Become educated in the world of wine


The world of wine – it’s a confusing one.

I’ve enjoyed a glass of wine (or more accurately two) for many years. And I have to admit I have an outright favourite when it comes to white wine - the crisp, gooseberry flavours of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. But outside of my gooseberry comfort zone, I’m clueless when it comes to wine. Aren't we all?

Well no, obviously we're not all in the same predicament. There are, of course, those who know what distinct flavours to expect in one wine over another, who are confident when it comes to ordering a quality wine from a list, who can correctly compliment the food on offer with the right tipple. Why shouldn't I be one of those such wine connoisseurs?

So when it came to thinking of items for my list, learning more about wine was right up there. And ever in tune with my wishes and desires (and slightly desperate for Christmas present ideas I'm sure) my boyfriend, Chris, surprised me with the perfect aid to my challenge - a wine tasting kit.

Much fun ensued. Spread over two sniffing, swirling, slurping and savouring filled nights we completed our wine tasting kit... enjoying every moment.

But the question stands, do I now feel educated in the world of wine?

Well I definitely have some of the wine tasting lingo – a few easy tips and you can at least appear to know what you’re doing:

Look at it
·        Hold the glass by the stem and tilt so that you can see the core (or central) colour. White wines become deeper and more golden with age, red wines more brown or tawny with age and the colour is lighter at the rim of the glass compared with the core.
·        Also lighter coloured wines tend to be from cooler climates, having said this apparently certain grape varieties are characteristically light or dark in colour - conveniently confusing matters!

Smell it
·        This is the part where you swirl the wine around in your glass, allowing the aromas to escape by increasing the surface area exposed to air. You must sniff deeply but first impressions count most here - so best to take a quick sniff and not to think too intently! First check is: does it smell ‘clean’? An ‘unclean’ wine will smell musty, like a wet dog - this means it’s corked. (Aha! That’s how you tell!)

·        Second: what does it smell of? Easy-drinking wines are often easy on the nose (seems logical), like a younger wine, which tend to smell more of fruit. Older wines tend to smell more savoury and spicy, less of fruit. But notice the ‘tend’ - some grape varieties of course have very distinctive ‘bouquets’, young or old.

Taste it
·        Slurp it, drawing in air at the same time to increase exposure. Imagining you’re slurping Japanese Ramen noodles is supposed to do the trick here! Swirl it around your mouth, coating your tongue to give every taste bud a chance.

·        A few things to pay attention to for the taste…
         Sweetness - tasted at the tip of the tongue, use it to identify whether the wine is dry, medium or sweet.
         Acidity - important to balance with the sweetness, it’s tasted on the sides of the tongue and tastes like lemons.
         Tannin - bitterness which is tasted on the back of the tongue and makes your mouth pucker like drinking a strong black tea. Tannin is mainly found in red wine, it’s from the skins of the grape and from oak ageing. If sweetness, acidity and tannins are well balanced, and the taste therefore blends together, the wine is good quality.
         Flavour - look out for fruity, savoury, dairy, nutty, spicy, herbal, woody, floral, sugary. Older red wines tend to taste more savoury and spicy, older white wines more honeyed and yeasty. Younger wines - fruity of course. Hotter countries, where grapes are very ripe, also produce more fruity wines.
         Alcohol - sensed at the back of the throat, giving you that warming sensation. The higher the level of sugar in the grapes before fermentation the higher the potential alcohol. So in hot countries, with their ripe grapes, wine tends to be higher in alcohol.

Savour it
·        How ‘long’ is the wine? If the aftertaste lasts for a long length of time after swallowing, it’s a high quality wine.

Et voila - you now have the wine tasting lingo too.

Lingo aside though, negative... I’m yet to feel educated in the world of wine... (Sorry Chris).

But alas, “This is just the start of your world of wine schooling” you are no doubt screaming! And my answer to this once again is… negative.

Because for the first time in this challenge, I’m wondering whether this one is just not for now. I've come to realise that, actually, I’m quite happy in my wine naivety - not ready to be engulfed by the core of the wine, get caught up with tannins and pay attention to the length of the aftertaste.

Besides, becoming absorbed in the world of wine is going to take time, a lot of experimentation and needless to say money. None of which I currently have to spare.

Perhaps this one then, has trickled in as a reminder that my own list is not there to be ticked-off like the to-do lists I set out to avoid. It's not there to rush through life's adventures and force experiences and discoveries. It's there to inspire, to get excited about, to indulge in, to enjoy, whilst remembering that:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pass me a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc!

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