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Thoughts for an old dog … and more
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Thoughts for an old dog … and more

Thoughts for an old dog … and more

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Michael Bray

Welcome back to this month’s “you ask and I’ll answer.” For those of you just tuning in, you can find me at 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 all of them in print, I do promise to always provide an answer via email. This month we talk wine education, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Shiraz and the Downbeach Seafood Fest.

Q: Sharon from Linwood asks, “Petit Sirah and Syrah — same thing or not? Oh, and what’s the deal with Shiraz? Lol.”

A: No, they are not the same thing. Let me first begin with some clarification: Petite Sirah [peh-TEET sih-RAH] and Petite Syrah [peh-TEET see-RAH] are the same varietal. Also important to note is that Syrah (Rhone Valley, France) and Shiraz (Australia) are the same varietal, only grown in different parts of the world. The main takeaway here is that Petite Sirah and Syrah (or Shiraz as you now know) are different grape varieties altogether. We’re talking apples and oranges here. Petite Sirah, grown mainly in California, delivers flavors of plum, blueberry, dark chocolate, black pepper and black tea. It is one of the deepest, most opaque red wines in the world. As always, the best way to learn, is to drink – I highly recommend you grab a bottle of Petite Sirah (from Lodi region in California) and Syrah (from the Rhone Valley, France) and you be the judge. Thanks Sharon!

Q: Diane M. from Galloway asks, “I love wine … but I struggle to communicate what I like. My kids make fun of me. What are your thoughts for an old dog?”

A: “Old dog” is nonsense! You’ve got this, Diane. There are three things that you can do to accelerate your wine IQ: (1) drink. Sounds silly and perhaps obvious, but I would challenge you to do so mindfully and with a companion. Often we drink with little to no intention, other than finishing what’s in the glass. As you begin to set your intention, to understand the components of what’s in your glass, you will bring an awareness and a beginner’s mind to the task. Having a wine buddy will challenge your point of view and ultimately your pallet. (2) language. You may find yourself stuck, uncertain what to say or how to describe what you’re tasting. Every subject has its own language, and wine is no different. Use the following vocab to evaluate wine. For each, ask yourself if it’s high, medium or low: Residual Sugar (RS): this will tell you if the wine is dry or sweet and will be detected on the tip of your tongue and typically within the first 10 seconds of sipping the wine; Acid: typically detected on the sides of your tongue. Too high and it will be too tart. Too low and the wine will be to flabby; Fruit: this can be detected on the nose and on the finish. Overall, would you say the wine is fruity or earthy?; Tannin: this is felt more than it’s tasted. It is a mouth puckering sensation that often results in structure and complexity; Body: think milk. Skim (light), 1% (medium) and 2% (full). How would you classify the body (or weight) of the wine you’re drinking? (3) read: which is a perfect Segway into Jon’s question below…

Q: Jon from Sea Isle City asks, “What’s a good wine book?”

A: Jon, I love that you’re thinking along these lines. For a quick reference book I would suggest, Wine Folly, The Essential Guide To Wine by Madeline Puckette & Justin Hammack. For a deeper dive, try The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. Both are timeless and will serve you well on your wine journey.

Lastly, I close with a plug: This weekend, my Team and I will produce two events at the Downbeach Seafood Fest, held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18 and 19 at Ski Beach in Ventnor. Join us for “30 Minutes to Wine Mastery,” each day at 3 p.m.

You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing…

Drink Passionately,



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