If you’re like me, you like to choose your wine according to a few key criteria. If a bottle is well-priced (under $13?), has a fun name, or best of all, a cute label, then I’m more likely to put it in my basket. Of course, half of you are nodding and the other half, cringing. Yes, I’ll admit that this is not the best strategy for selecting just the right vino or becoming a celebrated wine expert either.
Now that I’m ready to do this wine drinking thing right, I went straight to the wine source. According to South African winemakers Natasha Williams and Pieter Badenhorst of Fleur du Cap and Nederburg, there are a few tricks to enjoying and appreciating just the right wine. And they’re easy to learn.
6 STEPS TO BECOMING A WINE EXPERT
Check the price
The price of a bottle is determined by the amount of work that goes into making the wine. The margin of error definitely is greater when you’re looking at low-end wines. Generally though, the higher the price, the more complex the wine. So a more expensive wine isn’t always better, but rather has more notes and flavour elements. These more complex wines tend to taste better paired with food.
Wine Bottom Line: If you like to just kick back with a glass, feel free to choose a more moderately priced bottle. These wines are made for easy drinking and will also take to most foods. Your taste buds and your wallet will be happier.
Red or White? Does it matter?
Don’t buy into the red with beef, white with fish or chicken rule. That’s old news. Just like anything else, you should drink what tastes good. Choose a wine that has flavour profiles that you like in the rest of your life. For example, some wines have citrus, fruity, or herbal undertones while others may favour buttery, blackberry, chocolate, or vanilla. Also, while 70% of us have a similar palette (our taste buds react in the same way to certain food combinations), some of us do taste things differently.
Wine Bottom Line: While there are some more common wine and food pairings, feel free to experiment and see what works for you. If you like white wine with your rare steak, go right ahead.
To chill or not to chill, that is the question
Don’t over-chill your wine (or Gasp! Put an ice cube in your glass!). Check the back of the label for temperature recommendations. While it’s always better to go a little cooler than too warm, if it the wine is too cold it will kill some of the flavour elements.
Wine Bottom Line: Pour your white wine a little colder than you think you’d like and taste the flavours change as it warms up. That’s the best way to discover what’s the right temperature for you.
How to store it
How you store your wine is extremely important. If it has a cork closure, it must be kept flat in order to keep the cork wet (see next point).
Wine Bottom Line: Wine should be stored below 20 degrees Celsius and at a consistent temperature, preferably in a cooler part of the house.
Cork or screw cap?
When looking at the quality of a wine, do not be influenced by the closure of the bottle. Neither a cork nor a screw cap is better than the other. In fact, despite what you may think, a screw cap is more stable and secure. Cork is a living, breathing material so if the winemaker has used a low quality cork then it might affect the contents of the bottle (nothing worse than opening a bottle of spoiled wine, is there?).
Wine Bottom Line: When storing wine with a cork, you must have it on an angle in order to keep the cork wet, while with a screw top, you can keep it flat, on an angle, or even just standing straight up.
Why aging is fun
The best way to really learn about wine is to try to age it yourself and see what happens to the flavours. Aging wine is easy. Here’s how:
- Buy 6 bottles of a wine you like. Make sure you have a proper place to store 5 bottles, and a journal for your thoughts.
- Today: Drink a bottle. Take notes about how it tastes, what you like or don’t like about it, even give it a score.
- 6 Months Later: Open another bottle. Drink and take notes again, comparing it to the first bottle you opened.
- Repeat every 6 months until you’ve tried all 6 bottles.
Wine Bottom Line: You can drink other wine in-between. This is not a test of how long you can go without a drink.
So that’s it. You’re a wine expert now. Are you ready to apply your oenophile knowledge? It’s wine o’clock when you say it is.