In this blog series of Wine 101: Becoming a Wine Geek, we teach you the basics of what makes up the characteristics of wine, wine regions of the world, wine and food pairings, and tricks for serving wine. Relax, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy becoming a wine geek.
Have you experienced walking around the wine shop aimlessly while overwhelming yourself with the amount of wines to choose from? Red, white, rose? European, South American, Napa Valley? Full-bodied or light-bodied? High tannin or low tannin? High, moderate, or low acidity? Flavors? Aromas? Will you be pairing wine with a meal? Is that meal heavier with stronger, more robust flavors? Or is it a lighter dish? Especially if you are on a wine mission with your date, it is very useful (and impressive) to have a bit of wine knowledge beforehand. We are here to help you!
Body: Body describes the texture or weight of a wine in the mouth. This comes from a combination of elements, including alcohol, extract, glycerol, and acid. Full-bodied wines have a rich, complex, well-rounded flavor that lingers in the mouth while light-bodied are subtle and more watery.
Tannins: Grape tannin comes from the skins, seeds and stems of a wine grape. For this reason, red wines tend to have higher tannins than white wines because the extended contact of the grapes to the juice gives the tannin time to dissolve in the alcohol and water in the wine. Simple terms: A mouth feel that gives you that over-brewed tea type of taste.
Acidity: Acidity gives wine its crispness on the palate. The acidity of a wine is one of its most appealing characteristics, enhancing its refreshing, crisp qualities as well as enabling wines to be paired with foods so successfully. In general, white wines exhibit more acidity than red wines. Too much acidity will make the wine seem harsh or bitter; too little and the wine will seem flabby and dull.
Flavors & Aromas (see chart below)
When you start analyzing the structure of wine, each type of wine features different characteristics such as acidity, tannin, alcohol level and sweetness. If you start thinking about wine traits as flavor ingredients, it becomes easier to pair them with a meal.
Stronger, more robust flavors (dishes with cream sauces, rich cheeses, or heavy meats, for example) tend to be paired best with equally full-bodied wines. Fish pairs well with wines that have a cleansing effect (a.k.a. high acidity). The wine acts as a scraper of the fish flavor left in your mouth. This could be why highly zesty wines like Champagne go well with many different types of foods. Choose Chardonnay for fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce. Pinot Grigio pairs well with lighter fish dishes.
Tricks for Serving Wine
We have three options for aerating wine:
(1) Use a decanter to let the wine breathe and to soften the tannins. A decanter will expose the wine to more air. Let sit in the decanter for up to three hours.
(2) A second and quicker option is to use a vinturi device. A venturi will increase the velocity and movement of liquid, decrease the pressure, and infuse more air into the wine. Simply pour wine through the venturi into the wine glass.
(3) A third and more creative option is to use a Bomex beaker. Fill the beaker with 250ml of wine (1/3 a standard bottle of wine). Use an immersion blender to stick into the beaker (not touching the bottom) and blend for about 20-30 seconds. It will become frothy. Transfer into a wine glass and enjoy.
Tip: Swirling wine in your wine glass also helps achieve aerating.
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