The Ultimate Guide to Wine
The creation and origin of wine dates back to 6000BC. Ever since then, wine has become almost a household staple for many families in South Africa and across the world. Not all wines are created the same, though, and contain different ingredients or longer fermentation processes, but still get bottled to be enjoyed by those with a palate for elegance. Appreciating wine starts with understanding how it’s made and the skill it takes to thoroughly experience its taste. If you’re looking to learn more about the wonderful world of wine, read on.
Understanding the Basics of Wine
Wine has 5 core essential components; water, alcohol, acid, sugar, and phenolic compounds. Authentic wine will tick all 5 boxes, without lacking on one of the other. Wine is usually 80-90% water, which is mostly from the grapes – it is not common at all to add more water to the process. Alcohol is the main component and adds ‘body’ to your palate. Tartaric acid is the top common acid found in wine and can form wine crystals. Glucose and fructose are natural sugars found in grapes and are very fermentable – converting grape juice into wine. And lastly, phenolic compounds can have a big impact on wine.
Some alter the appearance and some alter the tase – it all depends on the type of wine being made. If all wines tasted the same, there wouldn’t be anything worth enjoying. The beauty about wine is the difference in wine styles and the various production methods. There are many different types of wine, such as red, white, dessert wine, sparkling wine, and rosé.
Red wines are fermented in traditional oak barrels whereas white wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. The production of wine involves 6 steps – harvest, de-stemming and crushing grapes, pressing, fermentation, clarification, aging, and bottling. As you can see, making wine isn’t made in one day, in fact; some of the best wines are at their best at a few months to a year of fermentation. Here are some common and popular favourites to the types of wine:
• Red: Cabernet Sauvignon
• White: Chardonnay
• Rosé: Groot Constantia Brut Rose
• Sparkling: De Krans White Moscato Perle
• Fortified wine: Bon Courage
Wine Tasting and Evaluation
Wine tasting is something everyone in their lifetime has to experience. When you visit a wine farm, you become acquainted with the processes and different types of wine and how to taste it and pair it with different foods. You have to use all senses to truly immerse yourself in the flavour and taste of wine. Here are easy steps to follow on how to taste wine:
1. Look: inspect the wine in your glass.
2. Smell: identify the aromas of the wine by breathing it in.
3. Taste: take a small sip and swirl it around in your mouth to assess the flavours and structure.
4. Decide: have a ponder – do you like the taste?
What flavours are too strong or lack? This is the time to decide your thoughts on the wine. An easy way to remember the evaluation process is the
5 s’s – see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savour. This is the beginners process and can be followed when taste-testing wines. The aroma, taste and finish of wines is an important part of the testing experience. Instead of gulping it down, it offers you the chance to get personal with the wine, decide if it’s worth purchasing or not and to enjoy the different aromatics.
You will follow the same wine-tasting process for each different types of wine and doing this frequently will help develop your palate. Brush up on your wine knowledge by familiarising yourself with some basic wine vocabulary:
• Aroma: the smell produced by the aging of wine.
• Barrel aged: the process of wine aging in a barrel.
• Crisp: a level of fresh acidity found in the wine.
• Demi-sec: sparkling wines that are semi-sweet.
• Fermentation: the process of pressing grapes and turning it into wine.
Wine Selection and Pairing
Now comes the fun part; pairing meals with a selection of wine. While the concept of food and wine pairing isn’t rocket science, it can be tricky for those just starting out; we’re here to help!
Follow the below to help you choose the right wine for the right meal.
• Bolder meats, like red meat, venison, veal, and more pair beautifully with a choice of red wine.
• Lighter meats such as chicken and fish often pair best with white wines.
• Try matching the wine by acidity and sweetness to the sauce than with your choice of meat.
• Bitter wines, red wines that have no sweetness, are best balanced with fatty meals.
The idea behind pairing food and wine is to enhance the flavour of the meals prepared. Many chefs are able to recommend the perfect wine to accompany a dish, this is so that you can enjoy a fully flavoured meal and experience the ingredients each in their own light.
Here are some exquisite and fantastic wine and food pairings that you have to try:
• Champagne and oysters
• Cabernet Sauvignon and steak
• Sancerre and goat cheese
• Pinot Noir and salmon
• Dry Riesling and sushi
Wine Regions and Grape Varieties
Wine may have originated in Georgia, but did you know that France, Italy, Spain, and the U.S.A are the top 4 regions that produce just more than half of all the wine in the world? This means that out of all the wine in the world, it is produced in those 4 regions and dispersed to many different countries – allowing everyone to savour the flavour of wine. In South Africa, the most popular grape variety is Chenin Blanc, also commonly known as Steen. It is the most planted grape variety and accounts for just under 20% of all the grape plantings. Throughout the world, the most popular grown grape variety is Cabernet Sauvignon. This hybrid grape has a very distinct flavour, similar to that of a “green bell pepper” and come in a variety of flavours too, such as blackcurrant, chocolate, blueberry and more.
Building Your Wine Knowledge and Collection
There’s no harm in learning more about wine and wanting to appreciate it more – it is, of course, an art to be relished in. The dream of having a wine cellar and starting a collection sounds romantic and incredible, but it takes time, money, and hard work to get started. Here are some easy tips to follow.
1. Discover the purpose for your wine collection.
2. How much budget do you have to fund your project?
3. Get some help from some wine experts to avoid making costly mistakes.
4. Hit the books – learn everything there is to know about wine.
5. Invest in proper equipment and ensure you have sufficient storage space. When it comes to storage, the conditions, air, and temperature have to be just right.
Keep your wine in the dark at all times and ensure the humidity is at best 70%. It’s also ideal to store bottles horizontally, to ensure the cork stays in contact with the wine. Wine labels will also give an indication of how they’re stored best.
Exploring the world of wine can’t be done in one sitting. If you have a fine appreciation for the craft and process of wine and want to learn more, the best way to immerse yourself, would be to experience many wine farm tours. This will expose you to the fermentation process, how it’s stored and aged, the best foods to pair it with and how to develop your palate through taste testing.
If this ultimate guide has ignited a deeper love and appreciation for wine, all we ask is this: keep experimenting - taste, experience, talk to experts, and share your discoveries and knowledge with others. And of course, don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way! Click here to browse our huge range of delectable wine varietals.