How to Drink Wine and Stay in Shape

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drink wine and stay in shape


The very first piece of good advice when it comes to drinking wine and staying in shape is NOT to drink beer!

The same applies to those mixed drinks made with spirits and sugary extras, like cola.

The simple reason is that any alcoholic drink will contain a high level of calories with not much nutritional value.

The situation is exacerbated with beer (which is generally high in carbohydrates) and other drinks with high levels of sugar.

For example, a classic margarita cocktail could have up to 600 calories for a serving whereas an entire bottle of dry wine could contain about the same calorie count. Note also that the margarita may contain as much as 100 grams (over 3 ounces) of sugar.

To put the calorie count in perspective, alcohol has around 7 calories per gram compared to around 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates, and a whopping 9 calories per gram for fats.

So how is it possible to drink wine, with obvious calories, and stay in shape?

The answer is to include wine as part of a sensible eating and exercise plan. This really is not hard to do.

(If you already do this and are still struggling to look the way you want, you might like to have a look at this video which certainly helped me get in shape.)

There is also the added benefit of some of the bonus ingredients in wine such as antioxidants. Both red and white wines have antioxidants and research has shown red wine as being good for your heart and your weight too.

The elements of a sensible balanced diet are well known – fresh vegetables, skinless chicken, grass fed steak and oily fish (like salmon). If your main meal comprises these elements, and you take a 30 minute brisk walk every day, then you can certainly enjoy one or two glasses of wine with your meal (every day!) and easily stay in shape.

After all, what we are trying to achieve in our life regime is to be healthy and enjoy it. The simple logic involves maintaining a level of calorie intake which does not exceed calorie burn-off, over an extended time period of course.

Staying in shape with wine can be aided further by avoiding late night snacks and regular indulgence in junk food. But then who would ever want to spoil a glass of quality wine by having it accompany a greasy pizza or burger?

If you feel you are doing everything right but just cannot get rid those flabby bits, have a look at this interesting approach to staying in shape – it may be the answer!

Hunting the Semillon Wine in the Hunter Valley

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The Hunter Valley is not Australia’s best known wine growing region – that honor arguably rests with the historic Barossa Valley, or perhaps the iconic Margaret River region in the West, or maybe the renowned cooler areas of Tasmania.

That being so, the Hunter Valley has a lot going for it, including being less than a two drive north of Sydney and close to the trendy port city of Newcastle.

There are over 130 wineries and grape producers in the Hunter Valley, as well as boutique breweries and distilleries, all manner of restaurants and cafes, cheese and chocolate makers, and other attractions that make it a “must visit” destination for all lovers of food and beverages.

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine edited by Jancis Robinson


But when it comes to wine, I can do more than quote Jancis Robinson.

Ms Robinson is one of the best known authorities in the wine world, holder of the rare and prestigious Master of Wine qualification and editor of the most comprehensive wine book, The Oxford Companion to Wine.

It was Jancis Robinson who said:

“Hunter Semillon is Australia’s great gift to the wine world…”


Now, Semillon is the not the best known white grape variety on the planet, but it probably should be. The reason for this is that it ages superbly for up to twenty years.

The Hunter Valley wine makers pioneered the development of Semillon in Australia in the early 19th century, and it is fermented without oak.

It can be drunk when young and exhibits a fresh lemony style. As it ages, the magic happens and it develops a complexity with nut and honey undertones.

Semillon can also be made into dessert wines as the grapes have relatively thin skins enabling introduction of the botrytis fungus, the “noble rot” which makes for the most amazing sticky sweet wines.

A bottle aged Hunter Valley Semillon is a true delight, and one which is unique to this region. Whilst Australian wine parlance does not generally refer to “terroir”, in this case it is really the local conditions which play a major role in the uniqueness of this wine.

brokenwood hunter valley semillonOf the many producers in the Hunter Valley, perhaps the two with the most experience (and success) in the production of Semillon are Brokenwood Wines and Rothbury Estate.

Aged Semillion remains a well kept secret, and perhaps is an acquired taste to some degree, but the result is that older vintages can be very reasonably priced.

