This weekend, Giulio and I were invited to a wine tasting luncheon. It was hosted by a local winemaker and sommelier and was a bit of an eye opener. I admit, I’m a total wine novice. I used to always gravitate towards the sweetest wine I could find and drink it with everything. Since moving to Tuscany, I’ve had a lot more experience not just with wines, but with the whole winemaking experience and this weekend’s lunch was no exception.
I still cringe when the waiter pours me a glass to taste before pouring everyone else’s, but I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks that will help you broaden your horizon.
Don’t worry, I haven’t become a wine snob! These are just the basics I learnt over the weekend, which in all honesty, I use to show off with friends 🙂
start at the bottle
The best wines are made to be enjoyed with food, so the most useful tips I’ve picked up is to read the bottle for the notes that are in the wine. They’re pretentious, I know, but they can be really helpful when you’re planning a menu. Look for notes that go well with the dishes you’re preparing. So a red wine with cherry notes would pair really well with a slow-cooked beef. A white with citrus notes is perfect for fish.
don’t go too old
Just because a bottle of wine is old, does not mean it’s good. Only certain types of wines age well. Reds, especially, can taste almost dusty if you wait too long to drink them. If you’re looking for a good bottle to age, always ask before you buy.
it’s all in the service
Red wines should normally be served at slightly below room temperature, while whites should be chilled in the fridge. Also remember, wines need to breathe. Not just reds. Some whites too, especially organic or natural wines. It’s not just a matter of pulling off the cork – you’re not oxidising anything that way – you need to decant the wine into a decanter (or a jug if you don’t have one handy). A good rule of thumb is an hour.
I don’t usually bother with glasses, but I learnt on the weekend they make a huge difference to the taste because they control the amount of air that gets into your wine. You don’t need to buy a million different types though. If you’re not super serious, a wider glass for reds (the more oxygen it gets, they better) and a thinner one for whites is fine.
Ah, my favourite part! The four steps to wine tasting are: look, smell, taste & conclude. You’re looking for a nice vibrant colour. You’re smelling for at least two of the notes listed on the bottle. Try swirling the wine glass a few times. This helps to release aromas. You’re tasting for flavour and balance. It’s important that you hold the mouthful of wine for a few seconds before swallowing. This gives you time to identify the aromas. And finally, conclude. If you don’t like the wine then it isn’t a good wine. It’s as simple as that. Find wines you love and serve them. It doesn’t matter whether they’re expense or cheap. It’s about the experience and enjoying a good glass with your meal!
Also, always hold a glass by it’s stem. That stops your from heating it with your hand and makes you look like an expert! Have a gorgeous week!