From goon guzzler to sophisticated sommelier
I love wine. Like an entire bottle of Cab Sav on a Monday night type of love. I also know a lot about wine…like how to finish aforementioned bottle of Cab Sav in one sitting. When it comes to the non-drinking aspect though, I’m totally stumped. So I tuned my “wine-guy” (my boyf) to teach me a thing or two about how to appreciate a good drop.
So from one tragic wino to another here are a few important things I’ve learnt to help me sound smart AF on all things wine.
To start with you need to know what you like – knowledge which can only be achieved by tasting, tasting and more tasting. Tough, right?
I’ve learnt that I like a good, bold Cabernet Sauvignon. I might not know how to pronounce it, but years of sculling passion pop and top quality goon has possibly damaged my ability to pick up the important subtleties. So, for me the wine that packs the biggest punch and has a strong flavour is a winner.
“The inescapable fact about wine is that no matter how hard we try, no matter how evolved our palate becomes or how broad our knowledge is, wine is inherently a personal experience which is largely defined by our own sense of taste.” – This Is Not A Wine Guide by Chris Morrison
Now you might think this is the easy part but there are few important tips to making sure you look the part whilst sprouting off all this newly-acquired wine knowledge. Firstly, keep to a three finger pour. I know, sacrilege, but the three finger pour is the perfect amount for optimal flavour and aeration. Plus it allows you to swirl the glass (allowing for more aeration and opens up the wine for the nose and flavour) which’ll make you look like an expert level wine-o.
Make sure to hold the glass by the stem so you don’t warm up the wine as the temperature has a huge effect on the detectable flavours.
The types of wine
Just like people, wine doesn’t always fit into nicely labelled boxes so it’s difficult to describe wine just by its title. The taste of the wine depends on the grape, the area it was grown in and even the weather Below is a brief guide to know the basics about what type of wine you’re asking for.
White Chardonnay (shar-da-nay) Can be sparkling or still. Typically it will have hints of citrus flavours and be quite dry. Food pairing: fish or chicken.
Savignon Blanc (so-vee-yon blonk) – generally one of the driest whites typically will have flavours of apples, pears or even melon and mango with a strong acidic finish. Pair with: salad, poultry or seafood.
Semillon (say-mi-yawn) Very strong berry flavours, typically a syrupy and full-bodied wine. Pair with seafood or pasta.
Pinot Grigio (Pee- No Gree-zo) – Crisp and dry white wine, typically quite acidic. Pair with spicy or strongly flavoured food.
Moscato (Moss-car-toe) – Very sweet and fruity wine. If you’re currently a moscato drinker and want to move on, try a blend. Jacobs Creek does a great moscato/grigio mix that’ll have you on the hard stuff before you know it. Pair with – dessert or on its own.
Red Cabernet Savignon (Ca-ber-neigh So-vee-yon) – Full bodied red often with dark fruit flavours like cherry and blackberry with hints of pepper and…leather. Yum.
Merlot (Mer-low) - Often the choice for the wine newbies due its softer character, typically has hints of cherry and plum. Very versatile so you can usually pair with most foods.
Shiraz (Shir-az) - Often called syrah in Europe. Expect bold dark fruit flavours like blackcurrant and spicy undertones of pepper. Pair with roasted red meat, stews or steak.
Pinot Noir (Pee-no new-ah) - Generally a lighter and easier wine to drink, delicate and very fresh. Think fruity flavours like strawberries and hints of tea. Pair with salmon, chicken and great with sushi.
Malbec (Mal-bec) - Generally easy to drink with flavours of plums, berries and spices. Pair with meat, Mexican or Indian.
If you want to get really technical discuss Old World vs New World wines. The Old World typically describes European wines while the new world refers to Australian, NZ or South American wines, a good debate topic lies in the preference between them.
New world wines generally have bolder, ballsier flavours which are easier to pick up by the inexperienced drinker. While Old World wines have more subtle and complex flavours that only a total wine expert can really telling the fucking difference between. So definitely pull this out if you’re trying to impress those new in-laws.
This is just the beginning of your wonderful wine journey, you’re going to hear a lot of terms that sound (and are) totally foreign, and they will freak you out. The following are just a couple that you should get your head around before you start blathering about that vintage Pinot Noir.
Corked – A flawed wine may be described as “corked” generally because it’s been exposed to a type of mould in the cork.
Texture – The texture is something you’ll get better at pin pointing the more you drink – think silky, smooth, velvety or rough. It’s difficult to pick these up when you first start so don’t beat yourself up if you’re wondering how the hell a wine could be rough. The roughness that you're used to is the way that hangover experience the next day.
Legs – The legs refers to how wine sticks to the inside of a wineglass after drinking or swirling – the more it sticks generally means the higher sugar content.
Nose – Aroma.
Tannin – Is a compound found in the skin and stem of grapes which creates a drying sensation in your mouth when you drink. You can describe a wine as very tannic if that sensation is quite strong.
Well balanced - The best wines will be well balanced wines. Basically just meaning that the tastes are all equally balanced (alcohol, fruit, secondary flavours etc). Can also be referred to as a “complete” wine.
Knowing the above does not, unfortunately, mean you have the whole wine thing nailed. Depending on the region, the year it was made and the fucking weather, wine will always taste completely different. I'm just giving you a brief kick start to get the ball rolling when you're at a social gathering. This way, you can fake it till you make it.
If you’re wanting more expert tips - Chris Morrison’s 'This Is Not A Wine Guide' will help you take your wine knowledge from goon guzzling student to secret sommelier (aka - wine guy).
I'm off to drink my cheap Yellow Tail & pretend I can taste subtle tones of leather and liquorice. Wish me luck!
Chris Morrison's 'This Is Not A Wine Guide' can be purchased for $39.99 from Murdoch Books.
Anna Wall is a self-confessed hedonist and self-appointed travel expert. She drinks coffee until its appropriate to move on to wine and believes that there is nothing more satisfying in life than good wine and a good book. She's scared of balloons, the dark and of growing up.
Images: This Is Not a Wine Guide by Chris Morrison