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Frequently asked
wine questions

Find the answers to the
wine-related queries we get
asked most often
White Grape Guide

Why is some wine not suitable for vegetarians or vegans?

In some cases, wineries may use animal-derived products as fining agents during the winemaking process, making the wine unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans.

We stock a wide range of vegetarian and vegan wine at Waitrose Cellar that use alternative fining agents such as clay. Look out for wines stating 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' under 'special features' in the 'Wine at a glance' section on the product pages.

What is biodynamic wine?

Biodynamic wines are made according to the principles of biodynamic agriculture, a method of farming that's growing in popularity.

The central principle of farming this way is to ensure the vine is happy, healthy and deeply rooted in its environment. No chemicals are used and various herbal remedies are applied to the plant and soil. Some producers also farm according to phases of the moon, believing that following these regular patterns produces better yields.

We stock a small range of biodynamic wine at Waitrose Cellar – look out for wines stating 'biodynamic' under 'special features' in the 'Wine at a glance' section on the product pages, such as Les Vieilles Vignes de Château Maris from Minervois in the South of France.

What is the best closure for wine?

There are three main types of closure available – natural cork, artificial cork and screwcap. Each have their own merit; which closure a winemaker chooses will often come down to the character of the wine and the costs involved.

Natural cork has long been used as an effective method of sealing wine. Natural cork is an ideal closure for wines left to age as its porous nature allows wine to breath. However, wines with a cork closure can suffer from taint (also known as becoming ‘corked’).

Artificial corks, generally made from some form of plastic, were developed as a cheaper replacement to natural cork. These are predominantly used on younger wines and are not suitable for wines that are stored over long periods of time.

Screwcap closures are becoming increasingly used worldwide as an alternative to natural cork. Primarily used for fresh, delicate whites, screwcaps create a more airtight seal. Screwcaps prevent a wine from being affected by cork taint, although a wine sealed with a screwcap can still be out of condition for other reasons.

We'll always let you know which closure is used on each of our wines; simply look for 'closure' in the 'Wine at a glance' section.

How do I tell if the wine is corked?

Unfortunately, occasionally a wine will taste out of condition. It is often fairly easy to identify a wine that has a problem – at its worst, the wine can smell pungent, musty and damp, or have an aroma of burnt matches. Lower levels of taint can strip the wine of its fresh, fruity aromas, often leaving it tasting neutral or sharp.

If you have a wine that you suspect to be out of condition, then please call our Customer Service team on 0800 188 881 who will be happy to arrange a replacement for you.

Should I decant my wine?

Wines with a heavy deposit will benefit from being decanted before drinking to remove any sediment. It's also a good way of increasing the amount of air in contact with a wine, to enhance the aroma profile. This can be particularly beneficial for fine wines that haven't had time to 'breathe' before serving.

Deposits are quite natural and occur during the aging process of many fine wines. To decant a wine ensure the bottle has been upright for several hours and then gently pour the wine in one fluid movement until the deposit can be seen near the neck of the bottle.

What is en primeur?

Buying en primeur is the process of buying wine before it is bottled and released and is an excellent way of securing some of the best wines of the vintage in key wine regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. You will not receive your wine immediately – we will deliver it to you when it is available.

In order to find out when our En Primeur is on sale sign up for Grapevine, our weekly email newsletter. If you have any questions or would like advice on buying En Primeur, then please call our friendly team of Cellar specialists on 03456 100 304 who will be happy to assist you (Monday - Friday, 9am - 5.30pm).

How is sherry made?

The name sherry comes from an Anglicisation of Xeres - a reference to the area between the Andalucian towns of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda - known as the sherry triangle - where it is made.

There are numerous styles available, ranging from the light and dry to the very rich, but most sherries are made, at least in part, from Palomino Fino, a very light, neutral, white grape. The wonderful character comes mostly from maturation in a system of oak barrels, called the solera system, which involves gradual blending from different barrels over the course of many years. The darker styles tend to develop slightly higher alcohol levels due to evaporation and concentration during the ageing process.

We stock a wide range of sherry at Waitrose Cellar, including our award-winning range of own-label sherries.

What is cava?

Cava, meaning 'cellar' in Catalan, is a delicious sparkling wine from Spain. Production tends to be centred in the north-east (95 per cent of cava comes from Catalonia, mostly from Penedès), but cava can come from 8 wine regions.

Made using traditional methods that are similar to those used for champagne - and with producers increasingly adding small amounts of grapes used to create champagne to the traditional local varieties - there's the potential for plenty of complexity through aging or from specific vintages. Equally there are many house styles established through consistent non-vintage blends.

Browse our range of cava.

What is prosecco?

Prosecco is a popular sparkling wine from Italy with gentle bubbles and a clean, distinctive finish. It's made from the grape variety of the same name in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions of northern Italy.

The key to Prosecco’s success lies in its production technique. Like champagne, there is a secondary fermentation, however the difference with Prosecco is that this happens in stainless steel tanks rather than in the bottle. The result is a much purer expression of the Prosecco grape and less of the bready, yeasty, biscuit aromas associated with champagne.

Sugar levels will vary amongst producers but the driest styles will be labelled as Brut and get sweeter from Extra Dry to Dry. The best Proseccos will carry the prestigious name of Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobiaddane DOCG and are made in the hills north of Treviso.

Browse our range of prosecco.

How long will my bottle of wine last after opening?

Once you open a bottle of wine and expose it to oxygen, it will begin to age. The level of alcohol affects how quickly this process occurs - the higher the level of alcohol, the more robust the wine. Also, the older a wine is, the quicker it will oxidise, as it’s towards the end of its life. Below is a rough guide for reference:

• Sparkling wine - keeps for 24 hours

• Light bodied wine - keeps for 1 to 3 days

• Full bodied wine - keeps for 1 to 5 days

• Fortified wine - keep for 7 to 14 days (a month at most)

How much wine do I need for a party?

When planning a party, it's useful to know how many measures you’ll get out of a standard bottle of wine and how many bottles you’ll need to order.

On average, a bottle of fizz will give six glasses and a bottle of still wine will give you four to five glasses. We suggest half a bottle of fizz per head for receptions or canapés and half a bottle of still wine per head with a meal – try to balance red and white depending on the menu.

If you have any questions around food and wine pairing or would like some advice on what drinks to serve at your party, then please call our friendly team of expert wine specialists on 03456 100 304 who will be happy to assist you. Alternatively, read our helpful article on planning the perfect party.

We also offer a free glass loan service – for more information please pop into your local branch.

How do I choose wine for a wedding?

Knowing what to serve at special occasions is tricky to get right. You need to consider quantity, quality, food pairing, glassware and much more, making a seemingly simple task quite daunting. How many people are coming? How much choice should you offer? How long will it last?

Our expert team of wine specialists are all experienced in advising on what to serve at weddings and special occasions, and are more than happy to assist with any questions you may have. Please call them on 03456 100 304 (Monday - Friday, 9am - 5.30pm) or email your question to specialists@waitrosecellar.com.

"Have a wine question?
We're here to help.
Talk to us directly on
03456 100 304"

Stéphane Sanchez

Wine Specialist, Waitrose Cellar