Know Your Wine

Look at you, so gorgeous and dark. With your red velvety restful aroma pulling me closer and making my palms twitch with excitement, and so much anxiety as I lifted the glass up filled with your essence. I took a deep breath and inhaled strongly, it smelled like chocolate that had been buried in liquor and left in for a long while, with such contrasting flavors of leather and cherries. The smell was so sensual I couldn’t wait for my palate and my brain to make the connection of what it tasted like. I licked the droplets off my lips from the first sip, swirled the rest of the content in my glass and had another long sip. Omg I love it, I screamed and geeked out like “a girl who’s just won an all paid expense luxury trip to Greece.” It tasted like Tempranillo grapes, dark chocolate, cherry (Agbalumo), and liquor decided to make a baby together with a touch of oak and created Rubis, I thought to myself as I sat down there savoring the deliciousness my mouth was just filled with.

Rubis was the first nonvintage red wine I ever loved. I’d always been a white lover, and many times friends and acquaintances who had such experienced exquisite taste in wine selection would make me try various red they loved, I thought they were cool but I always loved my white more whether it is still or bubbly.

Loved ones and friends who are so aware of my undying love for wine would randomly call me about wine choices, they are often confused about which wine would grace their palate and/or impress a particular admirer who is a wine enthusiast and they required my help so they don’t look like patsies. I always felt it was just general knowledge and anyone who liked wine would know but some of us do indulge a little more than others hence our peculiar interest in the subject of wine. Today I wanna share those tips acquired over the years, thanks to Bobo… I have had the privilege of dining on some really fine wine which, thus increased my experience.

Simple Tips In Making Wine Choices

We cannot learn those tips that would leave us feeling like a wine whiz, without recognizing basic wine lingo, and types of wines that are commonly known.

Wine Lingo

Acidity;

This refers to the acidic level of the grapes, the wine was made from.

Aftertaste;

This is the lingering taste of the wine on your palate after you have swallowed or finished drinking the wine. It is also known as finish.

Aroma;

This refers to the smell of the wine, mostly used to describe non-vintage wine or young wines.

Astringency;

Common term is Dryness. This is the degree of dryness of the wine. When it is dry, it may not necessarily be sweet, with sugar content as low as less than 5% in most cases. It is commonly red and those that do not enjoy sweet drinks can opt for this style.

Body;

This refers to how the wine feels on your palate and mouth. Basically, a wine is said to have heavy body when it is thick, and rich. A light body wine, however is light, and thin.

Bouquet;

This is closely associated to aroma, essentially used to describe the scent of older wines.

Balance;

The combination of fruit, tannins, and acidity is responsible for the balance of a wine. A well balanced wine is the perfect combination of all three components.

Blend;

A blend in wine, is created by using more than one type of grape in its complexity to produce a final result. Combination of blend is, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

Blind Tasting;

This is a chance to experience, evaluate and guess the type of wine relying solemnly on your palate with no prior knowledge of varietal, year or style of wine.

Complexity;

It is used to describe the different variation of unique aromas, flavors, and taste.

Decant;

This is a process of pouring wine from one container into a decanter, this allows oxygen to enter, and bring out the flavor, and aroma.

Dry;

This refers to the flavor of wine due to high tannins.

Earthy;

One major quality is responsible when a wine is said to be earthy, the kind of soil that the grapes were grown in, rich soils are mostly likely to produce a mineral-like quality in taste.

Estate;

This is found on the labels of the wine indicating where the grapes were grown. Estate or Estate bottled simply means the vineyard the grapes were grown.

Fruity;

Presence of strong taste of fruits, like berries, cherries, apples, stone fruits et al.

Note: that a fruity wine doesn’t necessarily mean sweet. Dry wine can be fruity.

Oak;

Could be barrels or chips and it is responsible for taste profile which indicates the fermentation process of the wine.

Oaked, Unoaked Or Stainless Steel;

This refers to storage containers used in storing wine while it aged, prior to bottling. Key word; Fermentation.

Oakiness;

Oaky taste due to fermentation or aging process.

Oxygenate;

Exposure to oxygen by decanting, or swirling it in your glass, this process transforms the wine flavors.

Palate;

Palate is unique to you. This helps you determine what flavors you like best. There is no right or wrong answers when it comes to different taste in wine, it all depends on what your palate enjoys the most. Personal preference is what makes wine dinning so special.

Sommelier;

This is a term used in referring to a wine expert on a wine tasting tour or steward in the restaurant, they hold all the deeds you need to know about wines in most established places.

Style;

Wine style has to do with the combination of the color, taste, alcoholic strength and several other factors including region of production, climate, soil conditions, grape varieties et al.

Swirl;

It is a process of exposing it to oxygen to bring out the flavors and aroma of the wine.