The challenge is to find them of course, and as the Hunter Valley produces only about 2% of Australia’s wine, this can be a daunting task at times but well worth the effort.

Whilst this article has focused on Semillon, the Hunter Valley produces other exceptional wines, including Chardonnay, Verdelho and Shiraz styles.

Start planning your trip to the Hunter Valley now and if you cannot get there just yet, get some delicious Hunter Valley Semillon.

Bovine Humor at the Wine Club

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A few glasses of red wine ago, I was browsing my favorite website for images (iStockphoto) when I happened across the illustration below (minus the caption at that stage).

The cartoon tickled me greatly so I bought it and had some fun coming up with suitable tag lines. I settled on the one shown, but I am sure there are plenty better so if you have a funny line of your own, please add it in the comments below.

wine club humor

As much as I enjoy a good wine, I also enjoy a good laugh – preferably together – and this cartoon got me thinking about wine humor in general.

According to Wikipedia, “humor is usually rare in the world of wine“. This seems most unusual, as wine is associated with enjoyment and good times with friends.

Wikipedia goes on – “wine jokes may only be amusing to wine obsessives” – and this may explain the apparent lack of humor often associated with wine. Perhaps wine lovers, too often, take wine, too seriously.

Therein lies the cue to introduce some cows. Or any animals which are capable of engendering mirth. I think the cows have it, a fact picked up on very successfully by the great Gary Larson.

far side by gary larsonIn case you have forgotten, Gary Larson is the superb cartoonist who gave us the brilliant Far Side series, as well as other humorous drawings and writings.

Larson’s humor was built very much around unusual people, animals and situations and for me, the most memorable of his brilliant works are those featuring animals, especially the beloved cow.

To go with your next relaxation opportunity, wine accompanied of course, you could do no better than have at hand the Complete Far Side by Gary Larson.

Highly recommended – click the book cover at left to grab a copy.


But now back to wine matters, and specifically wine clubs, which is what the cows are discussing in the cartoon above.

Like the cows, I have been a member of a number of different wine clubs but have usually found after a few months that there is a sameness in the product being offered – either in wine styles or wine makers.

However, this is not an issue with the Cellars Wine Club who offer a dozen different options with a wine club for every wine preference. Here is a summary of what is currently on offer:

Wine Club

Offer per Shipment

Best For

Single Bottle 1 bottle quality wine wine novice
High End Single Bottle 1 bottle rare wine connoisseur
Premium 2 different wines experimenter
Sweet 2 different wines sweet tooth
Champagne 2 different wines sparkling lover
Red Trio 3 different wines red lover
International 2 different wines traveler
West Coast 2 different wines best American
Platinum 2 different wines aficionado
90+ Point 2 different wines discerning
Quarterly Case 12 bottles quality wine value seeker
Cellars 2 different wines indulgence


Whether you are looking for something different from a wine club, or a wine club membership as a gift, or just an excuse to get more wine for your cellar, check out Cellars Wine Club – it is the best wine club by a country mile, no bull!

Is this the Best Wine Movie Since Sideways?

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A lot of movie lovers, and most wine lovers, agree that the best wine movie ever is Sideways.

Sideways works for lots of reasons and it remains one of the few movies I have been able to watch more than once. If you are longing for another view (or checking it out for the first time), grab the Sideways DVD now.

best wine movie

The best wine movie Sideways may be under threat. (Image

Incidentally, there are moves afoot for a sequel to Sideways, called Vertical (what else?) written by the same author, Rex Pickett. The main stumbling block to Vertical appears to be the director of Sideways, Alexander Payne, who fears any follow up to Sideways would be a sell-out.

From a wine perspective, Sideways created a worldwide demand for Pinot Noir red wine as a result of the movie’s main character, Miles.

Miles waxed lyrical about the merits of Pinot Noir in an entertaining and informative way, and in the process moved masses of wine drinkers from other red wine types (especially Merlot, which he detested) to Pinot Noir.

If you are yet to experience the delights of Pinot Noir, check out the huge range of Pinot Noir here.

