As experienced caterers with an interest in fine dining, we at Lakeshore are passionate about sharing our knowledge of wine.
The world of wine can seem daunting to uninitiated, but with just a few basic pointers you can become a true wine connoisseur. Our beginner’s guide includes: a step-by-step guide to wine tasting, a breakdown of terminology, some tips on how to choose good cheap wine, the do’s and don’ts of storage, and a glassware guide.
How to Taste Wine
Learning how to taste wine will help you discover what flavours you enjoy and deepen your appreciation of what’s in your glass. The process of tasting wine is actually quite simple and with enough practice you will be able to train your palette to detect even the subtlest notes.
1. Look: Hold the glass by the stem and inspect the colour, opacity and viscosity for five seconds under neutral lighting.
2. Swirl: By swirling you enlarge the surface area of the wine that comes into contact with the air. This helps to aerate the wine and unleash delicious aromas.
3. Smell: Dip your nose into the glass and inhale two or three times. Keep gently swirling your wine if you can’t smell much. Ask yourself what the aromas remind you of.
4. Taste: Sip the wine and let it linger in your mouth. Expose the wine to more taste buds by rolling it around in your mouth.
5. Reflect: Make notes (written or mental) about what you learned about the wine and reflect on what you liked or didn’t like about the taste.
How To Taste Wine: Notes & Flavours
Knowing how to taste wine is one thing but being able to recognise flavours is another. Some common flavours to look out for in a glass of wine include: dryness, sweetness, acidity, tannins, fruitiness and body.
Dryness/ Sweetness: A dry wine is characterised by the absence of sweetness. This is because it has no residual sugar, i.e. sugar that didn’t convert into alcohol during fermentation. Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc tend to be very dry, whereas Zinfandel and Riesling wines are usually very sweet. To taste for dryness, focus your attention on the tip of your tongue.
Acidity: Fundamentally, all wines lie on the acidic side of the pH spectrum. Acidity gives wine its tart and sour taste and balances out any sweet or bitter flavours. Generally speaking, white wines are more acidic than red wines. Examples of acidic red wines include Beaujolais and Chianti, whereas Sauvignon Blanc is an example of an acidic white wine. To taste, gauge how your mouth naturally puckers after a sip and how much it makes you salivate.
Tannins: Tannins add a bitterness and depth of flavour to wine and will make your mouth feel dried-out. While all wines have tannins, red wines have a higher level than whites. Examples of red wines with lots of tannins include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Syrah.
Fruitiness: Red wines tend to feature flavours from red fruit (e.g. strawberry, raspberry) and black fruit (e.g. blackberry, blueberry). White wines however usually feature tree fruit (e.g. apple, peach) and citrus fruit (e.g. lemon, pineapple) flavours. To taste for fruity undertones, inhale your wine before tasting.
Body: In essence, body describes how the weight of the wine feels on the palette. Body is categorised into full, medium and light. A good way to understand this is by thinking of the difference between skimmed milk (light), whole milk (medium), and cream (full).
How to Choose A Good Wine for Less
One common misperception about wine is that you need to spend a lot of money to find something decent. However, it is very possible to find an enjoyable bottle of wine that is well within budget providing that you keep a few things in mind.
• First, take some time to research up-and-coming wine regions. These areas often produce excellent yet underrated wines at far more reasonable prices than those from more established regions.
• Secondly, experiment with lesser-known grape varieties that do not have the same prestige as the more well-known varieties.
• Avoid wine with a high alcohol content, as oftentimes extra alcohol is added to mask flavours in cheap wines.
• Alternatively, you could try switching to white which tends to be less expensive than red due to its shorter production time.
How to Store Your Wine
When it comes to storing wine, temperature is the most important factor. Try to keep your bottles in a dark, dry space with a temperature that is somewhere between 45° and 65° Fahrenheit. Another handy tip is to store your bottles on their sides. The constant contact with the wine keeps the cork moist and prevents it from becoming “corked”.
Temperature variations will affect the taste quality of the wine, so avoid putting it anywhere that is too cool or too hot. Similarly, keep it away from windows or other sources of natural light as the UV rays will damage the taste. Finally, try not to store your wine upright for a long time as this could cause it to prematurely age.
Choosing Your Glassware
Using the appropriate glassware can help to enhance the flavours of the wine. Generally speaking, there are two types you can choose from – red wine glasses and white wine glasses.
Red wine glasses are designed in such a way as to bring more oxygen into contact with the wine, thereby allowing it to ‘breathe’ more and give a boost to the wine’s aromas and flavours. Due to their lighter aromas, white wine glasses feature smaller bowls. This helps to release the fragrances while also maintaining a cooler temperature.
To learn more, check out our infographic below which provides a comprehensive beginner’s guide to wine.
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