TCD's 1-minute wine guide

1. What does the year on the wine's label actually mean? Does older mean better? The year on the wine label literally means the year which the grapes were harvested and bottled. It all depends on the skill of the winemaker, age does not equate to quality.

2. I ordered a bottle of wine that says "sweet, with flavours of raspberries". But it doesn't taste sweet or anything like raspberry at all!

The “sweetness” and descriptions in wines refers to the notes and hints that all wines possess. It is different from the sweetness of sugar. When making a purchase of sweet wines, be sure to ask what sweetness the wine is actually referring to.

3. What are “tannins” and how do they affect my wine? The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth when you consume unripe fruit or red wine. Likewise, the destruction or modification of tannins over time plays an important role in the ripening of fruit and the aging of wine.

4. What does "Vintage" actually mean? Vintage, in winemaking, is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were primarily grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can mean quality,for example Port wine, where Port houses make and declare vintage Port in their best years.

5. How long can I keep my opened wines? Should I always refrigerate them? Less than 2 days without a pump. After vacuuming, a maximum of 4 days.

6. Which country produces the best wine? It all depends on the style one is looking for. Different terroirs, soil and climates produce grapes of different compositions, which in turn affects the taste of the wines they become. .

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TCD's 1-minute cheese guide

1.I keep seeing the word "artisanal cheese". Is there such a thing and what does it mean?
Artisanal cheese refers to cheeses produced by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheese makers. As a result the cheeses are often more complex in taste and variety. Many are also aged and ripened to achieve certain characteristics.

2.What is the best way to serve cheese? Is there a preparation method or timing?
How and when you serve cheese depends on the occasion. Served at the beginning of a casual meal, function or picnic, the Antipasto style party platter may contain cheese, olives, pate, dips, crackers, cured meats, pickled vegetables and/or crudités (vegetable sticks).

As a rule of thumb, for a large platter to serve 10-12 people, include up to 3 different cheeses.

Choose from Fetta (plain or marinated), Bocconcini, Goat’s cheese, Fruit/Savoury cheeses, Brie or Camembert or even a piece of Parmesan. Cheeses are best served 30 minutes after it has been taken out of the fridge.

3.What should I look out for when pairing cheeses? Any advice?
There are no “rules” in pairing cheese and wines, and much depends on personal tastes and preferences. It is good to buy from someone whose opinions you trust and whose knowledge of wines and cheese is good. In many cases, there are many characteristics to consider. Good cheese and wine pairings take some thought, and it’s important to consider both the wine and the cheese’s texture and flavour profiles before making final selections. The goal is to create harmony and balance between the wine and the cheese and not overpower one with the other.

4.I'm lactose intolerant. Can I consume cheese?
Lactose is only found in milk made by mammals. It is a two molecule sugar (called a disaccharide) made up of one molecule glucose and one molecule galactose. The body produces an enzyme called lactase that breaks the bond between these two saccharides (carbohydrates) so that the body can absorb them from the intestine. Many people will lose the ability to make this enzyme and because the lactose can't be split, it passes into the large intestine. The result can be gas, pain, bloating and diarrhoea.

Goat's milk does contain lactose and it has almost as much as cow's milk. Cheeses made from both cow's milk and goat's milk will have a reduction in the amount of lactose due to the fermentation process. For this reason many people who are lactose intolerant are able to eat cheeses. Some people do tolerate goat cheese better, however. The fat molecules in goat's milk are shorter than in cow's milk and this may account for its easier digestibility for some. However, as with all health-related concerns, always consult a doctor or trained healthcare professional before consumption of wine or cheese.

5.How much cheese should I buy for my dinner party? Any rule of thumb?
It depends how big is the size of the party. A general rule of thumb is to factor about 65gm per person. Multiply it by the number of heads for the total weight and lastly divide it to the number of portions on the cheeseboard.

6.My cheese looks mouldy. What are those blue streaks?
Solid blocks of cheese, such as cheddar, will only have the mould on the exterior so cutting it off should be fine. For soft cheeses such as Brie all you need to do is cut far back enough such that you're not cutting through the mould itself. Brie is more likely to develop an ammoniated smell before the mould gets too extreme and if this is the case, cutting the mould isn't going to help, the cheese has continued to deteriorate on the inside already. If that happens, throw it out.

7.Is it true that pregnant women shouldn't eat cheese?
The advice to avoid some soft cheeses is because they are less acidic than hard cheeses and contain more moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in.

Soft cheeses with white rinds
Don't eat mold-ripened soft cheese (cheeses with a white rind) such as brie and camembert. This includes mold-ripened soft goats' cheese such as Chevre. These cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they've been cooked.

Soft blue cheeses
You should also avoid soft blue-veined cheeses such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort. Soft blue cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they've been cooked.

Although infection with listeria (listeriosis) is rare, it is important to take special precautions in pregnancy because even a mild form of the illness in a pregnant woman can lead to miscarriage, severe illness or in extreme cases, even stillbirth.

Do check out the symptoms of listeria. If you're pregnant and showing signs of listeria infection, seek medical help immediately. As with all health-related concerns, always consult a doctor or trained healthcare professional before consumption of wine or cheese.

8. What are some safe choices for a pregnant woman?
You can eat most hard cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan and stilton, even if they're made with unpasteurized milk. Hard cheeses don't contain as much water as soft cheeses, so bacteria are very much less likely to grow in them. It is possible for hard cheese to contain listeria, but the risk is considered to be minute.

Soft cheeses that are safe to eat in pregnancy
Other than mold-ripened soft cheeses, all other soft types of cheese are okay to eat provided they're made from pasteurized milk. These include:
•cottage cheese
•mozzarella
•feta
•cream cheese
•paneer
•ricotta
•halloumi
•goats' cheese
•processed cheeses such as cheese spreads