Wine Guide - Introduction
|This guide will give you some useful tips on storing,
serving and tasting wine. It will also help you identify the taste profiles
of some of the main grape varieties and give you some useful pointers
on food and wine pairing. But above all, it should serve as a jumping
off point for your own explorations and discoveries. With literally hundreds
of thousands of wines on the market, choosing one can seem like a daunting
task. So it's easy to forget that wine is just a beverage, and a very
enjoyable one at that.
Wine Guide - OverviewClick
on arrows to Expand
You have selected the Wine Guide - Hints & Tips
| Despite the huge range of wines out there, the good
news is that a little learning goes a long way. But wine isn't something
you learn about and then " know ". It's a personal journey of
adventure and discovery. It wouldn't be much fun if you found a wine you
liked and then drank nothing else for the rest or your life. The
fact that everyone in the room likes Pinot Noir doesn't mean that you
have to and there's something wrong if you don't. After all, does everyone
you know like broccoli?
What's important is that you know what you like; that,
after all, is what makes wine enjoyable to you. There's no point in drinking
wine you've been told is good if you just don't like it. So as you embark
on your own personal journey of wine discovery, pay attention to the wines
you like and those you don't. This will help you develop a sense of your
own taste preferences which, in turn, will help inform your wine choices
Wine Guide - Storing
You have selected Storing Wine - things to consider
|Many people think that if they're going to store wine
at home then they need a cellar. But the word "cellar" conjures
up images of dark, cavernous chambers cut out of bedrock, or slick, temperature
and humidity-controlled rooms lined with mahogany wine racks. All very
nice, but not at all necessary. We recommend that "cellar" should
be interpreted somewhat loosely. There are four main things to consider
when storing wine: temperature, light, vibration and keeping the cork
|Temperature - Both
red and white wine likes to be kept cool. 55F is ideal, but more important
than this magic number is that the temperature doesn't fluctuate. Better
a constant 65F than 40° one day and 80° the next.
Bright light and sunlight can damage wine as it
ages in bottle, so the darker the room, the better. Total darkness is
easily achieved by simply closing the lid of your shipping pack or shutting
the closet door.
Vibration - Areas subject to heavy foot traffic,
or vibrations should be avoided as wine, unlike martinis, should be neither
shaken nor stirred.
Keep the cork wet - Laying your bottles down
on their sides keeps the wine in contact with the cork, which in turn
prevents the cork from drying out. Dry corks contract, allowing air to
pass into the wine and wine to leak out. If air gets in, it renders the
wine dull and lifeless and it will taste more like old sherry than wine.
|If you keep these basic requirements in mind, you'll
find it remarkably easy to find a place to store your wine, and you won't
need a cellar at all. A corner of the basement, a closet in a spare bedroom,
or the cupboard under the stairs will all do nicely. And remember, the
longer you plan to store your wine, the more important these factors become.
If a newly-purchased wine is to be drunk in a day or two, it really doesn't
matter too much where you keep it, but if the wine is to be kept for weeks
or months then find it a nice cool, dark spot. Now, some wines require
not months but many years, even decades, of bottle aging before they're
ready to drink. This is a small percentage of all the wines made, but
nonetheless, it is important.
Where you store these high quality (and often expensive)
wines designed for long aging takes on a special importance if your investment
is to be protected. In this case you may want to consider one of the commercially
available wine storage units, which come in a variety of sizes and finishes.
Another alternative is off-site storage, where you rent a locker in a
temperature and humidity-controlled wine storage facility. This option
is great for wines that you don't plan to drink for some years and has
the added advantage of being out of reach; a real bonus during those weak
Wine Guide - Serving
have selected Serving Wine - a few simple tips
|There's really no mystery to serving wine as most of
us can manage to get the wine out of the bottle and into our glass without
too much trouble, but here are a couple of things that may help the wine
show its best. If you don't finish the bottle, most wines will keep quite
happily for a couple of days with the cork stuck back in the bottle, keeping
the air out.
In general, white wines should be served chilled and reds at room temperature.
