Category Archives: Wine & Wine Trivia

Information we don’t need – Wine Quiz 3 ;)

2014-01-09 16_53_43Here are some more wine related fun facts — simply fun, not necessary for¬†survival or anything serious ūüôā


Q1. Who said: “Champagne wishes, and caviar dreams”?

Q2. Which five celebrities have wine bottled under their own name?

Q3. Wine bottled by which celebrity couple won a prize in France in 2013?

Q4. Who said, “Penicillin may cure human beings, but it is wine that makes them happy”?

Q5. What would you call a person who appreciates and/or collects wine?

Drum roll, please…for the answers ūüôā

A1. Robin Leach, the entertainment celebrity reporter and writer used to wish people ‘Champagne wishes, and caviar dreams’!

A2. Francis Ford Coppola, Dan Ackroyd, Wayne Gretzky, Kyle McLaughlin, Drew Bledsoe, Mario Andretti, and Greg Norman.

A3. A ros√© wine named Jolie-Pitt & Perrin¬†C√ītes de Provence Ros√© Miraval, No. 84¬†has been placed by the renowned wine magazine Wine Spectator¬†on its list of the top 100 wines of 2013. And yes, “Jolie-Pitt” is really in the name, referring to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.¬†The wine was ranked the highest of any ros√©¬†on the list, essentially making it Wine Spectator’s best ros√© in the world.

A4. Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin. He was a Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist.

A5. An Oenophile*.

*Pronounced Een-e-file, a person who greatly loves wine and studies it.


Here’s more from the ‘wine napkins’ :)

2014-01-09 16_53_57The first quiz from my newly bought ‘wine quiz paper napkins appeared on January 9 — you may look for it if you missed it. Here’s the second one, five questions and five answers :)!

Q1. What’s the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?

Q2. Is sherry made from white grapes or red?

Q3. What does the term ‘blanc de noir’ refer to?

Q4. What country has the largest per capita wine consumption?

Q5. What do ‘rabbit’ and ‘butterfly’ refer to in the world of wine?

And here ladies and gentlemen, are the answers ūüôā

A1. Syrah is the grape name used in France, Europe and USA — Shiraz is what it is referred to in Australia, Canada and South Africa.

A2. White grapes.

A3. White wine made from red or black grapes.

A4. Hold your breath — The Vatican ūüôā

A5. These are two different kinds of bottle-openers ūüôā

Enjoy :)! Tchin tchin, Cheers, Sant√©, Salud ūüôā


How many grapes in a bottle of wine?

2014-01-09 16_53_57On my recent trip to California I walked into a housewares store and found some very interesting and funny paper napkins. One¬†of these¬†had two wine-related¬†queries and answers on each napkin, with a total of 40 questions in the packet of 20 napkins. What fun, I thought, and bought them for the Wine and Wine Trivia category of this blog! Here’s a quiz for wine lovers, from this set of napkins. The questions are in the first part, the answers in the second¬†— and you guessed right that there’ll be more such quizzes, from these napkins! Enjoy ūüôā

Q1. What’s the average number of grapes required to make a bottle of wine?

Q2. How many varieties of wine grapes exist in the world?

Q3. How many bubbles are there in a bottle of champagne?

Q4. What 3 types of grapes are used for sparkling wine and champagne production?

Q5. What is “plonk”?

2014-01-09 16_53_43


A1. About 600-800.

A2. 10,000 documented; 230 used.

A3. 49 million bubbles ūüôā

A4. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier.

A5. Inexpensive or poor quality wine.

I hope you’re happy that you’re smarter now, than when you started reading this post, even¬†if it’s¬†only wine-related information ūüėČ — and if your score was 0, please don’t be mad and serve me ‘plonk’ when I next see you ūüėČ


Wine snob no more…

2013-12-12 15_28_45There was a time I used to think¬†that since there’s so much to know and learn about wine, I might as well stick with French wines only and not waste my time and money on any other kind. French wines were¬†supposed to be the best, right? So, why bother with what else was out there! For years I was faithful to this idea till I took a series of wine appreciation courses. I still remember the introductory course I went for. It consisted of a series of five mini-courses on the Old World (from Europe)¬†and the New World (from¬†Australia, New Zealand,¬†Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and United States)¬†wines. I was pretty astonished at the quality out there, and there was no looking back for me. Gone was my stuffy attitude¬†and as¬†I moved past ‘drinking only French’, I started looking for the good value table wines.

