Wine 101: Our Crash Course In Wine
Want to gain even greater enjoyment from wine? Here are out tips.
Choosing the right wine glass
Different wine glasses subtly change the taste of wine because it changes the way we smell the wine. Some glasses capture aromas and notes in the wine that others might not.
If you only own two kinds…
If you aren’t too particular (and we aren’t), you’ll only need standard wine glasses and sparkling wine flutes.
How much wine do you pour?
Experts usually tell you to pour red wine lower (just at or below the ‘fat’ part of the glass) and white wine higher, but the truth is that they’re also assuming that you’re using the correct glass for the wine type. If you are pouring for fine company, do a quick measure of about 150ml and pour it into your serving glass. Note the level and pour all your wine at this level. This also ensures about 5 glasses of wine per bottle.
Serving temperatures (and yes, you should chill red wine)
I’m sure you’ve heard people say that you should drink red wine at room temperature. Some people will go so far as to correct you if you tell them you’ll prefer your red wine chilled. Well, the next time they look at you wide-eyed with amusement, you’ll have this handy list to keep you abreast of the right temperature for drinking wine. And while a lot of reds can be drunk at room temperature in France, depending on the season in Australia, this just wouldn’t be the case.
Wine experts will tell you that most Australians are drinking their red wines too warm and their white wines too cold (we drink them straight out of the fridge which is 4ºC). So often you’ll hear people say that they don’t really fancy a specific type of red wine like Merlot or Pinot, or that they don’t really drink white wine but ‘don’t mind’ that stuff from New Zealand. What they don’t realise is that it could very well be that their favourite type just naturally does better at the temperature they normally serve at. For instance, Malborough Sauv Blancs are notably flavoursome and are one of the few whites that have any complexity and character at fridge temperatures.
To understand why wine differs so much at different temperatures, you have to understand what heat (or lack of it) does to the flavour.
Cold temperatures reduce the intensity of the flavour, increases the perception of tannins and acidity, but also preserves fizziness and prevents alcohol evaporation into the nose. Overly cold white wine will be too simplistic in taste, reduced to single adjectives like ‘sweet’ or ‘sour’. If you hear someone say it tastes too much like fruit juice and not like wine, then it’s probably because it’s too cold. To warm up the wine to taste, hold the glass in your hand or let the ambient temperature do it’s work.
Warmer temperatures reduce the complexity of the flavour as a lot of the characteristic aromas of a wine will boil off at 20ºC. Basically after 19-20ºC, all you’ll taste is the evaporating alcohol, which is a waste of good wine. Some reds are so complex that they’re best served even colder, to let the taste unfurl on the palate. Wines with subtle tannins require lower temperatures to reveal itself. To chill reds during warm weather, stick it in the fridge or on ice for 15 to 30 minutes.
At the end of the day, it’s down to taste. A great trick is to chill wines to much lower than they need to go and then let it warm up in your hand, sipping as you go until you get it to the right temperature.
BONUS: Cheap wines, cleanskins, box wines and the like are the staple of the Aussie BBQ. Cheap wines are best served at the extremes as it does away with all the ‘flavours’. Either lower it down to coldest temperatures where they become incredibly drinkable with little to no intensity to speak of, or mull them over the stove to let all the pesky aromas evaporate.