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From sip to stem, everything you need to know about wine
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From sip to stem, everything you need to know about wine

 

Your taste buds are calling for chardonnay, you can’t stop sipping merlot, and you adore a cheeky top-up of Moscato. Your diagnosis? A wine connoisseur in the making. 

If you’re keen to brush up on your skills and chat everything wine over… a glass of wine, your instincts have led you in the right direction. This guide contains everything you need to know about wine, from regions to decanting, tannins to tasting, and every bit of trivia in between. Give us ten minutes, and we’ll have you sipping and swirling like a pro. 

 

What should a beginner know about wine?

 

Types of wine

Let’s take it from the top. Understanding the different types of wine will be the foundation for your wine-loving journey. Types of white wine include:

  • Chardonnay: Dry, citrusy, tropical and medium-bodied.
  • Riesling: Ranges from dry to sweet. Fruity-flavoured and light-bodied.
  • Moscato: Sweet, juicy, light-bodied and typically lower in alcohol content.
  • Pinot Grigio: Off-dry, light fruit flavours, light- to medium-bodied.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Dry, acidic, fresh flavours, light- to medium-bodied.

Types of red wine include: 

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Dry, dark flavours like cherry and blackcurrant, full-bodied.
  • Merlot: Dry, chocolate and cherry flavours, medium- to full-bodied.
  • Pinot Noir: Off-dry, red fruit flavours, light- to medium-bodied.
  • Zinfandel: Off-dry, berry flavours, higher alcohol content, medium- to full-bodied.
  • Malbec: Dry, flavours of chocolate and dark fruit, full-bodied.
  • Rosé: Like red wines, rosé is made from red or black grapes, when the skins are left to soak for less time than a classic red. Types of rosé wines vary as much as reds.

 

Laurent Rospars

 

How to store wine

 

Take care of your bottles, and the flavours will treat you well in return. Wine storage temperature should ideally be around 55°F or 13°C, though wine fridge temperature is acceptable between 45-60°F (7-15°C). Be sure to store unopened bottles of wine in a cool, dark place with mid-range humidity levels. This area should be temperature stable, and wines must be stored horizontally, especially if the bottle has a cork. 

A regular kitchen fridge will be too cold for long-term wine storage, so many connoisseurs store their wine in a fridge or cellar. However, fridge storage is perfectly acceptable for casual wine drinking and chilling. Do it your way. 

Typically, anything you purchase in-store will be ready to drink and likely won’t benefit from additional aging — so feel free to pop it open without fear. After opening a bottle, re-cork or use a rubber stopper to close the bottle. Be sure not to re-store for longer than 3 to 5 days (which isn’t much of a challenge if you love a tipple).

 

What are the 5 basics of wine?

 

If you’re new to the wine game, there’s no need to distinguish between earthy, oaky, fruity, smokey or zesty. Start with these five wine basics, and pay attention to how they feel as you sip.

  • Sweetness: Sweetness in wine will be immediately distinguishable; it’s a flavour we’re all familiar with. The sweetness of wine comes from sugar left over by the grapes, and it’s known as one of the most basic characteristics of wine.
  • Acidity: The grapes chosen for the wine determine its acidity, a flavour marked by tartness and sour taste, stemming (no pun intended) from the growth conditions and ripeness of the fruit. Grapes grown in cooler climates typically contain higher acidity.
  • Tannins: Tannins are natural compounds in the grape’s skin, seed and stem. Tannings bring a dry feeling to your palette, so focus on the texture of your tongue to identify tannins. The topic of tannins will arise more often when tasting red wines.
  • Alcohol: This is another factor you already know (and love). The grapes are fermented to turn sugar into alcohol; the longer they ferment, the higher the alcohol content will be. This means that sweeter, sugary wines often have lower alcohol content than dry wines.
  • Body: All four factors above combine to make up the wine’s body. Wines are considered light, medium or full-bodied. Lighter wines generally hold more acidity, with less alcohol, tannin and sweetness. Bold, full-bodied wines are often less acidic, with higher alcohol content and more tannins. Medium-bodied wines are — you guessed it — in the middle of the road.

 

What to look out for when buying wine

 

Diving into the literal world of wine is a thrill, especially in Australia, because we’re blessed with some of the most renowned wine regions in the world. Through your wine journey, try to sample every Shiraz and chardonnay from South Australia to Victoria and beyond. When you shop our bottles, you’ll take a flavour tour around the country from the comfort of your kitchen. Here are a few quick (tasting) notes: 

  • Adelaide Hills is known for chardonnay and pinot noir that thrive in cooler temperatures.
  • McLaren Vale is a hot region known for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.
  • Hunter Valley is both the hottest and wettest wine region in Australia. It’s where semillon thrives.
  • Mornington Peninsula boasts a cooler climate, making chardonnay and Pinot Noir very successful.
  • Margaret River’s moderate climate means Cabernet and Chardonnay do well.
  • Tasmania is a cool climate region, growing in chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling production. 

Wine Australia provides a detailed guide to all beautiful Australian wine regions and varieties. If you’re a sucker for statistics, look around this map.

What are the five tips for wine tasting?

Take the time to finesse your wine-tasting skills and level up every sipping experience. Try these five tips for wine tasting:

  1. Decanting wine

Set the stage for a fantastic wine-tasting experience by decanting your wine: a fancy word for pouring your wine from one vessel to another. Decanting adds life to your bottle by giving it oxygen to breathe while separating any sediment that has developed through aging. Read here for everything you need to know about decanting wine.

  1. Wine glass types and uses

Time to pour. There are three parts to every stemmed wine glass, and the shape you choose affects the tasting experience. The base or foot sits on your table; the stem is where you hold the glass, and the bowl holds the wine. 

Red wine glasses are more oversized in height and bowl size, allowing the wine to come in contact with more oxygen. Pinot Noir wine glasses are typically the widest and roundest. 

White wine glasses are smaller in height and bowl size, allowing the aromas of the wine to remain in close contact with your nose. Wine glasses for sauvignon blanc and riesling are thinner and taller than wine glasses for chardonnay, which typically have a large bowl with a shorter stem.

  1. How to swirl wine

It’s not just for show. Swirling wine helps you see, smell and experience the wine you’re tasting. It releases a bouquet of aroma compounds, eliminates unwanted compounds, and helps you take your time investigating and discussing what you see in your glass. 

Swirling your wine also exposes the wine legs, which describes how the wine sticks to the sides of the glass. The legs give you an idea of its texture and viscosity, as higher-viscosity wines leave streams and droplets on the side of the glass after a swirl.

  1. How to smell wine

After a swirl, the bouquet of your wine will be released into the air, blending its aromas with the oxygen around you. Take a moment to breathe in these flavours, aiming to identify fruitiness, sweetness, zesty or citrusy flavours, herbal notes, dark fruits and oaky smells, among many others. Every wine is different, so breathe deep, take your time and enjoy. 

  1. How to taste wine

The grand finale: your first decadent sip. Take it slow, let the flavours dance on your tongue, and consider these three factors: 

  • Taste: Do you detect salty, sweet, sour, or bitter? Does it feel light and crisp or dark and full-bodied? This is where your wine knowledge, developed through this guide, will come to life. Take your time and think.
  • Texture: Your tongue can perceive the texture of the wine, whether it be tannins that create dryness or viscosity that feels thick. 
  • Length: The taste of wine is time-based, meaning there is a beginning, middle (mid-palate) and end (finish). Consider how the wine shifts and changes as it sits on your tongue.  

With these tips in mind, you’re prepared to head into the wine world with vast knowledge under your belt — and a more thoroughly appreciated wine on your tongue.

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