I have heard a lot that people seem to think that a bottle of wine with a screw cap lack quality or thats a sign that the wine is cheap. Well, I will disagree.

When we think of opening a wine bottle, we automatically picture pulling out a cork with a cork pull. Somehow opening a screw cap seems strange and less enjoyable. But does that make the wine in any way worse? The truth is that most of the time screw caps are better and a lot cheaper to produce. That leads us to another question: “Why use corks at all then?” Well, I'll try to explain.

Corks have been used since the beginning of wine production of modern Europe and are still used today. The problem is that the tree’s bark that is used to produce the corks is a slowly renewable resource and therefore expensive. Also 3%-5% natural cork bottles are spoiled due to the cork drying out or of too much of oxidation. This will never happen with screw caps.

So why are natural corks used? The answer is - for aging. When wine is aged in a bottle for many years, it needs to breath. This is not possible with screw caps. If the wine is not aged and is supposed to be consumed within a few years after bottling, the screw cap is a lot better. It’s as simple as that!

Screw caps where first used in the New World. New Zealand was the first to use them and Australia came second and so on. The Old World (European) producers where hesitant, but have started to use them as well.

For those who say that only cheap wines have a screw cap, well, the high-end Napa Valley winery Plumpjack put half its $150 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 in screw caps. A few major American producers, including Pepi, Bonny Doon, and Hogue, are using screw caps. Europeans are more hesitant, but Gunderloch, in Germany, and Bordeaux's venerable André Lurton, are leading proponents for this closure.

Today there are screw caps that allow and even control oxidation. So, in the near future corks may not even be used anymore. But one thing is for shure – a screw cap is never going to be as enjoyable to open than a good old-fashion cork.


Today I would like to talk about one of my most favorite European wine producing regions- La Rioja.

Rioja is located in the northern Spain along the Ebro River. It is the most popular Spanish wine region. The region has three sub-regions- Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. 

Grapes grown in these regions - Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca.

This region is known to produce both red and white wines, but is mostly known for its red wines. So what makes Rioja wines so interesting? 

Well, its history and the wine making techniques. Even though its wine history dates back before BC, the interesting part of it starts in 1800s when Phylloxera and powdery mildew devastated French wine industry. French wine merchants traveled to Rioja looking to expand their stocks and this changed the face of Rioja forever. By the end of 19th century, with the help of French money and consultants Rioja was flooding the French market.

Rioja wines are usually compared to Bordeaux wines because is only 300km away, but the landscape and vineyards are more similar to Bourgogne. Rioja wine industry is mostly dominated by local family vineyards who are small and the grapes are sold off to wine producers that produce the wine. This is the biggest similarity to Bourgogne.

The distinctive taste of Rioja wines comes from aging in an oak. Rioja wines are aged in both French and American oaks. The use of oak gives the wine a vanilla flavor. What really gives the wine its punchiness is the American oak, because American oak gives a lot more flavor than the French oak. This can be explained because of the climate - in America its hotter and therefor the oak has more pores that allows the oak to give more flavor than the French oak.

So this leads us to the classification of Rioja wines. Rioja wines are classified into four categories based on aging- Rioja, Rioja Crianza, Rioja Rserva and Rioja Gran Reserva.

  • Simply Rioja means it has been aged less than a year in an oak.
  • Rioja Crianza has to be aged at least one year in an oak and one year in the bottle.
  • Rioja Reserva has to be aged at least one year in an oak and two years in the bottle.
  • Rioja Gran Reserva has to be aged at least two years in an oak and tree years in the bottle.

So how to know what you are buying? Well, for Rioja wines the appellation has made it really easy. All Rioja wines that follow the appellation system have a sticker that says what it is (like in the picture).

So as a summary - Rioja has an interesting history, they are good quality, easy to know what you are buying and are pretty affordable. This is why Rioja wines are one of my favorite European wines.


Have you ever looked at a French wine bottle and thought: What kind of rubbish is this? There are some strange French words and it doesn't even say what grapes it is made of. Well, youre right - French wine labels are very confusing and the whole French appellation system is complicated and takes time to understand.

Lets take a look at a typical French label and what it says.

The first thing you see on the bottle is the name of the estate that produces the vine. Chateau in English means castle.

The second thing you see is the vintage year. For French wines this is important because in France the climate there is a borderline for grape growing. There are good and bad years, so definitely do your research before purchasing any French wine.

The next thing stated is the place it comes from. And the name of the appellation whose rules it follows. The French have a tradition not to state what grapes are used to produce the wine. This is because most of the wines are a mix of different grapes and the appellation states what grapes in what regions or provinces are allowed. For Pomerol it's Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The wine in the picture is 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. For Chablis its always Chardonnay, for Champagne its Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier and so on.

One thing for sure - if you want to know what you are buying, you have to do the research.


A lot of times I have noticed there are a lot of myths and confusion when it comes to wine. It is quite understandable how the consumer can get confused when it comes to wine labeling and there is just so much of it.

This time Ill try to explain what is Champagne and where does it come from.
Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines can be called Champagne. So what is the difference?

Well, for a sparkling wine to be called and labeled Champagne, it has to meet two main criteria, it has to be from the Champagne region in France and it has to meet the rules of Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, which regulates what grapes are used, where they are grown and how the Champagne is produced.

The grapes used to produce Champagne are Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. There are more than one hundred Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller vignerons (vine-growing producers) in Champagne. These companies manage some 32,000 hectares of vineyards in the region.

If you think about it, 32,000 hectares is not a lot, if you consider the amount of Champagne consumed in the world everyday. This brings us to this - why Champagne can be so damn expensive? As a luxury celebrative beverage Champagne is known and consumed worldwide, so the demand is there, but the producers are limited only to the land of Champagne. So the results is that a bottle of Champagne can cost anywhere from 30 to a couple of thousand euros.

So how to know if youre buying legitimate Champagne? In most european countries the word Champagne is protected by law, but if you are from a country like the US, I would think twice before buying the 10$ bottle that says champagne on it.

Here are a few popular brands of Champagne that you won't go wrong with

Veuve Clicqout Ponsardin Brut and Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial are both from popular brands and both of these are considered in the mid range price. Veuve Clicqout Ponsardin Brut is 36.99 at my local alko outlet and the Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial is 38.99 . As in taste the brut is going to be dryer (opposite to sweet) and the nectar is a little fruitier and a little sweeter.

The other two bottles are a little pricier. Both of them are single vintage and are not produced every year, but only when the vine maker considers the yield to be premium quality. Dom Pérignon is Moet & Chandons front house champagne and is going to take you back 160+ depending on the vintage. The Bollinger Grande Année rosé is going to match the Dom Pérignon in price or will be a little pricier. As in taste they both should be superb.

I hope this will help you the  next time you are at the supermarket and looking at hundreds of different bottles and save the confusion.