For whites, a couple of hours in the fridge will do just fine. If you're
pushed for time, then put the bottle in an ice bucket filled half with
ice and half with cold water. This will bring the wine down to the desired
temperature in about twenty minutes. For most reds, room temperature is
ideal, unless the room is a balmy 80°F, of course. We've all had warm
red wine served to us in restaurants and, frankly, it does the wine no
favors. Light, fruity reds, like Beaujolais, are best served a little
cool, especially on a warm summer day. Champagne, dessert wine, most sherry
and rosé should be treated as white. Red port should be served
at room temperature but tawny port can be chilled.
Decanting - This
is the process of pouring off any sediment that has been deposited in
the bottle over time to create 'clean wine'. It is frequently done with
vintage port or older red wines that have spent many years in a bottle.
The vast majority of wines do not need to be decanted at all, but if you
do need to do it, simply pour the wine slowly into a glass decanter or
jug keeping an eye on the neck of the bottle. When you see sediment in
the neck, it's time to stop. Decanting can also help the wine "breathe".
Breathing - If a wine has spent many years
locked up in a bottle, away from the air, it will benefit from a little
breathing time. This can take place in the glass or in a decanter and
twenty to thirty minutes should suffice. Even young wines can benefit
from a little breathing time as it allows the wine to open up and really
show what it's made of. You can test this by tasting a wine immediately
after opening it and then see how your second glass tastes some twenty
minutes later. There's often quite a difference. That's also why, if you're
opening several reds, open them all at once. You give your next bottle
a chance to breathe, while you are enjoying the current one. On the other
hand, whites generally don't need to be opened ahead of time, as the goal
is usually to retain their freshness.
Glassware - The best glasses for appreciating
wine are made of plain, thin, clear glass. Heavy, cut glass makes it difficult
to see the wine properly. The glass should have a wide bowl tapering to
a narrow opening; a tulip shape, in other words. This allows room for
the wine to be swirled in the glass while concentrating the aromas at
the rim. Champagne should be served in tall flutes or tall, thin tulip-shaped
glasses. Today there are many specialty glasses designed to be used with
different grape varieties. While these may, indeed, enhance the attributes
of the different wines, they really aren't necessary. A good, all purpose
glass like Riedel's "Ouverture" series red and white wine glass,
is a simple, elegant solution for a reasonable price.
Intensity - The glass should never be filled
more than about half full. This allows room for swirling the wine around
in the glass to release its aromas without splashing it all over the table.
A good way to achieve this is to leave the glass on the table, hold the
stem at the base and make small, quick circles with the base. Try it!
Wine Guide - Tasting
You have selected Tasting Wine - now for the fun part
Sight or "Appearance" -
A good look at the wine can tell us about
the condition and even age of the wine.
|You don't need to analyze wine to enjoy it, but if you
pay attention to what you're tasting you'll find that you'll be better
able to identify what you like or don't like in a wine. It's a bit like
languages: You don't have to speak Italian to visit Italy, but if you
know a few words, your enjoyment can be greatly enhanced. Glasses should
be clean and dry and filled with only a small sample of wine (about a
quarter of the glass). Wines all have certain components and characteristics
in common. When we taste, we use sight, smell and taste to recognize the
various components and to assess the quality and health of the wine. So
let's give it a go. Before you taste make sure there are no distracting
odours in the room, like cooking smells or perfume. The only thing you
should smell is the wine in your glass.
Smell or "Nose" -
Swirling the wine in the glass allows its
aromas to be liberated into the air, so give your glass a whirl and then take
a deep sniff. What are you looking for?
|Clarity - is the
wine clear and bright (as it should be) or is it hazy or murky?
Intensity - is the
colour pale or deep?
Colour - hold the glass at an angle against
a white background (table cloth or sheet of paper) and assess the color
in the middle of the bowl of the glass and at the rim. White wines start
life pale and darken with age. Red wines start out a deep, bright purple
and gradually turn ruby, mahogany and eventually brown as they age.
