Important Things To Know About Wine

 

For the longest time, wine has been learned by region and in the past this worked well. However today, since wine is now literally being produced everywhere, the regional lines have become blurry. So it’s time to develop new ways to learn about wine. As it happens, there are 10 fundamental things about wine that are pretty easy to grasp.

Want to find out what wine you like best? Check out just 18 different grape varieties, commonly referred to as international varieties. They include light sweet white wines like Moscato and Riesling to deep dark red wines like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Once you’ve tried all 18, you’ll actually have a pretty good handle on the entire range of wine. You’ll also know more about your personal preferences.

All wines can be organized into five fundamental groups. Within each group there are hundreds of different grape varieties and also different winemaking styles.

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Red Wine
Still wine made with black grapes. These can range from light to dark and bone-dry to sweet.

White Wine
A still wine produced from green and sometimes black grapes. Flavors span from rich and creamy to light and zesty.

Rosé Wine
Still wine from black grapes produced by removing the skins before they deeply color the wine. Also formed by blending red and white wine together. Both dry and sweet styles of rosé are common.

Sparkling Wine
A style of winemaking involving a secondary fermetation causing bubbles! Sparkling wine can be red, white or rosé and can range from minerally to rich and sweet.

Fortified Wine
A style of winemaking involving fortifying wine with spirits. Typically a dessert wine, but many dry-style fortified wines exist such as dry Sherry.


Within the five main styles of wine are different levels of sweetness. This is a winemaking style as most wines can be produced from Dry to Sweet.

A dry wine is produced when all of the grape sugars are fermented into alcohol. Some dry wines may have a touch of RS to add body but not sweetness.

Semi-Sweet (aka Off Dry) A semi-sweet wine leaves a touch of the sugars in a wine usually to complement acidity and/or aromatics in wine. Riesling is typically Off-Dry.

A sweet wine leaves a lot of the sugars in a wine unfermented. Sweet wines are typically lower alcohol if they are not fortified. (ex Moscato d’Asti 5.5% ABV)

 

 

Knowing that Italy, France and Spain are the top three wine producing countries in the world tells you three things. For one, they probably produce the majority of bulk wine in the world. Two, they also produce some of the best wine in the world. And three, France, Italy and Spain are the source of all of the most popular varieties of wine in the world.

 

Now that you know what wine is and where it comes from, find out what are the basic characteristics of wine? Some wines taste tart. The tartness of wine is called acidity. Some wines will warm/burn the back of your throat, which is the alcohol level. Finally, some wines leave a lingering bitter/dry taste in your mouth which is called tannin. Learn the basic wine characteristics so you can better describe what you like.

Our human perception of sweet starts at the tip of our tongue. Often, the very first impression of a wine is its level of sweetness. To taste sweet, focus your attention on the taste buds on the tip of your tongue. Are your taste buds tingling?–an indicator of sweetness. Believe it or not, many dry wines can have a hint of sweetness to carry a larger impression of Body. If you find a wine you like has residual sugar, you may enjoy a hint (or a lot!) of sweetness in your wine. Hello moscato!


How to Taste it in Wine


  • Tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue.

  • Slight oily sensation in the middle of your tongue that lingers.

  • Wine has a higher viscosity; wine tears on side of glass slowly. (also an indicator of high ABV)

  • Dry red wines such as cabernet sauvignon often have up to 0.9 g/L of residual sugar (common with cheap wines).

  • A bone-dry wine can often be confused with a wine with high Tannin


Body: Light to Full-Bodied

Are you in the mood for a light, medium or full-bodied wine? Body is the result of many factors – from wine variety, where it’s from, vintage, alcohol level and how it’s made. Body is a snapshot of the overall impression of a wine. You can improve your skill by paying attention to where and when it’s present.

Alcohol Level ABV (or Alcohol by Volume) adds body. The wine will have a higher viscosity which is easily seen in watching it bead on the side of the glass. A high alcohol wine typically tastes fuller bodied than a light-alcohol wine.


Tasting body in wine
  • How does the wine compare to other wines you’ve tasted? Lighter? Bigger?
  • How long does the taste last in your mouth after you’ve swallowed? 5 seconds? 40 seconds?
  • Is the wine full bodied up front but then drops off at the finish?


Wine Characteristics Conclusions


Wine characteristics help identify and relate different wines to each other. Since over 250,000 different wines are released every year around the world, it’s helpful to think about wine characteristics in terms of the varietal and where they’re from.

 

Wine is social. Learn about basic social wine etiquette. It will help you maintain cool and calm, even in the most intense dining situations. 90% of wine is meant to be drunk in the year it’s released. This is a fact. Some wines do, however, improve with age. Want to know the traits of an age-worthy wine? There are four traits: Acidity, Tannin, Low Alcohol and Residual Sugar.

 

Why Wine Doesn’t Taste the Same Year to Year?


Does this ever happen to you? You find a stupid-awesome wine and you buy a ton of it. Eventually you drink up your stash and buy more, except the new wine doesn’t taste the way you remember. You’re not crazy. Check the vintage, more than likely you’re a victim of Vintage Variation. Vintage variation happens more often in cooler climate regions. So if you’re a Pinot Noir lover, pay attention to vintage.

 

What Should You Expect to Spend on Decent Wine?


We all hear about them. Those amazing deals on fantastic wines; either declassified, relabeled or sold through a stressful 3-day sale site. Yes, some of these deals are great, but you can still find great wines without a discount tag. How much should you expect to spend on a decent bottle? And if you’re buying in a restaurant, how much does that bottle of wine really cost?


Drinking Wine is an Adventure

If you’re drinking the same old crap just to get drunk then you’re not really enjoying all the uniqueness wine has to offer. Wine is an accompaniment to life experiences–where you are and who you’re with. There will always be peaks and valleys. Expand your understanding by being experimental and trying new things. If you ask a wine expert what their favorite wine is, they’ll never give you a straight answer because the truth is, they love it all.

 

Becoming a wine expert is daunting. Wine snobs lurk around every corner itching to challenge your wine smarts and everyone else has strong opinions about what they think you should drink.

 

Once you get past the ‘wine’ flavor you’ll begin to identify interesting subtleties. There are a few tips to developing your wine palate to taste flavor nuances. It’s important to note that expanding your palate involves tasting a range of wines. Consider joining a wine tasting group!

 

By now your feet are wet in the world of wine. You’ve tried a chardonnay, a cabernet, a zinfandel and perhaps a pinot grigio. Then, one day you’ll taste a wine that’s different from all the others you’ve tasted. You will find your ‘Aha’ Wine.

‘Aha’ wines typically are not from the region you’ve grown to prefer. For example, the first ‘Aha’ wine I tasted was an $11 sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. When I opened the bottle it stunk of jalapeño and bell pepper. For me, this wine broke my preconceived notion that wine is always sweet and never savory.

An ‘Aha’ wine isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being unique. Most folks are happy with bigger and bolder red wines and never want much else. In fact, the prior category is where most folks find their favorite wines in the world. It’s important to recognize that your friends and family will be content to stay here, so keep this in mind next time you’re choosing a wine for a social engagement.


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