Wine can be quite an intimidating subject. Everyone seems to know more than you and yet there has never been a course on it. Also, everyone has wildly different preferences and because of this people very rarely agree on wine.
This article hopes to break down the scary barrier of wine and make sure that you can sound like the finest sommelier on the block. From colors, how it is aged, how it should be stored this article will make life so much easier for you.
Wine Bottle Shapes
One of the first things that come to mind when thinking of wine is the shape of the bottle. Wine bottle shapes are quite distinct, and you will be able to see differences even on the ones you find in your local supermarket. But is there a reason for this? Well yes of course. Wine has come in a variety of shapes over the years. In ancient Rome, it was served in clay Amphorae which had a long neck, a lid, and a looped handle. This meant that the wine stayed cool and was easy to pour. We have come a long way since then.
There are a few more common shapes of wine bottles: The Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, Port, and Chianti. Each has slightly different features that distinguish them from their counterparts, and many do have a particular reason for it. The Bordeaux has straight sides and high shoulders whist the Burgundy has a wider base and longer sloped shoulders. Higher shoulders are more effective against sediment that may form in an aged wine whereas the longer sloped shoulders are typically reserved for lighter wines that don’t face this problem.
Equally, the Champagne bottle is much heavier than any other to contain the high-pressure sparkling wine while the Chianti bottle often comes with a basket to help it stand up naturally ensuring that it is stored vertically. Traditionally, all of these factors would have been very important, however, today the choice of bottle tends to focus on the tradition of the area where it is made. Many winemakers like to keep the tradition of their region alive through their bottles.
Whether you are hosting a party at home or work in hospitality, pouring wine can be very intimidating. Not only does wine tend to be expensive but it can also leave some nasty stains on people’s nice and expensive clothing. There is also a tradition of wine pouring that many people believe needs to be the way that wine is served.
When pouring wine, the glass should remain on the table, whilst you hold the bottle in the lower half with one hand. You should pour the wine aiming for the center of the glass or around the sides. The important thing here is not where you pour it but the speed of the pour. Too fast and you risk causing a splashback.
You should pour until the widest part of the glass, known as the 5 oz mark, and then swiftly tilt and turn the bottle upwards to ensure you don’t spill. In a professional environment, you should wipe the wine that will be nestled in the lip to prevent spillage. This can be scary but once you have practiced, it will become second nature.
By far much better than pouring the wine is tasting the wine. However, as is often the case with wine, there is a specific way in which it should be done to stay in line with tradition. The first thing to do when a glass of wine has been poured is to investigate the color. Look past the basic red and white and see what shade of color it is. This will give you an idea of age and taste. Darker white wines are usually older while red wines will have an orange tinge if it has been aged for a long time meaning a more robust flavor.
Next up is smelling. First, swirl your glass and then take a smell by putting your nose into the glass and taking a deep inhale. This is where you need to concentrate and work out which smells are there. Berries, vanilla, citrus smells are all usually prominent at this stage.
Finally, the best bit, tasting. Take a small sip and roll the liquid around your mouth, making sure to coat your tongue and cheeks. Your initial impression will often be of stronger flavors and acidity. Ideally, these will work together to make a delicious glass of wine. However, don’t make your decision on the wine just yet. As the wine coats the tongue, more flavors should become apparent. This is where fruity flavors usually appear.
Then swallow and experience the finish. The finish is how long the flavor lasts. Light-bodied wines tend to leave quickly while full-bodied wines persist a lot longer. Knowing the different stages of tasting can make you seem like a real wine expert to all of your friends.
Where Does it Come From?
Wine is often split into two distinct camps depending on where it was made: Old World and New World. Old World wines tend to be where modern wine techniques were developed and exported to the rest of the world. More commonly these tend to be European countries like Italy and France. These wines tend to be lighter with more minerality.
The new world on the other hand is those countries where these ideas were exported to and adapted to the new country. Places like the USA, New Zealand, and South Africa are some of the most famous. These wines tend to be fuller of the body with more alcohol and more pronounced fruit flavors.
Wine is a complex subject and there is a reason why there is an entire profession dedicated to its study. It has existed since ancient times and has been a constant in the world. As long as you know how to serve, pour and store it, you will be fine. The important thing to do is to enjoy it both regularly and frequently.