2013-12-12 15_29_49One such that I found is the Portuguese D√£o Meia Encosta. Here’s a close up of the label of the wine I had yesterday,¬†so you can see and appreciate the Portuguese accents on the words :)! D√£o is a Portuguese wine region situated in the Regi√£o Demarcada do¬†D√£o in¬†the D√£o-Laf√Ķes sub region of the Centro, Portugal.¬†It is one of the oldest established wine regions in Portugal.Wine prices in Quebec tend to be much higher than in the other Canadian provinces, in the U.S. and Europe. Despite that, at CA$11.50 this is¬†wonderful spicy¬†wine to drink with meals. It is ruby red, and on the nose are hints of cherries, mint, cinnamon, and pepper. It has enough tannins to beautifully round it off.

Recommended food pairings are grilled meats, chicken, fish, medium cheeses and I would add grilled vegetables to the range. On your next visit to the liquor store, remember to bring home a bottle. When you’re having one of the above mentioned dishes, cool the bottle to 12 – 16 degrees, decant for about 20 – 30 minutes and you’re all set to enjoy a very lovely wine. Saude!*

*Saude, pronounced ‘sah-oo jee’ is ‘Cheers’ in Portuguese ūüôā


Folk Medicine and Cures

Spent time this afternoon with a friend and our conversation about our wine and beer preferences turned to folk medicine. The term folk medicine* refers to healing practices known to a limited section of the population in a culture. This knowledge is then transmitted as general knowledge, and practiced by other people in the culture.

We actually started off by talking about the efficacy of¬†the combination of brandy, honey and hot water for¬†the common¬†cold, and I discovered that here in Quebec they¬†use something called a ‘ponce’, a combination of¬†gin, honey and hot water.

One thing led to another and he told me that here in Quebec,¬†one well-known cold cure, which was also¬†a tonic and¬†a pick-me-up, and a¬†preventive, used to be the placing of a kidney of a beaver in a bottle of gin (rognon de castor et gin), leaving it for a few days and then¬†drinking¬†this concoction. As mentioned, it served as¬†a tonic, and I imagine as a¬†cure for many¬†real or imagined health issues :)! Pretty wild, don’t you think?! And, he said, since beavers eat wood, this beaver-kidney and gin concoction smelled heavily of the¬†freshly peeled bark of a tree.¬†I’ll be sharing more such stories¬†in the coming weeks! ūüôā

*Folk medicine may also be referred to as Traditional Medicine, Indigenous Medicine, Natural medicine etc.


Must-know wine facts :)


  • “Beer before wine? Nein, nein!” This funny sounding expression means, don’t drink beer just¬†before wine :)! Nein, means ‘No’ in German. Strong¬†tasting drinks and high percentage alcohol are not drunk just before wines, because the taste buds¬†are not able to discern and appreciate soon after, the¬†aromas* and bouquet** of wines, a discernment which is a very important¬†part of the enjoyment of wine-drinking.


  • Another wise quip goes, “Rouge avant le blanc, ne bouge pas!” This translates from¬†French to mean, don’t drink red wines before white — for the same reason as described above. Red wines, with their tannins***, and a¬†more robust taste, would overpower the more¬†delicate¬†whites if drunk first. First white, then red, always! The exception are the sweet white wines that¬†accompany desserts or drunk on their own as dessert.


  • There¬†IS a right and wrong way to hold a wine glass. Wine glasses should always be held by the stem and not the bowl because the heat of the hand will raise the temperature of the wine in the glass. This is especially true of white wines. Anyone who knows anything about wines will NEVER hold a wine¬†glass from the bowl — if you want to look knowledgeable about wines, pay attention to how you’re holding¬†your glass ;)! The picture alongside is very feminine, but the rule applies to men too ;)…and I have this from my wine instructor…
  • Then there’s the person known as the¬†“cork-tease” — this is someone who’s always talking about a fine bottle of wine he/she will open, but never does ūüôā

*The word ‘aroma’ is used for the fragrance of young wines

**The word ‘bouquet’ is used for the fragrance of mature wines

***Tannins, through their astringent taste, are what make the gums tingle and the¬†mouth dry and puckerish when you take a sip of red wine. Tannins are very important to red wine, providing, color, flavor and structure and acting¬†as a preservative. Often, wines with heavy tannins are meant to be aged or ‚Äúcellared‚ÄĚ for some time. This makes the tannins mellow out,¬†enhancing the wine‚Äôs body and flavor. A good example is the Bordeaux wines, which may be “cellared”