So what is this best wine movie since Sideways?

It goes by the unlikely name of Somm, short for sommelier.

A sommelier is (according to Wikipedia) a “trained and knowledgeable wine professional, normally working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food pairing.”

The movie is essentially a documentary following four young men who are preparing for the entrance exam of the Court of Master Sommeliers. The exam is touted as “the hardest exam you’ve never heard of”.

The Master Sommelier exam is so difficult that the pass rate runs at about ten percent and there are less than two hundred sommeliers worldwide who have passed it since it commenced in 1977.

It is expensive to sit for the exam, it covers virtually every conceivable piece of wine information known to man and is described as a “brutal” experience, capable of wrecking lives, relationships and taste buds. What more could any movie going wine lover want?

So get yourself a nice glass of Pinot Noir and watch the Somm trailer below. Then you can decide whether this might be the best wine movie since Sideways.

Cheap Wine Online Shopping

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cheap wine online shopping


In my student days and with the relative poverty associated with that phase of life, cheap wine was a given and the quality not so great.

Cheap wine has always been with us but now it seems we can get (especially with online shopping) quality wine at a low price.

Having said that, there does seem to be huge discrepancies in the price of wines these days.

At one end of the spectrum I recently wrote about rare expensive wines costing up to $168,000 a bottle.

The other extreme has wine at just a few dollars a bottle, and quite often, the quality of these inexpensive wines is extremely good.

So how do you go about finding a quality cheap wine, and can they be obtained through online shopping?

For the first question, the only sure way of finding a wine that tastes good at an affordable price is to try it, but who has the time or inclination to do that?

The better option is to look for wines that have been rated and the most widely accepted wine rating scale is that developed by Robert Parker.

The famous Robert Parker 100 point scale rates wines on a variety of criteria and can be confidently used as the basis for judging the quality of a wine. Of course it takes no account of price which we will address shortly as the second question posed above.

If a wine scores ninety and above on the Robert Parker scale, as explained here, then it is worthy of serious consideration irrespective of the price:


An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.

90 – 95:

An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines. (Courtesy of

Now, is it possible to buy cheap wines which score ninety points or more?

Most certainly, and online shopping provides the best opportunity to do so with the largest range.

We recommend the online wine shop at, and in particular view this selection of cheap wines under 20 dollars which score 90 or more points. Well worth a look – there is some superb drinking here.

If I may beg your indulgence before you head off to buy some quality cheap wine with’s online shopping, I refer to the theme at the start of this article, namely my student days.

At that time of my youth there was a catchy popular song by the name, Cheap Wine. If you are interested in yesteryear rock music, have a watch of this video, then go and get those quality cheap wines.

To your good health!

Are Rare Expensive Wines Sheer Folly?

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All we wine lovers, irrespective of our financial well being, look for value when choosing and buying our stocks of red, white or bubbly wines.

Occasionally we have a bit of a splurge – a French champagne for a special anniversary, a well matured shiraz for a dinner party with good friends or an aged Riesling to accompany a wonderful cheese or dessert.

But when it comes to rare expensive wines, and I mean very rare and very expensive, would we part with the cash even if we had it?

rare expensive wines


The latest example of a wine of this type is an exclusive Cabernet Sauvignon produced by the Australian winery, Penfolds.

(This wine maker also produces the well established, famous and less expensive wine, Penfolds Grange.)

The new wine costs a staggering (wait for it) $168,000 per bottle, but to offset the price is a promise of exclusivity with only twelve bottles available for world wine release.

I should not really call it a bottle as this rare wine is delivered in a special handmade ampoule.

To give it its full name, the wine in question is Penfolds 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon, and to give some justification to the price, it is no ordinary cab sav.





The Ultimate Rare Expensive Wine from Penfolds

The red wine is made from grapes grown on 130-year-old vines planted by George Swan Fowler in the Kalimna Vineyard in the Barossa Valley.

These vines are the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon plantings produced in the world and were planted only 30 years after the 1855 Bordeaux Classification.

The fruit was handpicked and fermented in new 300 litre oak hogsheads before it underwent 13 months barrel fermentation in 2004.

