Have you ever stared blankly at a bottle of wine, not sure what to think of it?
You’re not alone.
In fact, I know of 23 other people who decided to put their minds together to demystify this thing called wine. All driven by a blind love for the nectar, we met at La Tank, a creative working group where we gather to learn something new every month. To celebrate the New Year and combat the nonsense that is a party-free January, we unanimously agreed to dedicate the first month of 2015 to building our own sommelier course.Thankfully, one person among us had recently finished his sommelier course. Charles generously provided us with four basic principles before leaving us to our own devices. Let me share them with you. Hopefully, they’ll help you understand a little more about what you dis/like and help you put your buck to good use when choosing your next wines. Sweetness: or how dry is your wine? A wine is dry when all of the grape sugar has been converted into alcohol during fermentation. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a sweet wine contains residual grape sugars. So logically, if your wine is dry, it’s because it contains less sugar (duh). You can usually judge how sweet your wine is by the look of its tears on the glass: the higher it scores on the sweetness scale, the thicker and more syrupy looking it will be. Acidity: Acidity makes you salivate. The more acidic your wine is, the more it’ll give you a similar sensation to drinking orange juice. Tannin: Take an old tea bag and put it in your mouth. That’s what tannins taste like*. Tannins are compounds found in the seeds and the skin of a grape and are transferred to the wine during the fermentation process. They give it a sensation of dryness (not to be confused with its level of sweetness) and are often described as bitter. Tannins come in many forms: round, muscular, etc., and in different concentrations (zinfandel: low, Cabernet Sauvignon: high), so figure out how you like them and conquer them!
Body: is the overall impression of the wine in your mouth. How long does the taste last? How present is it? The higher the level of alcohol, the more viscosity, and the more body the wine will have (generally).Still not sure you get what I’m saying? Here’s a graph.Never be intimidated by a glass of wine again.
There are many great online and offline resources out there (*Wine Folly, Whitney Adams, etc.). Whatever you choose, remember that there is no right or wrong answer (after all, who can dictate your taste to you?) and make sure to share your newfound knowledge with friends. As the good old Alexander Fleming once wisely quipped, “Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.”