Tannins;

Tannins are compounds ( polyphenols ) which come from stems, and skins of grapes. This gives the wine a dry-mouth feeling and generally fadeswithage.

High tannins = Dryer taste.

Low tannins = Lack of dryness, meaning more sweet.

Varietal;

This means wines made basically from a single named grape variety, this information is usually displayed on the labels along with style, and year of wine.

And Finally,

Year;

Year in wine can be vintage or non-vintage, and this signifies the year the grapes which the wine is made from, was grown and harvested. Vintage refers to a single specified year while non-vintage is a blend from produce of two or more years.

Now that we are conversant with the basic wine lingos, let us progressively move to…

Types Of Wine With Examples Of Grape Varieties

  • Sparkling Wine; Champagne, Prosecco.
  • Light-bodied White; Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc.
  • Full-bodied White; Chardonnay, Viognier.
  • Sweet White; Riesling, Rosé

Note that Rieslings are mild.

  • Light-bodied Red; Pinot Noir.
  • Full-bodied Red; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec.
  • Sweet Red Wine; Port.

So much knowledge shared and gained thus far, now let us see how we can put all these information into…

Tasting Like A Pro

To make this very simple and easy to remember let us make it, the rule of 5S;

  1. See: Look at what you are about to drink, notice the color, note that the color indicates the type of grape used.

  2. Swirl: Swirl the wine in the glass, this allows the wine to breathe or oxygenate, remember we talked about how oxygenating brings out the flavors of the wine.

  3. Sniff: Smell the wine, this is the part most wine chumps will think you are being dramatic or prolly tag you an alcoholic, pay them no mind, be sure to put your nose close to the rim of your glass and smell what you are about to drink. One bad habit my mom complains about me that I have, is the fact I smell everything before I eat it, I don’t care how good it looks, if it smells in a certain way I don’t like or cannot stomach; best believe it ain’t going into my mouth.

  4. Sip: Take a small sip, allow air to reach your tongue during and after your sip to really get the flavors into your palate.

  5. Savor: Pay attention to the flavors and the finish, is it fruity or acidic, and after you swallow, how long does it feel like it is still in your mouth; that lingering taste on your palate is the finish.

The most important deed of the 5S rule is how much attention you pay to the wine. It is primarily about how well you can memorize the details of your senses, specifically what you see, smell, taste and feel. Be sure to write down your feed back, did you like it, or was it just blood tonic with fancy name; this is how I describe really bad red wine I don’t like. The blood tonic relation to red wine is a secret my siblings and I have in memory to our inquisitive growing up years. *holds laugh*

Remember to always make a note when you come across a wine you really enjoy, write down the name, its region for example Paarl and the grape variety, was it Chardonnay or Shiraz, put down the winery estate or producer as well. All these information are usually displayed on the label, which I agree can be challenging to read sometimes but it is always worth the knowledge and as time goes on, it becomes something you enjoy, a regular routine to enjoying your wine experience even better. It no longer feels like a chore, you might discover in the process that you like a particular style or grape variety better.

I am a Hypersensitive vinotype ( One of 4 vinotypes ) Personally, I enjoy Chardonnay for full bodied wine and Sauvignon Blancfor light bodied style of wine more. For red, which is sorta occasionally, I stick to Port, sometimes Merlot. I don’t know if it has to do with the availability or maybe it’s just the frequency of the number of times I’ve had it.

When I am feeling so fancy, I always like to enjoy a good plate of pasta with a nice bottle of sweet red.

My work here won’t be complete if do not mention Some few meals you can pair with wine to have that memorable experience I enjoy as well, so here goes…

Wine And Food Pairing

  • Sparkling wine goes well with fish and desserts.
  • Light bodied white goes well with salads, roasted vegetables, and really yummy desserts.
  • Full bodied white pairs well with chicken or shellfish.
  • Sweet white with desserts and cured meats.
  • Light bodied red goes well with chicken dishes, seafood, and sautéed/roasted veggies.
  • Full bodied red pairs well with red meat, cured meats, red meat pasta dishes, and cheeses.
  • Sweet red popularly known as dessert wine pairs well with mild/soft cheeses and cured meats.

There! I believe my work here is done *smiles with so much pride*

For more professional knowledge on wine I’d recommend John Platter’s Wine Guide since 1980, i was not even born then but I learned this from reading my dad’s cosmopolitan. I have always enjoyed flipping through the pages of a magazine than I did novels.

If you stay in Abuja, Nigeria and you are looking for a place where you can shop wines in all its varieties I’d advice you to visit Next Cash And Carry. If it is a hotel that serves luxurious wines at dinning that would be Transcorp Hilton. And most importantly for a restaurant where you can have the opportunity to experiment your wine whiz skills then I would suggest you visit The Ivory Room, It is a 4.5star restaurant/dinning with a gigantic transparent showcase of wines of different styles.

Slainte…🍷

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