Do you love wine? Do you want to learn more about wine, but don’t know where to start? Here are 10 things that you need to know in order to understand wine better, covering everything from grape types to aging processes. Cheers!
It can be a little daunting when others around you seem to know a lot about wine. Or perhaps you love the taste of wine, but want to know more about it to pursue your passion for wine further. Whatever your reasons for wanting to know more about wine, here are 10 things to get you started on your journey.
1. Different Grapes – Different Types of Wine
The first thing to understand about wine is that the type of wine you drink depends on the type of grape used to make it. Different grapes create different types of wine, from sweet whites like Moscato to heavy reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Understanding the different grape varieties will help you understand why certain wines are sweet, while others are dry. So the next time someone asks ‘is Merlot sweet’, you will know that it is a very interesting dry red wine.
2. Wine Aging
Understanding the aging process of wine is important when selecting your bottle. Most wines will tell you the vintage, or when the grapes were harvested, so you can pick a wine that has been aged to perfection. Aged wines tend to have a more complex flavor and are smoother on the palate. Different grape varieties age in a different way too. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon can age for up to twenty years, while Chardonnay will only age well for a maximum of five.
3. Acidity and Tannins
When tasting wine, you might notice some acidic or tannic characteristics. Acidity is a tartness that you might taste in the wine; tannins are dry, dusty flavors that come from the grape skins, stems and seeds. The amount of acidity and tannins in a wine will depend on the type of grape used, as well as the winemaking process. For example, a winemaking process that involves oak aging will increase the tannin levels in red wines.
4. Growing Conditions
Where a grape is grown has an impact on the flavor and character of the wine. Different climates, soils and exposure to sun will affect how the grapes grow. For example, Pinot Noir grapes grown in cold climates can produce a light-bodied red wine, while Pinot Noir grapes grown in warmer climates will produce a fuller-bodied red wine. By understanding this, you will start to learn why certain wine making regions are so famous for particular types of wine.
5. Alcohol Levels
The alcohol content of a wine can range anywhere from 8% to 15%, depending on the type of grape and winemaking process. Generally, dry wines have a higher alcohol level because as the water evaporates during the winemaking process, the alcohol remains. Most people enjoy wines that are around 12% in terms of alcohol content best. However, some of the best more alcoholic wines include ports and sherries that range from 16-20%.
6. Wine Tasting
Tasting wine is a skill that takes time to master, but there are a few basics that you should know. Firstly, look at the color of the wine in your glass – this can tell you about its age and the type of grape used. Then, swirl the wine in your glass to release the aromas, before taking a sip. Swishing it in your mouth and then spitting it out (like a professional) will give you time to think about the different flavors before deciding whether or not you like the wine. Wine tasting is one of the best ways to get to know more about different wines, as you can start to identify some of the different fruits and scents that each wine has.
7. Food and Wine Pairing
Food and wine pairing is a great way to enjoy your favorite wines with the correct food. Different wines have different flavors and textures, so understanding which wine to pair with a certain type of food is important. For example, white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc are great with lighter dishes, while red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon can go perfectly with heavier dishes. The key is to experiment and find what suits your taste buds the best.
8. Storage and Serving
If you’re serious about wine, then proper storage and service techniques are essential. To ensure your wines stay at the optimum temperature, find a cool, dark place to store them. Additionally, when serving a wine it is important to serve it in the right glass. Different wines require different glass shapes and sizes to bring out their flavor. Lastly, remember not to store opened bottles for more than a few days as the flavor and aroma will start to degrade.
9. Wine Ratings
When it comes to buying a bottle of wine, ratings are helpful in deciding what to buy. Wine ratings are given by a variety of experts and publications, based on the flavor and quality of the wine. Ratings can range from very good (85-89 points) to exceptional (90-95 points). However, even if a wine is highly rated, it might not be to your taste. That is why it is important to learn about the different types of wine and what you like best.
10. Health Benefits
Of course, drinking wine in moderation can also have health benefits. Wine contains antioxidants which may help to protect the body from disease-causing free radicals, as well as helping to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Therefore, a glass or two of wine can be a healthy way to unwind after a long day.
That’s it! With these 10 wine basics, you should be well on your way to becoming a wine connoisseur. Remember, the best way to learn about wine is to experiment and explore all the different types available. Enjoy!