Melted cheese — Ooooh :)

It was in¬†a certain¬†inflight magazine, during a certain flight taken some years ago that I¬†read a food¬†article with interviews with a few chefs. One of them said that all restaurants have¬†at least one dish with melted cheese on their menu,¬†and this was the most popular dish of all. Being a huge melted cheese lover myself, I wasn’t surprised to see this information and yet it WAS new information, vis a vis restaurant menus¬†ūüôā


In trying to find out why, I stumbled upon the Popular Science website and this is what they say about this phenomenon, in an article titled: ‘Why does cheese taste better when melted?’ The writer says the reason is mainly how it feels in the mouth. Melted cheese has a creamy texture which most people find very appealing, and the warmth of the cheese adds to the taste.


All together,¬†the sensations associated with melted cheese‚ÄĒsmoothness, gooeyness, and warmth‚ÄĒspeak of a fatty delight…and¬†humans love fat :)! Ivan de Ara√ļjo, a researcher at Yale, has studied how the nervous system responds to fatty foods. He says, “Receptors in our mouths are keyed in to the texture of oily, calorie-dense foods.” This sort of food, evidently soothes the nervous system, and in today’s world, and our fast-paced life our nervous systems can use all the help they can get from us! Everyone, agree? ūüėČ

I don’t know about you all but writing this post has got me craving a dish with melted cheese! There’s none at home, so I’ll just have to go and eat out ūüėČ — nice excuse, eh?

Do be sure to get white wine to drink with warm or hot melted cheese dishes. That’s my preference at least…so, until you experiment and find other wines to go with melted cheese dishes, just trust this choice ;)! You won’t be sorry…


How to ‘do’ wine :)

I recently saw this¬†joke: My grandmother is amazing. She’s 80 and doesn’t need glasses. She drinks her wine straight from the bottle!

Funny, yes, but don’t even think about it…about putting your mouth to a wine bottle! This precious liquid needs special treatment — for serving, and drinking it! Although wine is not meant to be pampered,¬†but giving some care to how it is served and drunk, will greatly enhance its taste and the enjoyment of the process of drinking it.


Here are a few quick tips on what to pay attention to:

  • Temperature Red wine definitely has most flavor when served at, or just below, room temperature. White and Ros√© wines should be chilled, but not in the freezer. If you want to get really technical, sweet whites should be served colder than dry whites.
  • Glasses Generally speaking the glass should be bowl shaped and taper at the top to hold the fragrance of the wine which is very much a part of the drinking sensation. Never fill a wine glass to the top, only serve two-thirds to leave room for the bouquet, and pour more as necessary. Do try and drink wine out of as fine a glass as you can get hold of…try it and feel the difference in the taste. No, I’m not exaggerating ūüėČ
  • Admire the color Hold the glass up to the light and admire the color. No matter which wine it is, the color should be clear.
  • Start by sniffing Bring the nose close to the glass, or put it¬†into the glass,¬†take a strong whiff, or a few, and try and name as many flavors as come to mind. With different wines these will be as varied as aromas of red berries, dark berries, different fruits, herbs, soil, dank leaves and undergrowth, leather, petroleum and many more.
  • Now swirl After sniffing, swirl the wine in the glass and try a few more times to identify¬†some more¬†aromas.
  • How to drink it Wine is not meant to be sipped like sherry. Take a decent-sized mouthful, try not to swallow it straight away and give your taste buds a chance to go to work.

And lastly, don’t get overwhelmed by the wine culture,¬†the vocabulary and the mystique that surrounds it. After all, it is meant for drinking and for¬†enjoying the experience — slowly develop your own palate and determine your own¬†preference of¬†wines you like to drink, and then experiment with the foods you’d like it¬†to accompany.


