To truly enjoy a glass of wine, it helps to come to the table equipped with some wine tasting knowledge. Of course, it is possible to simply enjoy your glass of red at the end of a long day without too much thought but to get more out of the glass, it pays to understand some wine basics.
This knowledge comes in the form of your personal dictionary of wine terms, which will enable you to enjoy the wine in more depth.
Perhaps the most familiar of the terms is how we observe the wine by taste. It is the first thing you notice when you take your first sip. Our taste can detect the unique individual flavours of the wine as well as the structure including its sweetness and acidity. Sweet varietals have been fermented for less time leaving more residual sugar in the wine compared to dry wines, which have been fermented longer, allowing the sugar to disappear.
One important thing to remember is that even dry wines can sometimes taste sweet, due to the depth of ripe fruit flavours. For example, according to Mike Peterson, the founder of Vintopia, Cabernet Sauvignon can come off as ‘sweet’ as it contains flavours of intense ripe fruit.
Mike Peterson of Vintopia says Cabernet Sauvignon often comes off as 'sweet'.
The second term, nose, refers to the overall effect of the smell of the wine. According to Alex Sanchez from I Like this Grape, you can be more specific when discussing the nose of the wine using the two terms ‘aroma’ and ‘bouquet’. Aroma refers to the primary smell of the grape itself and could be classified as fruity, floral or herbal. When you drink your next glass, look out for aromas that fit into these three categories. Perhaps you’ll detect a hint of blackberry or mint
Alex Sanchez of I Like This Grape says 'aroma' and 'bouquet' are the go-to terms for discussing the nose of a wine.
Bouquet, on the other hand, are the aromas derived from the winemaking practices and the type of vessel the wine was aged in. Bouquets can often be yeast derivative including nut or cheese rind, mostly found in white wines or they can have more savoury notes like baking spices, vanilla and even old tobacco commonly found in wines aged in oak.
The body of a wine can be classified into three basic categories: light bodied, medium bodied or full bodied. These terms are used to describe the general weight or fullness of the wine in your mouth. Mike Peterson calls it the difference between skim milk, full cream milk and cream: skim milk is clearly going to feel a lot lighter on your tongue as it’s mixed with water. Apply this same concept to wine tasting. There are a number of factors that can determine the body of a wine including alcohol, grape variety and quality. The alcohol content gives the wine its viscosity, the higher the amount of alcohol, the fuller the body will be. Another interesting point to note is that fuller-bodied wines, are more likely to come from a warmer region, making it all the more likely you’ll be able to identify where your bottle comes from.
The next time you are enjoying a glass wine, take the time to apply these three steps and you may find you become quite the wine expert!