The vineyard that the fruit was picked from is owned by one person and no one else can make a Cabernet using the fruit off these vines.

What also adds to the mystique, and perhaps decadence of this wine, is the container in which it is bottled.

The ampoule is in effect a time capsule keeping the wine in pristine condition until it is ready to drink. Included in the price is the memorable experience of having a senior member of the Penfolds winemaking team attend a special opening ceremony for the wine owner.

The winemaker will travel to any destination and ceremoniously remove the ampoule from its casing and open it using a specially designed tungsten-tipped sterling silver scribe-snap.

The wine will then be prepared using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin.

The hand-blown glass sculpture that holds the wine and the Jarrah cabinet that encases it were designed to store the wine in the ideal environment. Read the full article on the Penfolds ultimate wine.

To allow a fair allocation of the wine amongst the world’s billionaire population, any country is limited to only one or two bottles. But then again if a billionaire really wanted one, or the entire dozen, I am sure it could be arranged.

There is no denying that such a product is the ultimate in wine product and packaging, and in that regard the wine maker has excelled.

But as wine has grown in popularity and affordability over recent decades, I wonder if a product like this, and the extravaganza which surrounded its release is such a good thing for the wine market in general. It serves to reinforce the traditional snobbery associated with wine drinking which manufacturers around the world have been trying to dispel for ages.

I would never deny those with legally accumulated wealth to spend it however they wish, and I accept there will always be luxury products which are affordable to only a few.

But I wonder if such rare and expensive wine is nothing but folly  especially considering the current global downturn? What do you think? Leave your comments below.

If you are ready to consider some reasonably priced quality wines then check out the superb range at the largest online wine retailer,

Buy Organic Wine from Europe

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organic wine grapes

European organic wines will soon have to be more than just made with organic grapes. (Image courtesy

The popularity of organic wine has been increasing steadily over recent years for a number of reasons including health concerns about some additives, use of insecticides during grape production and a general improved awareness of natural food products.

Some wine markets, such as those in the USA, Australia and other “new world” wine producing countries have put in place some appropriate standards regarding what constitutes an organic wine.

As a result it has been possible to buy organic wine with a reasonable degree of confidence that what is in the bottle is, in fact, organic.

The demand for organic wine in Europe has also been growing steadily, and in France, the largest producing country in the Euro Zone, organic wines now make up over six percent of all wine sales.

Across Europe generally the picture is not quite as positive about the organic approach with only about 2% of all vineyards being organic.

But that may be about to change.

Up until now, organic wine in Europe has only been defined as that produced from organic grapes – there has been an absence of the controls which have come into law in other countries.

However, as of June 2012 a new European Union decree came into effect which defines the whole wine making process from an organic perspective.

Euro Wines Now Formally Organic

Now the EU Standing Committee on Organic Farming has extended the organic label – and the new organic logo – to the whole wine-making process if vintners meet certain standards. It will apply from the 2012 harvest.

Winegrowers will still be able to use sulphites as an “antiseptic” to kill off bacteria in the wine, but levels will be much less than for standard wine. Reduced to 100mg per litre for red wine and 150mg/l for white and rosé, which are 50mg/l less than for standard wine.

The addition of sorbic acid will be banned as will desulfurication.

The new rules say winegrowers will also have to specify on the label if eggs or milk are used to clarify the wine. Read the full European organic wine article here.

This new European approach will bring some much needed uniformity to the organic wine market, and we will now be able to buy organic wine with confidence.

What are your thoughts on these new standards, and organic wine in general? Leave your comments below.

The Best Wine Apps for Learning, Tracking, and Sharing

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With hundreds of wineries, wines, and places to enjoy them, being an oenophile (or even a casual wine fan) may seem like an intimidating endeavor.

But all that variety and information is also what makes wine such a pleasure. To that end, I’m going to present a list of smartphone apps that I think are excellent both for learning about wine and developing your own palate.

This list leans heavily toward Android apps, because that’s what I use, but I’ve included iPhone/iPad links where they’re available.

