Everything You Need to Know About Wine

Toronto Life
Grapes by tribp
Grapes by tribp

Opening a bottle of a wine and sharing it with someone special is enchanting. There is no other drink like wine. Drinking a martini will never have quite the same charm, although James Bond has been hyping it all these years. Wine has been the drink for centuries. It is associated with glamour, intelligence, and high society.

If you go back to the Greeks and Romans, they talk about all three — wine, food, and art — as a way of enhancing life.
(Robert Mondavi)

Wine is surrounded by a cloud of secret that makes us feel allured and fascinated. The secret gives us freedom to relish the moment, sense all different tastes and scents, and be carried away. The drink itself is not magical; it lets you feel the magic inside you.

The reaction of your senses and mind to wine is unique and it changes from person to person. A sip of wine can suddenly remind you of summers spent at the cottage in the mountains or of your first night in your new house. You might taste cherries, chocolate, or spices or you might taste pure grapes. It takes many glasses and many nights for you to be able to name what you sense. This is the beauty of wine: it makes you slow down, remember pleasant moments, and create new ones; you will learn how to use your senses too and not to be afraid of them. You will feel all the palette when you’re ready to feel it. Wine is patience.

Do you know what makes wine taste like chocolate or tobacco? How can you keep sparkling wine nice and bubbly until the next night? Let’s collaborate and merge our wine tasting experiences. We would be happy if you could leave us a comment below with your wine tips and tricks.

Here’s to alcohol, the rose-coloured glasses of life.
(F.S. Fitzgerald)

Wine Cellar by theodorescott
Wine Cellar by theodorescott

Tasting wine: step by step

Wine tasting is a series of logical steps that will help you to fully feel and understand wine. Tasting a glass of wine comes as the last step that will sum up all your sensual perceptions.

At first, look at the wine you’re tasting. The colour is never just red. You can see hints of brown, burgundy, or chili red. Rosé wines, for instance, cover all pink hues, from deep pink to light, rose-petal tones. Hue can tell you a lot about the wine you’re about to drink. Usually, the deeper the colour of wine, the more overwhelming taste you can expect. To determine the density of wine, simply swirl your glass and watch wine course down the glass. Dense and thick wines will be mouth-filling and consuming, whereas lighter wines would feel crispy and refreshing. There is a lot you can tell about wine by simply observing it.

When you have gathered all visual information, it’s the right time to engage another of your senses. Swirl the glass once more and bring it to your nose. By swirling it, you make the wine release its aromas; you’re “volatilizing the esters.” Inhale deeply and slowly and try to determine the bouquet. Is it sweet, spicy, or fruity? Can you go further and determine specifically what aroma you feel? The more glasses you taste, the better you get at classifying the smell. Remember, there is no right answer; it’s fine to smell cherries even if no one else can smell them.

Try lowering your glass and taking a sip. How does it feel? Do you feel all the information coming together and clicking? Like a short movie played against your closed eyelids, you see the bottle opening, hear wine sloshing into a glass, sense infatuating aromas. Your senses trigger your memories and longings and everything starts blending as you take a sip. “Truth comes out in wine,” Pliny the Elder says.

What temperature are best for red, rosé, and white wines?

The storing temperature is the same for all types, and it is often referred to as “chilly” so something around 9-13°C would be fine. Wines love dark spaces. Showing off your bottles in a reception room or dining room might be impressive to guests, but it wouldn’t have a good effect on the wine itself. A wine cellar is a cellar for a reason (low temperature and no light).

Ros by imcountingufoz
Rosé by imcountingufoz

Make sure you leave a bottle of wine at room temperature for a couple of minutes before you drink it. Low temperatures are good for preserving the wine but less so in opening it up. To fully feel the flavours, you should let it warm it up a bit. White wine can be served at lower temperatures. Some believe white wine should be served at 10°C. It can be too cold for some and besides, the majority of people whom I’ve seen drinking white wine left it to warm up a bit before they took a sip. This experience makes me suggest you serve it at roughly 13°C. It is still chilly enough to be refreshing but warm enough for its flavours to unlock. Red wine has more complex flavours and so it needs higher temperatures to fully open up. Generally, people tend to serve it at room temperature. It’s important to realize that “room temperature” centuries ago was significantly lower than today. It was around 17-18°C, which is much cooler than today’s 22-24°C. Red wine needs to be sweet but crisp, and serving it at 22°C would take away its crispness. Rosé is a mixture of white and red wine. You may find light pink rosé wines as well as deep-coloured ones. The same rule would apply here. The lighter the colour, the lower the temperature at serving. Again, it’s all about how you like it, so experiment; try different temperatures with different wines at different occasions and see how you enjoy it most.

