It seems like everybody loves wine! Are you drinking cabernet with steak? Chardonnay with salmon? Sauvignon blanc with tilapia? Or perhaps a nicely aged chianti with an aged cheddar? Starting in November of 2010 with the opening of Willy West, the Willy Street Co-op has been in the business of selling wine. We started modestly, with just a small set of hand-picked wines. We did our best to represent as many types of wine and wine-growing regions as possible. The past two years have shown us that the demand for more variety and selection is growing, and we’ve done our best to accommodate every request. We have allocated more display space and been able to vastly increase the number of options you can now find in our store. Our newest wines include our choices for: crowd-pleasing party favorites, Italian gems and critically acclaimed wines from around the world. We are proud of our wine selection. With the growth of our wine business, however, we’ve noticed a high demand for information. Questions about wine are increasing so we’d like to take this opportunity to share a few tidbits with you, and perhaps even dispel some pesky rumors and myths.

Food Pairing  
Food pairing is a common question that we run into. Wine is very unique in that the way your meal tastes can be enhanced with the right glass of wine. The general rule of thumb is that the heavier a food is, the heavier you want your wine to be. For example, a thick cut of tenderloin, maybe with a little gorgonzola, is a big, filling meal. It works best to pair it with a big, full-bodied wine, like cabernet sauvignon. The presence of tannins is one of the main reasons cabernet is a good choice for steak. Tannins are an astringent chemical compound found in wine that help to cleanse your pallet of all the grease, fat, and oil left behind after you take a big bite of juicy steak. When you pair a wine with high tannins with a fattier meal, each bite will be as fresh as the last because the tannins help to keep your mouth fresh and clean. If you’re having a delicate tilapia filet with lemon and capers, you would most likely choose a lighter wine. Sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio are two white wines that won’t overpower your fish. White wines like sauvignon blanc are typically higher in acid; the acid keeps your salivary glands working to freshen your taste buds and also bring out more flavors in your meal. Having something in the middle like chicken, salmon or creamy pasta? Try a wine that’s in the middle of the spectrum. Pinot noir is a lighter red and chardonnay is a heavier white; both are great pairs for many meals. With all that said, there is one important point to make: It’s all subjective! If you like to drink your cabernet chilled, put it in a pint glass and enjoy it with popcorn, go ahead! Drink merlot with tofu. Have some aspicy zinfandel with Thai food. Crack open a bottle of prosecco (bubbly from Northern Italy) and pair it with fruit salad, it is quite delicious. The point is that if you like it, don’t stop doing it. The days of wine snobbery are coming to an end as more and more people find out how fun it is to learn about and enjoy drinking wine.

Sulfites
Many of the sulfites found in wine are natural by-products from the grape skins. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is commonly, although not always, added to the wine during the wine-making process. It helps to prevent wine from turning brown, it prevents microbial spoilage, and it extends the shelf life of wine considerably. First and foremost, sulfites do not cause headaches. Secondly, red wines, on average, contain fewer sulfites than white wines. SO2 is commonly used as a preservative, and because tannins are a natural preservative, red wines typically receive less SO2 during the wine-making process. Many of the sulfites found in wine come from this process but it still does not make up a large enough amount to affect the average consumer. The average serving of some dried fruit contains ten times the amount of sulfites than any bottle of wine.

Organic and Vegan Options
We have a nice selection of sustainably farmed, organic and vegan wines in the store. Santa Julia, Natura and Cuma are just a few brands that you can look for the next time you’re in that will cover all three criteria. Organic wine laws vary from country to country, but the USDA monitors anything labeled as such that is distributed within the United States. Most people don’t know that not all wine is vegan. Before the bottling process, wine is commonly filtered through fining agents to remove proteins, yeast, cloudiness and other sediment. There are some fining agents that are not vegan. Egg whites, fish oils and milk proteins are a few examples. We’re working on labeling all vegan-friendly wines, but in the meantime, you can count on anything made by Castle Rock, Peter Lehmann, Wollersheim and Santa Julia brands to be vegan.

What Else
Willy West has a dedicated endcap for great sale wines, so keep an eye on that for good deals and new offerings. This recent holiday season we had over 100 different bottles on sale in December and our efforts to offer a great selection at a good value continues into 2013. We have limited space so may encounter some brands or specific bottles in and out of stock as we work to pass on great deals, refine our selection and help you tour the world of wines from your Co-op. Don’t hesitate to ask questions as we will always do our best to track down your request or answer to your query. And of course fill out a customer comment online or at the Owner Resources area next to Customer Service if you have ideas, requests or feedback for us, because it’s often more fun to talk about wine than to stock it!

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