Beginner’s Guide To Wine Appreciation & Tasting
So you’ve decided to kickstart your journey into wine exploration? We’ve got you covered with a simple guide that will help you better understand the world of wines.
Understanding different types of wine
You can tell the visual difference between a red and a white, but do you know more than that? White wines are primarily made with white grapes, and the skins are separated from the juice before the fermentation process. Red wine is made with dark red or black grapes, and the skins usually remain on the grapes during the fermentation process. There are also Rosé wines – red grape juice that’s only soaked with the skins for a very short period, usually only two to three days, for some colour – as well as Sparkling wines, which usually involve secondary fermentation techniques. But it’s also important to learn the different types of varietals and wine styles – on our website, you can explore everything from Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon and Rioja to Cava.
Exploring wine regions
Most countries in the world have experimented with wine sometime or other. Categorised into ‘Old World’ or ‘New World’, the former comprises of regions with long histories of wine production, such as Europe and certain parts of the Mediterranean. Some well known Old World regions include France, Italy, and Germany, and the wines made in these countries focus on the terroir – which refers to the unique soil and climate of the region. On the other hand, New World wines are produced in newer wine-producing regions such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and the US, where the regions generally tend to have hotter climates and use different labelling methods that rely on grapes rather than the region for recognition.
Getting started with wine tasting
So you’ve done some research and purchased a decent bottle that’s maybe recommended to you by the shop. Now you have to taste it. While there is no one right or wrong way to taste wine, there are some widely-accepted ‘rules’ that apply.
The first step to wine tasting is to do a visual inspection of your glass under good neutral lighting. The more your wine is golden or garnet, the more it is aged and complex in general. Swirl the glass around and pay attention to the viscosity – if it’s like water, then the wine is very light and fresh, and likely high in acidity. If it’s more ‘syrupy’ and dense, your wine will taste richer and fuller-bodied. It’s also probably higher in alcohol.
The more you can sniff out, the more you’ll be able to taste. Your nose is the key to your palate, and you can gain a lot of information from smelling a wine before you drink it. By swirling the wine before you smell it, you’ll release more aromas of the wine. Primary aromas include fruit, herbal, and floral notes from the type of grape and the terroir, while Secondary aromas, which come from the winemaking process, can include notes like bread, sour cream, and yoghurt. Then there are the Tertiary aromas such as vanilla, roasted nuts, tobacco, dark leather, caramel, and chocolate, which come from ageing in oak or in the bottle.
Now, take a sip (not a large swallow) and try sucking on it as if you’re drinking it through a straw. This aerates the wines and circulates it around your mouth. Appreciate the body of the wine, the acidity, and the tannins. Is it heavy or light? Sharp or creamy? Is the texture grippy and makes your lips stick to your teeth? If so it is probably somewhat high in tannins – typical of young red wines and very tannic grapes. A wine with high acidity will have acidity similar to citrus fruit, whereas lower acidity wines are closer to that of milk. If you’ve done your sniffing homework right, you’ll again encounter that wide range of fruit, flower, herb, and minerality that you’ve just smelled, as well as a whole lot of other flavours. Determine if the wine is balanced, harmonious and complex, or otherwise.
The more you fine-tune your palate, the better you’re able to enjoy the nuances of a great wine. Palate training can be rewarding and very fun, but in the end, there’s no need to obsess over the details that you forget to enjoy the experience of drinking wine. Even the experts will say that any wine you like is a good wine for you. At the end of your tasting, write down your feelings, your subjective comments and considerations. This will help you to decide what bottle you want to look for next.