Wine Tasting Research

Wine Tasting Badge, Step 1 and 2

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Ah, wine! Wine tasting seemed like an obvious badge to start with because we both really enjoy wine and were eager to learn some fun wine facts.

You can see the Wine Badge Guide, or “recipe” for the badge here. Each Badge Guide contains three steps to be completed in order to earn the badge. These steps can be done on your own, but we encourage you to grab a few friends and learn together!

Step 1 is always focused on research. Look up the topic online, watch videos to learn a skill, or visit your local library. You can read about the resources and fun wine facts we found below.

To complete Step 1 of the badge, I dove into the research.  

What did we find out? There’s a lot to know about wine!  

I began the research step of the badge by looking into the history of wine. A simple google search led me straight to Wikipedia (of course). Wikipedia told me the earliest evidence of wine from grapes was found in China in circa 7000 BC. Other sources claim wine making started in the country of Georgia. Evidence of wine was found in the United States from circa 4100 BC.  These dates are pretty mind blowing and hard to really grasp.

The oldest bottle of wine dates to 325 AD in a museum in Speyer, Germany.

I learned that the development of pottery (e.g., terracotta clay pots) helped to spread wine making because the pots made wine easier to transport. 

The altered consciousness produced by wine has been considered religious since it’s origins. I can agree with that…as my favorite wine concoction (wine mixed with vodka) has been so named “The Magical Elixir”. Because it is simply magical!  

wine tasting

The amount of information about wine is vast and somewhat overwhelming. I quickly discovered that you could research wine for decades (like a Sommelier) and still not know everything.  P.S. a Sommelier is a fancy word for a wine expert or wine steward. I decided to focus on what I really wanted to know more about. I wondered, what makes a good wine? Does price really matter? Should I really try the rosé with the $5.99 price tag?

According to Uncorked Weekly, the combination of sun exposure, climate, soil type, and degree of the slope all determine what makes a good wine.  I also learned from Wine Enthusiast that the expense of a wine is often determined by how steep the slopes are that the grapes are grown on. An expensive wine is not always better than a cheaper bottle. And often, wines made by large companies are just as good as boutique wines.   

Drinking to one’s health began in Ancient Greece; the host drank the first cup to show they were not poisoning their guests. GOT anyone???

Something I had not considered was the shape of the glass.  Now this is getting fancy. But lucky for me the glass shape is not actually an issue that influences taste, except for when it comes to champagne which should be drank from a flute to accentuate the bubbles!  I believe I still have a few flutes from my wedding…but all the other glasses have been replaced with stemless.

wine facts, wine tasting

I enjoyed listening to several wine-themed podcasts to gather wine facts.  The Wonderful World of Wine discussed the wine industry losing consumers. Apparently lower numbers of millennials are choosing to drink wine than past generations. I found this particularly interesting as I am completing this wine badge with a millennial. Reasons discussed included:

  • Millennials being more concerned about health and wine being seen as unhealthy
  • Poor marketing
  • No wine delivery
  • Cocktail mixology and breweries being trendy
  • Wine drinking being boring because it is associated with their parents

After noticing many canned wines appearing on the shelves of grocery stores, I decided to do a little research on what exactly is up with wine in a can.  I do remember being delighted to find canned rum and coke in Paris…so maybe I should be excited about canned wine?

wine facts, wine tasting

The Wonderful World of Wine podcast stated that canned wine is mostly for summer, making wine much more portable and convenient in smaller portions. They found that canned wine is the fastest growing category in the wine industry, thanks to the millennials-who apparently love canned wine. They highly recommend pouring it into a glass, claiming a taste test proved that is how it tastes the best. But doesn’t that contradict the portable/convenience argument? Elizabeth and I tried some fancy canned wine…I am a fan.

I did unfortunately venture into wine and nutritional information.  Why are there no ingredients/calorie counts listed on wine…this seems odd? The short answer is that because beer and wine is not regulated by the FDA so the information does not have to be listed. According to the Wonderful World of Wine a 4-5 oz glass of wine can have anywhere from 80-200 calories per glass! Woah-that is quite a range. Light dry wines are lower in calories and fruity sweet wines with the most sugar contain the higher number of calories. Also, wines with higher alcohol content are also higher in calories. Ugh! So much for my belief that all wine was 100 calories a glass…

You can find wine flavored Kit Kats in Japan!

