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Answer: False.

Although we sometimes use the terms taste and flavor interchangeably, taste is different from flavor. The world of taste encompasses just five concepts: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami. (A possible sixth taste—kokumi—has also been identified.) Wine can possess any of these five tastes, including saltiness, although there’s only a miniscule amount of actual salt—sodium chloride—in wine.

Flavor, as distinguished from taste, is a larger cognitive concept. Flavor is comprised of taste plus aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, and even sound. Certain colors, for example, are associated with certain flavors (it’s well documented that red correlates with sweetness; why else would the can of a famous cola be red?). And sensory scientists attribute some of the flavor of Champagne to its wonderful breathy sound.

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Answer: False.

Ok, this was a tricky one. In general, the vintage listed on any wine bottle refers to the year when the grapes were harvested.  But eiswein (or icewine in English), made from grapes frozen naturally on the vine, is an exception. Grapes for eiswein are sometimes harvested in January of the next year. In this case, the vintage on the bottle would be the previous year, the primary year in which the grapes were grown.

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Answer: False.

Maderization and oxidation are not the same. During maderization, wine is intentionally heated in a process known as estufagem, either in large vats or in barrels inside a heated, sauna-like room. The term comes from the word Madeira, a wine which is fortified, oxidized, maderized, and then aged, often for a long period. Oxidized simply implies that the wine has been exposed to oxygen, but not heat.

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Answer: False.

While it’s true that wineries must state an amount of alcohol, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the percentage stated. In the U.S., wines containing 14% or less alcohol, can be labeled plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. So that “light, elegant” wine you bought which was labeled 12.5 percent alcohol could actually contain 14%. For wines over 14% alcohol, a 1% variance is allowed. So, a wine labeled 14.5% alcohol, could contain 15.5%. No wine (except for fortified wines) is ever over about 16.5% alcohol because at that concentration, yeasts die from the very alcohol they are making, preventing them from making more.

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Answer: True.

But I wouldn’t do it with an old or fragile wine. Wine can be chilled down in the freezer quickly, but since its mostly made out of water, (roughly 84% to 88% H2O), it can freeze. The alcohol content in wine (generally between 11% and 15% abv) causes wine’s freezing temperature to be considerably lower than water, still it’s best not to leave a bottle in the freezer for more than 30-40 minutes. Flavors and aromas in wine may be altered if a wine is accidently frozen, and worse yet, the wine can expand in the bottle and explode if its left for too long.

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Answer: False.

The complex and painstaking process by which Champagnes are made involves a second fermentation during which natural carbon dioxide gas is trapped inside each bottle ultimately creating Champagne’s bubbles. To be labelled Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine must also be made by the método tradicional, (the Spanish terminology for secondary fermentation in individual bottles). However, a vast majority of Proseccos from Italy are made by the Charmat process, whereby the second, bubble-inducing fermentation takes place relatively quickly inside large tanks (not in each bottle).

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Answer: False.

While it’s true that some sommeliers are credentialed by certifying bodies such as the Master Sommelier organization, a sommelier does not have to be certified to work in restaurants or other establishments. Indeed, many well-known sommeliers are not officially certified, even though their knowledge of wine is immense.

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Answer: True.

True, but not by much. On average, the Columbia Valley in eastern Washington receives 7 inches of rain per year, Phoenix averages 8.03 inches.  Western Washington, near Seattle and the Pacific Coast, receive 40 to 140 inches. Were it not for the Columbia, the Yakima, the Snake, and the Walla Walla rivers, eastern Washington would be extremely dry. The irrigation from those river valleys has transformed the vast expanse into hauntingly beautiful rangeland, wheat fields, orchards, and of course— vineyards.

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Answer: False.

That would be almonds. There are 1.3 million acres of almonds in the state. Grapes come in second with 844,000 acres. In 2021, California’s grape acreage declined slightly, while nut crops—almonds, walnuts, and pistachios—all saw acreage increases.  For as delicious and nutritious as nuts are, there’s a big downside here. Unlike grapes, nut crops require copious amounts of water. It’s nuts that the state now in a mega drought (defined as a drought that lasts for decades) continues to promote water-guzzling crops.

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Answer: False.

When a wine is described as tasting buttery, that flavor came, not from the barrels, but from malolactic fermentation. What happens is simple: malic acid in the wine is converted to lactic acid. Why do we care? Because malic acid has a tart mouthfeel (it’s the crunchy acid in a crisp green apple). Lactic acid, on the other hand, has a mouthfeel that is much softer (it’s the leading acidity in milk). Thus, malolactic fermentation dramatically changes the way a wine feels on the palate. A wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation has a texture that’s creamier than the wine would have otherwise been.  The story doesn’t stop there. During malolactic fermentation, a by-product called diacetyl is produced. Diacetyl is the molecule that makes butter taste buttery. So, wines that have experienced malolactic fermentation—like Chardonnay—are often taste buttery. As an aside, there are technique winemakers can use to lessen the buttery flavor (if they want to).

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Answer: True.

A grape berry is made up of 75% pulp, 20% skin, and 5% seeds (there are usually two to five of them). Pulp is the soft, juicy center of the grape, and is what will become the wine. It’s the sugar in the pulp that is crucial to winemaking, since it’s the sugar that will be converted to alcohol.

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Answer: False.

There are approximately 300 species of oak that grow around the world. Three main types are used in winemaking. They are the American oak Quercus alba (mainly from the Midwest) and the French oaks Quercus robur and Quercus sessiliflora (aka Quercus petraea.) While most French oak is from France, the two species of oak grown in France also grow in Austria, Hungary, and other parts of eastern Europe. Highly sought-after oak barrels are now made with wood from those countries as well.  The flavor American oak imparts to wine is different from the flavor French oak imparts. American oak is heavier, denser, and less porous than French oak. It tends to be less tannic and have more pronounced vanilla and sometimes coconut-like flavors. French oak is more subtle in terms of flavor, somewhat more tannic, and allows for slightly greater—but still limited—ingress of oxygen. Neither type of oak is necessarily better than the other, in the same way that basil isn’t necessarily better than rosemary.

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Answer: True.

Ireland, Scotland, and Canada all have laws that set a minimum price for wine, beer, and spirits. In Ireland, where new, higher minimum pricing was just enacted, a bottle of wine (with 12.5% alcohol or more) now must be sold for at least $8.40, a can of beer for $1.93, and a bottle of spirits for $23.52.

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Answer: True.

Carbonic maceration can lead to very juicy, fruity wines with almost candied flavors—a wine drinker’s flashback to bubble gum and strawberry Kool-Aid. The carbonic process involves whole clusters of grapes being loaded into a vat which is then sealed, and CO2 gas is pumped in, replacing any oxygen. All of the grapes in the tank begin to ferment from the inside (intercellular fermentation) in the anaerobic environment. Under this tremendous pressure, they burst open, releasing their juices. At this point, yeasts take over and finish the job.

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Answer: False.

The “scion” is the upper part of the plant which is grafted to rootstock. The genetic offspring of a mother vine is called a clone. All clones have the same DNA as their mother vine because cultivated grapevines are reproduced by cuttings (not from seed.)

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Answer: False.

Champagne is the largest producing 60% of all French sparkling wine (330 million bottles annually.) Alsace places second producing 6% of the sparkling wine overall production (roughly 35 million bottles a year.) Most sparklers from Alsace are labeled Crémant d’Alsace, and are made from Pinot Blanc, even though Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir grapes are allowed.