Nothing quite like a good glass of wine to elevate a meal or celebrate a special occasion. But for many people, the world of wine can be intimidating and confusing.
Wine has a long and rich history, with evidence of its consumption dating back to as early as 6000 BCE in Georgia, 5000 BCE in Iran (Persia), 4100 BCE in Armenia, and 4000 BCE in Sicily. The wine quickly spread throughout ancient cultures, including Greece, Thrace, and Rome, where it was celebrated for its intoxicating effects and enjoyed as a symbol of luxury and refinement.
As people say, the older the wine, the better the taste. However, this is only sometimes true. Barrel aged means increased malolactic fermentation, bottle aged is the wine developing from it’s own devices.
What makes one wine different from another? How do you know more about this wine? Lets take a journey through the art of wine tasting and share tips and tricks for identifying different types of wine and developing your palate.
The Basics of Wine Tasting
You can identify a great wine by following these simple steps.
- Take a good look at the wine in your glass. Note its colour and clarity, and observe any bubbles or sediment.
- Give the wine a sniff and try to identify any aromas or scents.
- Take a sip and pay attention to the wine’s flavours, acidity, and texture.
You can either do this at home, at an organised event, or visit a local vineyard to a masterclass.
Identifying Different Types of Wine
There are several major types of wine, each with its unique characteristics. Here’s an overview of each type and how to identify them:
Typically made with dark-coloured grapes, they are famous for their bold flavours and tannins from the red grape skins. They can range from light-bodied to full-bodied, and common varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.
Made with light-coloured grapes, white wines are known for their crisp acidity and lighter flavours. They can range from sweet to dry, and common varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio.
Also known as “blush” wine, rosé is made by allowing the skins of red grapes to remain in contact with the juice for a short period. This results in a pink or blush colour and a lighter flavour than red wine.
Known for their bubbles and celebratory qualities, they can be white or rosé and range from dry to sweet. Champagne is the most famous sparkling wine, but other varieties include Prosecco and Cava.
Fortified wines have had a distilled spirit, such as brandy, added to them. It increases the alcohol content and results in a unique flavour. Common varieties include Port, Sherry, and Madeira, or Buckfast for my fellow Scots and Irish.
Tips for Tasting Wine
These are some tips and tricks for beginners to help them taste wines effectively:
- Pay attention to temperature: Different types of wine are best served at different temperatures. For example, white wine is typically served chilled; on the other note, red wine is served at room temperature. Check the bottle for recommended serving temperatures.
- Use the right glassware: The shape and size of the wine glass can impact the taste and aroma of the wine due to aeration. Use a tulip-shaped glass for red wine and a smaller, narrower glass for white wine.
- Take time to savour the flavours: Slow down and take small sips, allowing the wine to coat your tongue and mouth. Note the flavours, acidity, and texture of the wine.
- Use common tasting terms: Wine tasting often involves using descriptive terms to describe the flavours and aromas of the wine. Common terms include fruity, oaky, and tannic. Feel free to use these terms to describe what you’re tasting.
Common mistakes to avoid when tasting wine
- Drinking wine too quickly or not taking the time to savour it
- Drinking wine that is too cold or too warm
- Using overpowering scents, such as perfume or cologne, while tasting wine
- Using the wrong glassware
How to Develop Your Palate
Developing a refined palate takes time and practice. Here are some tips to help you develop your wine-tasting skills:
- Taste wines from different regions and grape varieties: Try different types of wine from different parts of the world to experience the unique characteristics of each. It will also help you identify your preferences.
- Practice regularly: The more you taste wine, the more familiar you’ll become with the flavours and aromas. Try tasting different wines side by side to compare and contrast the flavoursome differences.
Popular Countries for winemaking
Wines around the word taste differently due to the conditions and soil the grapes are grown in. Indeed it can also taste different by region, such as wine produced in Marlborough Sounds noticeably better than other New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
1. France has an array of wines, but is well known for it’s sparkling wine form the Champagne region.
2. Italy most exported wine is Prosecco
3. Spain is home to the Rioja and Cava
4. Portugal is most famous for Port
6. United States
7. Argentina creates the most wonderful Malbec (Red)
10. South Africa
11. New Zealand has become renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc wines, particularly from the Marlborough region.
12. Hungary is known for its sweet dessert wines, such as Tokaji.
In conclusion, wine tasting can be a fun and rewarding experience for wine enthusiasts of all levels. Remember to practice regularly and explore different types of wine to expand your knowledge and preferences. Don’t be afraid to experiment with pairing wine with food to discover new flavour combinations. Cheers to your wine-tasting journey!