Wine for Dummies

wine for dummies app and bookThis isn’t a “traditional” app per se but rather, it’s a fun and easy to follow video packaged in app form, so you can watch it on the plane ride to California wine country or your living room.

Watching it on my Android tablet, I found it offered an excellent balance between substance and style. (I also highly recommend the “Wine for Dummies” book for anyone approaching wine.)

The Wine for Dummies app is currently $7.99 at you can find it at the Google Play Store.

Swirl Pro – A Wine Guide

swirl pro wine appSwirl Pro aims to be an all-in-one resource and journal for any serious (or beginning) wine drinker.

The app offers access to a library of thousands of wines, sorted by region, grape, and other characteristics. You can look up individual wines or browse through its recommendations. But the best feature of this app may be its tools for adding your own notes about wines and marking your favorites for future reference.

Finally, I can recommend this app for its excellent interface and design, which is worthy of the subject it covers.

The Swirl Pro wine app is $2.99, also at the Google Play Store.

Wine Cellar

wine cellar app for androidOnce you start a serious bottle collection, Wine Cellar offers one of the best ways to keep track of it.

You can type in a bottle’s information or scan its bar code for faster input.

The app lets you organize wines using logical characteristics such as the year (term, vintage) of the wine and its region. I find this is helpful for deciding on wines for special occasions.

The Wine Cellar app for Android is $2.20 at the Google Play Store.

Winerypedia Winery Locator

winerypedia wine appWineries abound throughout the U.S., from Washington to Texas to Long Island, and this excellent app helps you find them.

Using GPS, Winerypedia determines the nearest wineries, and offers directions and the ability to call or e-mail straight from the app.

This is ideal for travel, but even if you’re staying home, you can have fun learning about your favorite wineries and following their social media accounts.

Winerypedia is a free app and available at both the Google Play Store and iTunes.

Sonoma Insider and Taste of Napa

sonoma insider wine appThese two apps are almost like Winerypedia, but with a focus on their respective Californian wine regions.

Both apps offer tools for finding not only wineries, but restaurants and other attractions at these two wonderful vacation spots.

taste of napa appSonoma Insider is a more complete resource for its area, while Taste of Napa focuses on vendors providing exclusive deals.

Either one of these region specific apps would make an excellent companion to a trip.

The Sonoma Insider wine app is free at the Google Play Store, while the Taste of Napa app is $1.99 at both the Google Play Store and iTunes.


Ashlee McCullen is a staff writer for, a website about kitchen fashion and home style. She also writes about mobile technology and self-improvement.

Wine Screw Cap Now for Premium Wines

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premium wine screw capWhen wine is bottled ready for sale, the wine maker expects and hopes it will taste better when it is opened later for drinking.

He expects this because the wine bottle has a stopper or closure of some sort, and he hopes this stopper will keep out the oxygen which has the potential to spoil his nurtured wine.

Traditionally the wine closure used by everyone was made of cork and we can all relate to that lovely sound of a cork popping from a bottle.

However cork always had some issues relating to its ability to make an air tight seal, and when a wine cork is manufactured it requires a bleaching process for cleaning which also has the potential to taint the wine.

Against these negative aspects of the humble cork and an acceptance that around five percent of wine would always be spoiled, the wine cork survived longer than it should have until cost became a determining factor.

Bring On the Wine Screw Cap

The move to protect better wines with screw caps started about 12 years ago with a group of Australian winemakers who believed the inconsistency of cork was affecting the quality of their Clare Valley rieslings. A year or so later, in 2001, producers in Marlborough, New Zealand, created the “New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative.” The group started a scientific study that went on to show that screw caps are superior to cork for sealing wine. Today, most wines from Australia and New Zealand, including some priced at more than $100, are bottled with screw tops.

Last year, the Hogue Cellars, a major Washington State winery, announced it was converting all of its wine, including its premium Genesis and Reserve labels, to screw caps. The decision was based on five years of research comparing Saranex-lined screw caps with other types of closures. Dow Chemical’s Saranex is a layered plastic film that contains Saran resin (think food wrap).

