Wine Tasting & Wine FAQs
What’s the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio? What are lees? What should I pair with a steak dinner? We’ve got answers for all your questions in our wine FAQ. If you don’t see the information you’re looking for, feel free to contact us. Or come down for a tasting and ask your question in person—just don’t be surprised if you leave with a bottle of wine or two!
They’re both made from the same grape! The white grape has greyish skin, and gris means grey in French. To make French-style Pinot Gris, the grapes are often harvested later and crafted to be more full-bodied and rich tasting. In contrast, Italian-style Pinot Grigio is often made from earlier-harvested grapes and is lighter and more floral in nature.
Surprise—it’s Merlot! The unique terroir of the Okanagan produces a Merlot that’s different from anywhere else in the world. In other countries, Merlot is thought of as a lighter, softer wine. In BC, you can often get richly flavoured, medium to full bodied Merlots.
Many rose wines, including ours, are made from red grapes. The grapes are crushed and fermented with skin contact (allowing the grape skins to mingle with the juice). Once the winemaker is happy with the colour and flavour, the skins are removed and the wine is left to ferment the rest of the way. This gives the wine its delicate pink colour.
Meritage is a particular style of wine made by blending grapes. The wine can be made of any combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Gros Verdot, St. Macaire, or Carmenere. Meritage is made from the words “merit” and “heritage,” and is pronounced the same as “heritage.” No French accent required!
As wine ages, the fermentation process turns the fruit sugars into alcohol. In addition, oxygen reacts with the wine to develop its flavours and make it taste rich and complex. Oak barrels impart some of their natural aromas and taste elements to the wine. Because oak barrels are not airtight, they also allow oxygen to flow into the wine, making it softer and mellower.
Yes! Red wine benefits the most from the long, oxygenated aging process that comes with oak barrels. White wines generally require less aging, and because they have no tannins (which come from the red grape skins), they don’t require oxygenation. Stainless steel casks allow the wine to ferment and stabilize without the cost of an oak barrel. But some whites, notably Chardonnay, are also aged in oak to create their unique flavours.
Lees are the leftover deposits of yeast and precipitate (particles) that remain after fermentation. Many wines are transferred to new containers once the lees have settled, a process we call racking. Other wines, especially Chardonnay and Champagne, are left to age sur lie (“on the lees”) to develop that delicious yeasty, bready character.
Generally, no. Though some winemakers use fruit other than grapes, most of the fruity notes you can taste in wines are from phenols. Phenols are chemical compounds that affect the way you taste a wine. They come from the grape, the soil, the type of barrel used, the yeast, the aging process, and a hundred other tiny factors. At Platinum Bench, we make our wine only from grapes.
For beginner tasters, try this three-step process. First, look at the wine. Note its colour, look for sediment, and see how it moves in the glass. Second, smell the wine. Smell it first with your mouth closed, then again with your mouth open. Notice a difference? See if you can detect any particular aromas, such as fruits or flowers. Third, sip the wine. Take a small sip at first and roll it around in your mouth. Take a second sip and note how the taste is different. Finally, take a third sip and you should get the full character of the wine.
You can (and should!) swirl your red wine samples to get extra oxygen moving through the wine. Aeration helps the wine “breathe” and develop its full flavour. For white wines, you won’t notice much of a difference from swirling, but it doesn’t hurt. The only wine you shouldn’t swirl is sparkling wine—you’ll crush the bubbles!
Here’s a secret—there’s no such thing as “good wine” and “bad wine.” Oh sure, industry pros like us can talk for hours about what makes good wine good, and competitions are held all over the world to find the best wines. In the end, though, whatever you enjoy is the best wine. Try different varietals and explore new flavours. You might find a surprising favourite!
“Legs” is the term for the rivulets of wine that run down your wineglass after you tilt it. Some wines have faster legs, others have slower ones. It used to be thought that the viscosity of wine legs could tell you about the sugar content or quality of wine, but that myth has been fairly thoroughly debunked. Don’t worry about the legs, just enjoy the wine!
Beyond saying “thank you” at the bar (which we love to hear!), post a picture of your wine tasting on social media and tag the winery. You can also tip your taster, if allowed (some wineries accept tips, others don’t). We love it when guests tell their friends to come visit. And we always appreciate reviews left on your favourite review site!