Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray

Welcome back to this month’s, “you ask and I’ll answer.” For new column readers, you can find me at Michael@PassionVines.com. I welcome you to email me with any wine related questions, and I will use this monthly column to answer them. While I will not be able to answer them all here, I do promise to always provide an answer via email.

Q: Ann Marie from Somers Point asks, “I have trouble distinguishing between a sweet wine and a fruity wine. Any tips?”

A: Fielding wine questions for the past 14 years, not to mention being mindful of my own journey, I can relate and attest that this is a profound discovery on your way to understanding wine. I have two answers: first, drink a sweet wine and fruity wine (preferably both white, or both red) next to one another. A side-by-side comparison is the single best educational move you can make. I promise you will have an “aha” moment! Secondly, and scientifically, it is important to understand your tongue and its taste receptors. For instance, did you know that the tip of your tongue is where you will learn if a wine is dry or sweet? On your next sip, give it a try. If you think you struggle with interpreting the difference here (or any other topic for that matter), you’re not alone. Remember, one of the best things about wine is the connection and conversation you have with whomever you’re drinking with. Speak up, ask a question and drink more confidently.

Q: Tom M. from Mays Landing asks, “What’s the skinny on Rosé wine? Is it all sweet?”

A: Great question, Tom! Rosé wine is a style of wine that has been on a major growth spurt for the last five years. It use to be that anything pink found in a store or on a restaurant wine list was white zinfandel. Now, rosé (or pink) wine is being produced in every major wine producing region in the world, from just about every grape variety too. Technically, all red wine gets its color from its skins. The degree of color, how light or how dark, comes from two factors: the type of varietal and the amount of time the grape skins stay in contact with their juices (aka, maceration). In rosé wine, the maceration time is limited, thus leaving the wine with a pink color. As you examine the sea of rosé wine on the shelf, keep this concept in mind as you note the full spectrum of the color pink. Now, to answer your question no, not all rosé wine is sweet. In fact, the growth of the past five years I speak of is 100 percent dry wine. But again, it’s important to refer back to our first question: dry does not mean without fruit. It just means not sweet. Most quality rosé wine produced today is of the dry category, but offering a wide spectrum of fruit. One tip to note: the darker the pink hue usually indicates a fruiter wine.

Q: My husband and I are hosting a dinner party next month. We have no idea what kind of wine they drink, or if they drink at all. What would you serve?

A: We’ve all been there ... wanting to be the best host ever, serving wine and food that our guests rave about for months and maybe even years to come. In this case, it sounds like a “first date” with your guests and a wine strategy is much needed. My first question to you is, “what do you drink?” Is there a style and/or category that you’re really passionate about? If yes, serve it! When a host is passionate about something, it makes me, “want what you’re having!” Secondly, what are you serving? If we don’t know this, my general rule of thumb would be: a sparkling, a dry white, a medium bodied red and something sweet, that could satisfy the sweet drinker as well as a general dessert pairing (like an Oderro Moscato). This strategy could be accomplished for approximately $15 per bottle. Lastly, don’t forget to ask your local store if they accept returns. When in doubt, buy more, and return what you don’t open. Your guests will love you!

Lastly, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize.

Q: What does vintage mean on a wine bottle?

a. The year the winemaker decided to make wine

b. The year the wine was bottled

c. They year the grapes were harvested

You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing …

Drink Passionately,


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