The questions that were really burning for Elizabeth included whether a glass of wine a day really keeps the doctor away and what makes a rose different from a white or a red wine

According to Wine for Normal People, people who drink moderate or light amounts of wine really do have a longer life expectancy than those who teetotal or do not drink any alcohol at all. The story quickly changes with excessive drinking however. There is also evidence that even moderate amounts of drinking can increase a person’s risk of cancer, but at the same time can lower their risk of heart disease. Sounds like a trade off, and that most research comes down on the side of drinking a little is okay and even good for your health! 

Women tend to be better at wine tasting because women generally have a better sense of smell than men!

I listened to a whole podcast on Wine for Normal People about rosé, blush, and “other pink stuff.” Turns out rosé is different from blush. Now that I know this, it feels like something I should have already known! Blush wine is a blend of white and red wine (literally poured together to make that pink color). Rosé on the other hand is made with red wine grapes but the skins are only in contact with the juice for a short amount of time. If the skins were left with the juice longer, the wine would be considered “red” but they are removed before the color gets too dark.

I learned that rosé was developed in the South of France when it was too hot to drink red wine. I also learned that the fridge is a bit too cold for serving rosé, so you should pull it out a bit before serving to let it warm up. The temperature really does affect the flavor.

Rosé is a favorite of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett! He writes about this type of wine specifically (e.g., “Turn up the heat and chill with rosé”). While working on this badge we went to a Jimmy Buffett concert and he was drinking a glass of rosé on stage!

wine tasting

I found a fascinating episode of Real Sports with Bill Maher on HBO (searching for wine on HBO’s app, otherwise I would have never found this!) on competitive wine tasting. This was eye opening. Students from Oxford and Cambridge train all year to go head to head in wine tasting competitions. This put any wine tasting I’ve ever seen or done to shame. These students can taste wine and tell you exactly where it came from in the world. They can tell the location/country, varietal of grape, region within the country, and the year it was made… just by the taste!

In this episode I learned that the hot feeling in the back of my throat that happens sometimes when I drink wine is an indicator of high alcohol content. This feeling is one way the students gather clues about the wine. To these students, having a cold (and not being able to use their nose/taste buds properly) is like tearing an ACL to other athletes. 

European wines are named after their geographical region, non-European wines named after different grape varieties.

To complete Step 2 of the badge, we learned from others

wine facts, wine tasting

Step 2 of the badge always involves learning from others. To this, we went to our local winery for a tasting and to learn about wine making in our area. Read more about our experience below. Scroll to the bottom for a video of our wine tasting reactions.

On a beautiful sunny day Elizabeth and I headed out to our local winery, Burgdorf Winery, located in Haslett, MI.  

We had a delightful time tasting 5 wines plus 2 complimentary ones. This local winery features a female vintner (i.e., a producer and/or seller of wine; yeah girl power!), all Michigan grown fruit, and grapes grown locally (even some from the Michigan State University campus just up the road).  

We learned that Michigan wine is still evolving. Our unique weather (particularly on the southwest coast) is great for grape growing. Except when it isn’t. Last year was a particularly very cold year with low snowfall which typically offers some protection to the grape’s vines. So, Michigan can be a tricky place for wineries. With that said they are popping up all over the West side of the state.  

wine facts, wine tasting

We were happy to learn that our wine steward was a vegetarian and she was happy to share some pairing knowledge with us. Spicy food is great to pair with a sweet wine. We learned more about pairings on Pinterest. She even offered us some complimentary chocolate to pair with a delicious red raspberry dessert wine.

We ended our tasting with purchasing a glass of wine and enjoying the beautiful patio area outside the winery. Out on the patio we captured our post-wine tasting reaction on video. Take a look at the wine facts we learned and how we felt about the wine below:

Of course, we had to purchase a few bottles to bring home. One of which we ended up using in Step 3 of the badge: share our new knowledge with others! 

Find out in our next post how we completed Step 3 and hosted our own wine pairing party!

Check out Pure Wow for more wine fun facts.

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