Hundreds of thousands of wines are made from thousands of different grape varieties, from many corners of the world and using techniques that have gradually evolved over the centuries.
With such a wide range of products and styles in the world of wine, it goes without saying there are no stupid questions.
With that in mind, I set about plucking a few of the most common questions thrown in my direction to answer in this space. As always, feel free to send me any wine-related questions you might have...
How long will a wine keep once it's opened?
A wine begins to change almost as soon as the bottle is opened, but generally speaking 3-5 days is as long as you'll want to keep a bottle of wine once opened. Even before Day 5 the wine will pick up acidic/oxidative notes, and the fruit flavours will start to get a little tired.
You might squeeze an extra day or two by sticking the bottle in the fridge (reds too -- just let them warm up before serving).
While there are various vacuum-pump systems you can get, most don't make much of a difference. Some products such as Private Preserve, which sells for around $20 at kitchen stores or private wine shops, use argon gas to force oxygen out of the bottle, allowing open wine to keep for an extra week or two.
I found a bottle of wine from 2006 in my cupboard. Is it still any good?
Probably not. Ninety-five per cent of wines are meant to be drunk within about 12-18 months of the vintage date on the label. Do a bit of research online -- if your wine costs less than about $40, it's probably too old.
But there's really only one way to tell -- pop it open and give it a try. You're not doing the wine any favours by keeping it for any longer. If it's over the hill it'll probably taste a bit like vinegar, but you never know -- the odd bottle might surprise you and still have some life left.
Regardless, rest assured: a bottle of wine that's too old won't hurt you or make you sick. If it's vinegar, dump it and chalk it up as a learning experience.
What temperature should I serve my wine at?
Generally speaking, the lighter the colour of wine the colder it should be. Sparkling wine as well as lighter whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and such should be chilled right down, while deeper-coloured whites such as Chardonnay, Viognier and the like should be served a touch warmer -- take them out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Light reds such as Gamay and Pinot Noir will be well-served by 15 minutes in the fridge, while big, full-bodied reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, etc.) can be served at room temperature.
Having said that, "room temperature" in the world of wine is typically 16-18 C -- cooler than most houses. So chilling a big red for 10 minutes or so can't hurt, and in fact might bring those mouth-drying tannins into balance.
SUMMERHILL PYRAMID WINERY NV CIPES BRUT
(Okanagan Valley, B.C. -- $34.42, Liquor Marts and beyond)
If you don't believe the label that this bubbly has been "pyramid-cellared," rest assured, it has -- I've been in Summerhill's pyramid (yes, they have their own) and seen the stuff aging for myself. Whatever happens in there, it's resulted in some killer bubbly that's racked up awards across Canada. A Riesling-Chardonnay blend, there's plenty of red-apple notes to go along with tangerine, floral, fresh lemon and toasty aromas. Light-bodied and crisp on the palate with the faintest hint of sweetness, there's an elegance to the Cipes' ripe fruit and secondary mineral/toasty/floral notes. Excellent. (You should visit this winery if you're in the Okanagan.) 4/5
VIÑA MAIPO 2012 VITRAL CARMENERE
(Rapel Valley, Chile -- $12.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
The leafy, bell-pepper and milk-chocolate notes Carmenère often delivers are certainly here on the nose of the Vitral, along with tart blackberry and raspberry. The leafy/herbal notes on this medium-bodied red continue on the palate, with the berry flavours taking a back seat, coming through almost jammier than ripe. There's some light tannin, which, when combined with the bell-pepper notes, makes me think fajitas. 2.5/5
CANTINE LENTO 2011 DRAGONE SELEZIONE ROSSO
(Calabria, Italy -- around $18, private wine stores)
The grapes on this Italian red blend are Magliocco, Greco Nero and Nerello -- not exactly household names this far from the Mediterranean. Leather, plum, black cherry, lacquer and peppery aromas are plenty interesting and fairly complex. A dry, medium-plus bodied red, the Dragone has some modest tannin. Combined with the rustic flavour profile of this wine -- cherry skins, white pepper, tobacco leaf and mocha -- there's structure and grip on the palate as ripe plum and blueberry flavours emerge. 3/5