Whether you’re choosing it for a dinner party, ordering it for your table at a restaurant, or simply going to a tasting, you want to look like you know what you’re doing when it comes to wine. After all, everyone around you seems to know what they’re talking about, so now it’s your turn to be in the know.
As we all know, wine is made from grapes. The grapes are crushed, and then left to ferment. This is when the yeast, which occurs naturally in vineyards, reacts with the sugars from the grape juice, to produce alcohol.
The colour of the wine depends on the pigments in the grape skin. As the pulp of the grape has no colour, the colour of the wine will be decided by whether dark or white grapes are used, and how long the skins are left to react with the juice. For instance, a red wine is usually made by using dark grapes and leaving the skins of the grape in, during the fermentation process. However with white wines, white grapes are usually used as there is very little colour pigmentation in the skin. This doesn’t mean that dark grapes cannot produce white wine, as this can be achieved by not letting the skins come into contact with the juice. Rose wines are usually made with dark grapes, by only leaving the skins in for a few hours, so the colour is pink.
Choosing a wine at a restaurant can be a time when all eyes are on you. Once the choice has been made, you will be shown the bottle, handed the cork, and given a small amount to taste. But why and what are these steps for? Firstly, you are shown the bottle to check that it’s the wine you ordered. You would look at the date, the name and the vineyard. Next the cork will be removed and handed to you. Another strange gesture from your server… The idea now is to check that the cork is half wet and half dry. This will allow you to decipher how the wine has been stored. If it’s been stored upright, the cork will be completely dry, if there is a hole in the cork, the cork will be completely wet. Neither of these ways is correct for the wine to be adequate. Next you will need to taste the wine; this is to check that the wine hasn’t been corked and doesn’t smell bad, like vinegar. If all is well, you would let your server know who would then serve to it to all wanting it at the table.
If hosting a dinner party, choosing the right wine to accompany the right foods can seem to be very tricky. However there are a few basics that once learnt, can leave you feeling confident about your choices. If a wine has a high acidity level it means the flavour will be amplified and can blend well with most foods, but is best paired with citrus fruit and acidity salads. If the food is sweet, it is best to have a wine with an oak flavour. If the food is rich and hearty such as steak, it is best accompanied with a red wine with strong tannins. The wine with a lower alcohol level should be served before a wine with a higher level, along with younger wines served before older.
What actually are you looking for when wine tasting? Basically, you are looking to decipher flavours and textures of different types of wine, to help you distinguish and expand your palette. You want to learn what wines you prefer along with their characteristics, so you can then use this information when ordering your next glass as a restaurant, or buying wine for a dinner party. By tasting the wine, swirling it and then smelling it to enhance the scent, you will learn what types and ages of wine suit your palette best.
By learning just a few basics you can have a better understanding of wine, to help you make the right choices, accompaniments and simply so you can increase your enjoyment of drinking it.