we get busier, the home-cooking habits we developed during this zero-commute year could become a relic of the past.

In the era of Uber Eats, it’s getting easier and easier to feed ourselves without cooking. Having our meals delivered straight to our doors is a modern convenience that suggests that human quality of life has never been better.

Wine Aroma Series: Pyrazines

What are pyrazines?

Pyrazines are a nitrogen-containing compound. They are a type of varietal aroma, meaning they originate in the grape berries in the vineyard.

A green bell pepper dressed up as a queen to show that this aroma is the “Pyrazine Queen.”
Drawing by Anna Sprenger

The most distinctive pyrazine smell is green bell pepper. The compound responsible for this smell is IBMP, which is the shorthand name for 3-Isobutyl-2-Methoxypyrazine.

Besides green bell peppers, pyrazines can also have a leafy green, broccoli stalk, or pea pod smell. Pyrazines are really odorous compounds; it only takes in the order of 2 parts per trillion for human noses to be able to detect the green bell pepper odor that comes from IBMP.

Which wines have pyrazines?

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc…

Two slices of cheesecake sit on a plate next to glasses of yellow and red wines.
Photo by fran hogan on Unsplash

I used to work at a French wine bar where we had a dry Riesling on the menu. All the time, I would hear customers say, “This one is dry even if it’s a Riesling? Is that a typo?”

Wine drinkers want to know with confidence whether a wine will be sweet or dry before tasting it. But how can you really tell? First, you have to understand how wines become sweet.

Wine Sweetness is Determined by Three Things

1. The sugar level of the berries at harvest.

If you’ve ever smelled a Muscat or Gewürztraminer wine, you probably noticed that it smelled like flowers. Where does this smell come from? Terpenes.

A drawing of four common terpene aromas (geranium, lemon, rose, lavender) next to their chemical symbols
Some common terpene aromas: geranium, lemon, rose, and lavender. (Drawing by Anna Sprenger)

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are found in the skin of the grape. They constitute many of the floral, citrusy, or spicy compounds in essential oils. They are also responsible for the floral smell of marijuana.

Terpenes are made up of hydrogen and carbon, and they can produce different smells depending on the arrangement and length of those molecules. Sometimes you will see them called monoterpenes (containing 10 carbons), sesquiterpenes (containing 15 carbons), or diterpenes (containing 20 carbons).

The most…

A wine tasting flight of colors from yellow to red sitting on top of an oak barrel.
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

If you’ve ever let a bottle of wine sit out for too long on your counter, you’ll know that wine aromas can change over time — and not always for the better. But oftentimes these changes make the wine more interesting to drink.

I like to think of these changes as the ones we can “see” and the ones we can’t see. If a wine ages in new oak barrels, it’s going to taste and smell oaky. We can see the barrel, and we can anticipate its effect.

But then there are the changes that we can’t see. These are…

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Hello and thanks for your interest in writing for The Wine Press!

The goal of The Wine Press is to make complicated wine science topics accessible to wine amateurs, professionals, and enthusiasts. I started this publication because I found that is a gap in the wine resource world. We have great access to Wine 101 blogs, and there are plenty of scientific articles on wine science, but there is a lack of useful resources for people interested in the middle ground. For example, while there are plenty of websites that will explain that Cabernet Sauvignon has green pepper notes, there…

Champagne’s underdog story teaches lessons on how to market a failure as a success

A woman wearing a sparkling dress pours champagne into raised glasses.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Though the year 2020 was probably the strangest one on record for most of us, I’d wager that most people will still be popping a bottle of bubbly this New Year’s Eve. It feels both like what we’re supposed to do and somewhat unwarranted. After all, I admit that I spent the majority of my mornings — and sometimes the whole day — in my pajamas. But in the words of New York Time’s wine critic Eric Asimov, “Forget about what 2020 deserves. We have earned all the sparkling wine we want.”

Yes, we’ve earned it. The world has earned…

Charlotte Adams

Wine science master’s student in Bordeaux. Owner of The Wine Press. I like cool-climate wines & outdoor hockey rinks. wordsbycharlotte.com

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