Can I cork a bottle and finish drinking in a day or two?

Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.
(Pope John XXII)

Once you open a bottle and keep it refrigerated, you can drink it for as long as you like. The wine will, however, react with the air and start changing slightly. At some point it will turn into vinegar and you won’t find it tasty anymore. Some people can drink one bottle for a week and love it until the last drop, and some would never leave the bottle for tomorrow night. Generally speaking, a bottle should last four to seven days when properly corked or closed. Sparkling wine is a different story. Bubbles tend to escape and therefore you should always finish the bottle. However, if you put a stainless steel teaspoon inside the bottle and cork it, the bubbles won’t escape and you can enjoy it tomorrow night again. This is a helpful little trick directly from winemakers.

Sparkling Wine by kthread
Sparkling Wine by kthread

How does a corked wine taste?

A wine that is corked results from a reaction between three things: the chlorine in the water that has been used to clean the cork, lignin (the wood in cork), and the wine itself. This reaction makes all the fruitiness and delicious flavours disappear. As a result, you open a bottle of wine that lacks the familiar sweet and spicy scents and rather smells like wet cardboard. However, not everyone can spot a corked wine. If you’re a less experienced wine taster/drinker, you might think the wine is just not the one you really enjoy. You can still drink it — it’s not harmful, but it’s not optimal either.

Why are wine flavours and aromas not associated with grapes?

One would expect to find flavours associated with grapes when drinking wine. On the contrary, chocolate, berries, tobacco, and spices are mentioned. Even though wine is made from grapes only, it develops, ages, and grows, and those aromas change with it.

Vineyard by caliterra
Vineyard by caliterra

Different wineries use different casks for their wines. Usually wines are kept in oak barrels and it’s the reaction of a young wine and oak that triggers the creation of all other flavours and aromas. Oak barrels can be used as many as three times before they are deposited and replaced by new ones. You can expect a strong reaction between the barrel and wine the first year you use it. The wine will adopt many characteristics from the wood and can smell of chocolate, tobacco, or vanilla. The second year, a milder reaction is expected, and in the third year, only a faint presence of oak can be found in the wine. When it comes to white wine, there are a couple of wineries that prefer to keep their wines in stainless steel tanks so that you can fully appreciate the taste of wine and see what flavours it can create on its own. This, however, doesn’t make the wine taste like grapes only. When you smell a white wine that comes from a stainless steel tank, it will probably smell of berries, cherries, and exotic fruit. It will be fresh and crisply clean — elegant and simple. Such wines are perfect for summer nights and spontaneous events. Their crisp makes them very easy to taste and understand. On the other hand, red wines aged in oak barrels are deeper and more complicated. They can warm you up and are wonderful to be shared during long, chilly nights.

Wine Maturing in Vats by futureshape
Wine Maturing in Vats by futureshape

It’s important to realize that each barrel is different and you will never produce the same wine. Wine is a living thing. It’s a result of sun, grapes, soil, and the care of a winemaker. When left in barrel, time plays an important role. The older the wine, the more complicated and complex it tends to get. Aromas and flavours come together, evolve, and come apart, and the texture also changes. This is one of the reasons why we love wine. It makes us slow down and notice all the details, different flavours, and scents and we can discuss them, talk about them, and definitely enjoy them.

How do I know what year is good?

It’s very hard to say what exactly makes a good vintage of wine. There are a zillion things that can go wrong and it could be the one year a winemaker doesn’t make a perfect wine. It all starts with winter. Ontario winemakers don’t like cold winters; basically anything below -23°C is not ideal for wine. Spring and summer with enough sunlight and rainfall can set off a nice vintage in combination with the right temperature during both day and night. All will be decided in the last weeks between Labour Day and Halloween. Grape varieties ripen at different times, so you can make a great white but just an ordinary red the same season. As a consumer, you need to wait for references from winemakers and sommeliers.

Wine Can Add To Your Dinner As Anything Else by isante
Choose the Perfect Wine by isante

How can I find a sommelier to help me to choose the perfect wine?

Sommeliers are there for you to advise you, teach you, and help you to choose a wine you’ll love. Robert Modavi always says to consumers:

Instead of relying totally on critics, drink what you like and like what you drink.

There is no good or bad wine, only wine that you love and the wine you don’t. When a sommelier approaches you, tell him what meal you’re having and what type of wine you like. If you prefer light, clean, and fruity wine or heavier, full-bodied, smokey varieties, let him know. It’s also handy to know your price limit. You can have an amazing wine without robbing a bank. He will then describe a couple of wines that he thinks you would like and would complement your meal well. The only mistake you can make is not stating your preferences.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk.

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