Tips to enjoy Indian Food

Our world is¬†very small today, and for some of us, almost microscopic! Several reasons for this are travel, technology, and some¬†people have¬†the¬†good fortune to live in¬†countries with immigrants of many different nationalities — which of course means exposure to their food through their¬†restaurants.¬†As a gastronome, a lover of fine foods, I try to¬†find out as much as I can¬†about food I want to try and¬†its eating practices, before indulging in the experience. I have found, however, most people don’t do this and therefore their experiences¬†can be very varied.¬†A case in point is Indian cuisine — lots of people find it too spicy when in actual fact¬†they didn’t eat¬†the dishes the¬†right way.


Before I explain more, let me point out that for geographical and historical reasons, Indians have a huge range of spices used in their food. Also, spice is not the same as chilies — what adds heat to the food is the latter, the spices just perfume the food — the spice box on the left is a part of EVERY Indian kitchen — but all¬†that’s for another post. For now just know that if you are new at trying Indian food it is prudent to¬†request the restaurant to modify the ‘heat factor’ by adjusting the chillies,¬†as I do whenever I visit either an Indian or a Schezwanese resto.


Back to the original reason for the post, which is to share some helpful tips to enjoy your meal at an Indian resto:

  • Indian food is not meant to be eaten one dish at a time,¬†putting a spoonful of one item into¬†your mouth, as we do with most other cuisines. There¬†is always at least one sauce-based dish…this is added to the rice in spoonfuls, and it is this¬†mixture that is eaten. This also¬†cuts the ‘heat’ and it is thus easy to control the amount of the ‘hotness’ ūüôā


  • Always order a side dish of yogurt. Add to the rice separately or to the above mixture, to tone down the ‘heat’. Or simply eat some if the mouth feels on fire ;)! This is better than drinking gallons of water and filling your stomach up with it.
  • The Indian bread is broken into¬†pieces, these are wrapped around the vegetables or dipped in sauce and then eaten. Again, this too¬†tones the ‘heat’ down.


  • Feel free to eat the starters of¬†‘samosas’ and the pakoras/onion bhaji’ as served in most restos, but there are no¬†starters or aperitifs¬†to an Indian meal.¬†Samosas and pakoras are teatime snacks. The trangular pieces in the picture on the right are ‘samosas’ and the others are ‘pakoras’. also called ‘bhajis’.
  • Traditionally no alcoholic drinks are served with Indian food, but this custom has slowly changed outside India. Because beer is a popular drink in India, many people started drinking it with Indian food, but through my experience I have discovered and light to medium-bodies wines pair well with Indian food. Therefore I would recommend merlots and pinot noirs for perfect pairings!

Before an Indian meal, there’s no tradition of saying ‘ Bon appetit’ or raising a glass and saying ‘sant√©’ or ‘cheers’, but it is¬†completely appropriate to say ‘Dhanyavad’* (Hindi), and/or ‘Shukriya’ (Urdu, Arabic) to your host/hostess at the start and after¬†the meal to thank them for their hospitality!

Dhanyavad, for reading my post! ūüôā

*Dhanyvad is pronounced dan-ya-vaad — this is the closest I can get, since their are more letters of the alphabet in Hindi and some sounds don’t exist in English!


Know your wine grapes (5) — Pinot Noir

The name of these grapes has an interesting story! The first part, ‘pinot’ alludes to the French¬†word for a pine tree, which is ‘pin’. Now what has a pine tree got to do with these grapes? Well,¬†nothing much, except that these grapes grow in a bunch that¬†is shaped somewwhat¬†like a pine cone! The second word noir means black, which alludes to the color of these grapes ūüôā — so there you have it, Pinot Noir*!


These grapes happen to be amongst the most famous ones¬†grown in France, and now¬†all over the world, growing mostly in cooler climates.¬†They bring us some of the best known wines, and are¬†needed in the production of champagne, to be blended with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.¬†When produced as a¬†varietal wine it’s color is much¬†lighter in than other red wines, and the wine is lighter to medium bodied.¬†The Burgundy region of France is the home of Pinot Noir, especially the C√īte d’Or. Hard to always describe, they have an aroma of red and black berry fruits.


To the right are harvested bunches, waiting to be turned into wine!

They are thin-skinned and delicate grapes needing very exact growing conditions which prompted Andr√© Tchelistcheff, America’s most influential winemaker to say: “God made Cabernet Sauvignon, whereas the devil made Pinot Noir!”¬†And which wine lover hasn’t seen or heard about the movie, ‘Sideways’,¬†that tribute to Pinot Noir!


*The pronunciation of the words Pinot Noir is ‘Pino Nwar’