I often get new wine drinkers asking me about some of the fundamentals about wine so I thought I would share a quick fire round of things about wine you need to know…
1.Not all sparkling wine is Champagne – I need to start with this one…it is the greatest misconceptions that people have when it comes to sparkling wine. Champagne is sparkling wine from a region in France called Champagne. I shall repeat for emphasis – Champagne is a sparkling wine from a region in France called Champagne. There are other forms of sparkling wine such as Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain or Asti from Italy, every wine producing country and/or region which has sparkling wine shall have their own name. So before you say, yeahhhhh I drank some champagne, take your time to find out if it really is sparkling wine from the region – Champagne.
2.All wines are vintage – Another great misconception is that ALL wines can be kept in the cellar and will gain value over a number of years and the taste will also improve! This is not true!!! There are some wines which are ‘young’ which means the best taste you will get from the wine is 1 – 3 years after bottling, anything longer than this, the wine will go off. It is important that you find out whether the wine is best ‘aged’ or to be drank ‘young’.
3.Once you open wine you can keep it in the fridge for a long time – Nooppppppeeeeee! As soon as you open a bottle of wine it starts to oxidize as air enters the wine starts becoming acidic. Ideally, when you open a bottle of wine, you should consume it within 2 days. Anything longer than that it starts to taste like vinegar and your best use would be in some stew.
4.Bottles with a cork are better than a screw cap – Ce nest pas vrai – many premium wine brands are using screw caps in place of cork screws. Simply said some wine producers like the fact that screw caps let less oxygen into wine than a cork screw, therefore some wine varietals i.e. sauvignon blanc and other ‘young’ wines are best drunk with a screw cap.
5.There is more to a wines definition than a colour – we often like to say, I like red wine or I like white wine. We need to get to the point where we are more specific as to what wine grape varietal we like within the colour spectrum. Therefore if you like red wine, it is important to say whether it is a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Medoc etc. there are quite a few varietals for each colour therefore know which grape you like by asking the waiter after you have finished your glass
6.Wine is bitter – I cannot get too technical here when it is comes to wine as I neither want to bore you or overwhelm you with information. I am going to try and keep it simple so here goes…Wine has three key components – 1. Acid 2. Tannins 3. Sugar. What makes a wine bitter is the level of Tannins which is present in wine. It is difficult to know which wine has high tannins, as it comes down to the wine making process which you may not always be privyed to when buying your wine. It is more popular in red wine than white wine. High tannin wines to avoid in our markets would be Cabernet Sauvignon and those which typically have low tannins include Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Grenache. If you still don’t want to risk it, then try a sparkling wine, and for something sweet look for a Moscato or a wine which is named demi sec.
7.A deeper ‘punt’ underneath a bottle means a better wine – I don’t blame people for thinking that the hole (punt) underneath a bottle of wine means that the wine is better quality as this is an old tale we have been told on how to identify a good bottle of wine. I have researched this across wine connoisseurs and wine articles and the jury is out….you cannot make a judgement about a bottle of wine based on the depth of its punt. The punt was historically featured on bottles to add extra stability and structural integrity to a bottle. However, with advancement in technology in glass production, punts are not becoming obsolete. So punt or no punt the wine cannot be judged (reference: wine spectator article)
Let’s de-bunk more myth…
8.An expensive wine means a good wine – Once upon a time I served a high valued customer an expensive bottle of wine. I thought, they would associate the expensive wine with their expensive taste. The next time they came to my establishment they selected a wine grape which was costing a quarter of the wine they purchased the first time and guess what….they preferred the cheaper wine in terms of taste than the more expensive wine they previously consumed. Never underestimate wine – if it is really cheap lets say less than GHC30 it is questionable but you can get a decent wine ranging from GHC65 upwards – it really depends on the tasting palate of the consumer.
Wine is not like beer or any other beverage than you can buy off the shelf, you need to take your time to completely appreciate each one individually and take yourself through a journey of what works for you and what doesn’t. Hopefully with some of these myths de-bunked you can get on with your tasting experience.