Taste or "Palate" -
you actually get to drink the stuff! Take
a sip of wine and swirl it around the mouth so that the wine is in contact with
all parts of your mouth: tongue, gums, soft palate. Even better, tilt the head
forward so that the wine is behind the front teeth and then slurp air into the
mouth over the wine. This seems weird at first, and goes against everything
your mother taught you to do at the table, but it's worth it. You can taste
much more of the wine if you aerate it in this way. So
what are you looking for?
|Condition - does
it smell clean and attractive or is there any mustiness or off-odour?
Intensity - is the
nose faint or pronounced?
Character - what does it smell like? This
may seem difficult initially, but you can do it. Just as you can tell
the difference between the smell of bacon and coffee, you can also identify
some of the possible smells in wine. Here are some things you may smell:
fruit, grapes, lemon, grass, peaches, raspberries, blackcurrants, flowers,
apples, vanilla, oak, smoke, plums and many, many more. Remember that
there are no right or wrong answers, here. It's simply an exercise in
thinking about what you're drinking.
Having considered the above elements, what
did you think of the wine?
|Sweetness - an
easy one. Sweetness is immediately noticeable on the tip of the tongue.
If there's no apparent sugar the wine is called "dry".
Acidity - very important
if the wine is to be refreshing and balanced. Lemon juice and vinegar
are acidic. Too much and the wine tastes too tart; too little and the
wine is known as "flabby", tasting heavy and just not refreshing.
Tannin - a natural preservative found in
grape skins and stalks, tannin is the stuff that makes young red wines
seem harsh and leaves the mouth feeling dry. If you want to know how tannin
feels when it's not in wine, brew some very strong black tea and you'll
soon know! Tannin's role as preservative is extremely important in high
quality red wines that are made to age for many years.
Body - an indicator of how the wine feels
in the mouth. Pinot Noir or Beaujolais tend to feel quite light in the
mouth while Bordeaux or Australian Shiraz tend to be full and dense. So,
the progression for both reds and whites is light-bodied, to medium bodied,
Fruit - the taste and intensity of the fruit
in the mouth; generally, the better the wine, the more evident the fruit.
Also, younger wines will often display more fruit than mature wine.
Length - how long the taste of the wine lingers
in the mouth after swallowing is a good indication of the wine's quality:
the longer the better.
|Quality - you might
think it's obvious to say that a £100 bottle of wine is likely to
be high quality and a £5 wine low quality, but the assessment of
quality goes beyond this. A wine that looks clear and bright, has a pronounced,
intense nose, shows good fruit and balanced acid, sweetness and alcohol,
and has a long finish might be an inexpensive wine. It would be classified
as good quality, though, because it is a good example of its type. So
as your tasting progresses, question the wine. Is it a good example of
Maturity - this is
a measure of the wine's readiness to drink, which is not the same thing
as its age. Many wines are made to be drunk as soon as they are bottled
while others require years (or decades) of maturation in bottle to reach
their optimum state. Simple wines, which are designed to be drunk young,
will not improve with age. Rather they will deteriorate and be over the
hill if kept too long.
Faults - Thankfully, modern winemaking practices
have reduced most of the problems we used to commonly find in wine, but
there's still one which affects around a small percent of bottles: bad
corks. " Corked ", the term used to describe the affliction,
has nothing to do with cork floating in the wine, but rather (not to get
too technical) a condition in which the wine has reacted with a substance
in the cork, producing a musty, corky smell and taste, reminiscent of
wet cardboard. The wine should always smell clean and appealing. The cork
problem is the reason behind many wineries switching to synthetic closures
or screw caps, which are now widely used with aromatic varietals like
Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. So don't be put off is you see a screw cap
on your wine. It doesn't mean cheap wine, it means the winemaker is sick
of cork problems and wants to preserve the freshness of the wine.
| We've taken the guesswork out of finding wines you'll
love. Don't waste time with trial and error.
Our wines are carefully selected by experts, then approved by
panels of wine drinkers just like you - to ensure that every wine's
a winner, time and time again. Simply Wines Direct is an easy and reliable
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