The study found that wines aged under Saranex-lined screw caps tasted better than those topped with aluminum or tin-lined screw caps or synthetic closures. This was Hogue’s second screw cap study. The findings of its first study, released in 2004, compared natural cork, synthetic closures and screw caps, and found that wines bottled under screw caps were cleanest and best retained fruit flavors. Read the full wine screw cap article here.

Increasingly now, wine makers are realizing the benefits to be had by sealing their wine with a screw cap and as the wine buyer becomes accustomed to the move away from the use of cork stoppers, the screw cap will continue its move to being the stopper of choice for premium wines.

Even the romantic sound of the cork popping will be maintained with a screw cap if the Zork sparkling wine stopper is anything to go by – have a look at the video below and hear the future for yourself.

What is your opinion of wine screw caps, and do you have any stories about the loss of the wine cork? Leave your comments below and enjoy your non-corked wine.

Wine Tasting is all About Your Phenotypes

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Already I can hear you asking what on earth is a phenotype and what does it have to do with wine tasting, or anything for that matter?

Simply put, as I am no scientist, a phenotype is a characteristic of an organism (like a person) which can be observed and measured (like brown eyes).

wine tasting phenotypes

Phenotypes explain why one person likes a sweet wine (although not as sweet as this) and others prefer dry wine (Photo

This is all to do with genetics and we know that wonderful results have occurred in many areas of medicine as a result of an advanced understanding of genetics. But wine?

Well, in the case of taste buds (which are obviously to the fore in wine tasting) it turns out we are all different. No big surprise really as we already know that one person likes a steak well done, another prefers a rare piece of meat and yet another person nearby will always opt for fish over red meat.

Talking of taste buds, each of us has between about two and eight thousand of them scattered around our tongue and adjacent areas. Taste buds can distinguish the five basic components of taste – salty, sour, sweet, savory and bitter.

The variability of each individual’s taste buds is what is interesting and research has shown that wine drinkers fall into four categories based on the relevant wine tasting phenotypes.

The Wine Tasting Phenotypes

Sweet: People with the most taste buds often demonstrate a preference for sweet things, wine being no exception. This explains folks who love white zinfandel. Typically, 30 percent of wine consumers fall into this class.

Other desirable wines for these folks are Riesling, moscato, chenin blanc from the Loire Valley or South Africa, fruit wines and sangria.

Hypersensitive (Delicate): Folks in this category are very sensitive to bitterness and prefer elegance and finesse in a wine. If they drink chardonnay, they prefer one that has not been aged in oak. They also like lower alcohol levels. Some 25 percent of wine lovers fall into this category.

The wines preferred by these folks are usually pinot grigio, merlot, Viognier and pinot noir. Sparkling wines are also a favorite of these consumers, along with Italian reds, such as Chianti, Barbera and Dolcetto, as well as Spanish Riojas.

Sensitive (Smooth). Another 25 percent of wine drinkers tend to be more adventurous and enjoy variety, depending on the time of day and their mood. They like both cabernets and chardonnays as long as they are not too rich or overly intense.

Other favorites include syrah, red zinfandel and red blends from around the world. Whites that might appeal to this group include sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot blanc and viognier.

Tolerant (Intense). Roughly 20 percent of wine lovers favor big, powerful wines with strong tannins and intense flavors. They savor rich, oaky, high-alcohol wines and might enjoy recommendations from wine writer Robert Parker.

Folks in this class like chards or cabs with big, bold intensity, as well as Super Tuscans, Barolo and Brunello. Petite sirah and Rhone Valley reds also fit the bill nicely.

Read the full wine tasting phenotypes article here.

Most people can probably identify with two of the phenotypes, and that is natural and normal.

If you are the type of wine lover who likes to take recommendations from a specific wine expert (or two), it helps if your chosen expert has a phenotype set up similar to your own. The only current way to find this out is to try your expert’s recommended wines and if you like them, you can claim matching phenotypes.

If you don’t like them, put it down to valuable research and move on.

The summary of all this is never be intimidated by the science or BS which can sometimes surround wine tasting. Just go with what you like and basically the phenotypes will look after themselves.