Have you been too intimidated by the world of wine to truly enjoy it? There is so much to know about wine that it often feels a little overwhelming to do any more than buy your favorite bottle at the grocery store. If you haven’t felt up to the challenge, now might be the time to start exploring. Learning the basics of wine is great for inspiring new meal ideas as well as opening the door to a new hobby. The culture of wine is centered on the idea of enjoying food and drink by becoming hypersensitive to the rich smells and tastes. It is based upon enjoyment, and who doesn’t like enjoying food and drink? Here are some wine basics to help you get started.
Types of Wine
For the sake of simplicity, these are the most common types of wine. The flavors of wine are spread across a wide spectrum. It might be tempting to stick with what you know and go for your favorite, but by stepping outside your comfort zone you will learn so much more. You might just find something new that you do like. Start moving down the spectrum and testing flavors you wouldn’t normally consider.
White wines tend to have more acidity when compared to red wines. This is why they often taste sweet or tart. However, there are many types of white wine all of which have their own unique style and body. White wine can be kept at room temperature or it can be chilled. It is usually chilled, but whichever you prefer will work. White wines usually go best with seafood or pasta dishes. These are the common types of white wine ranging from the sweetest to dry.
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
Red wine has more tannins. This is found in the skin and seeds of grapes as well as tree bark, and it is what gives red wine its dry taste. Red grapes have higher tannin and red wine is fermented with the grape skin and seeds all lending to its dry taste. When stored in oak barrels the tannin from the tree bark also adds to the a wine’s level of dryness. As a side note, the color of a wine comes entirely from the skins of the grape. A red grape can have the skin removed and used to make a white wine. When drinking a red, it is best to leave it at room temperature. Chilling it affects the taste and can make it more bitter than intended. It is best enjoyed with red meats as well as fruits and desserts. Here are some of the most common reds from the fruity to rich.
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Learn to Smell
Most of our taste comes from our sense of smell. When people sniff wine, it is like a pre-tasting. They are familiarizing themselves with what tastes are to come. Don’t feel silly sniffing your wine. Play with the idea. Give it a good whiff or if you are too embarrassed just get a quick sniff. Think about what you smell and compare the scents to the flavors you taste. It is like a precursor that primes your mouth for tasting.
5 Characteristics of Taste
Now that you have a basic idea of wine varieties, and the importance of smell, you need to know what you are looking for while you taste them. Wine Folly breaks down taste into 5 characteristics that you should pay attention to as you sip. It will be difficult at first to distinguish these elements, but think about them as you smell and taste the wine. Read reviews of wines before you try them, and see if you can pick out the same flavors. Take your time and really move the wine around in your mouth, don’t just gulp it down. Keep a notebook of your wine ventures and jot notes down about the smell, taste, and structures of the wine you taste.
Sweetness – This seems like a no brainer, but concentrate on this even in wines you don’t expect to be sweet. You might be surprised to find the tingle of sweetness right as you sip a wine only to have it disappear as it moves through your mouth.
Acidity – If a wine has a high acidity it will make your mouth tingle and water.
Tannin – This element is a little hard to understand, and it takes some time to learn to distinguish it accurately. It will make the front of your mouth feel bitter and dry out your tongue. Astringent is also another adjective commonly used to describe its presence.
Fruit – Consider what fruits you taste besides grapes. There are a variety of flavors you will find in the wine so pay close attention to the complex array. The more wine you taste the more you will begin to pick out the subtle notes.
Body – Wines with higher alcohol will have more “body” and a bigger taste. Pay attention to the changes as it moves through your mouth. Does the taste hit you all at once then disappear? Are their changing flavors as you swallow? These kind of details make up the body of the wine.
Practice your wine knowledge. Think about what you are tasting and use this awesome adjective list from Wine Folly to put words to what you taste. Learn the common adjectives and begin to identify them in your tastings.
Do Your Research
Every time you find a new wine you like, research it a little. Find out about the winery and where it was produced. Look up the best kind of wine glass to drink it in (yes! The shape of the glass matters) and how to properly store it.
Most importantly, just have fun with it. We aren’t all going to become sommeliers or wine connoisseurs, but it is nice to really enjoy a glass of wine in a new way. Take the time to appreciate a good glass of wine.
If you are looking a for wines to cut your teeth on, Beringer Vineyards has been producing wine since 1876. Located in the Napa Valley region, Beringer has been creating quality wines for 140 years. For the sweet tooth wine lover, they have crisp sparkling wines full of fruity flavors. If you like richer, full bodied wines they have an extensive line of Cabernets, Pinots, and Chardonnays. Beringer also has an amazing signature Sauterne style dessert wine know as Nightingale. Beringer has spent over a century expanding their vineyards to give wine lovers only the best. Their large portfolio welcomes long time wine lovers as well as newbies.
[infobox]Between August 1 – September 30, 2016, share an image of you toasting wine with hashtags #BeringerUS AND #Contest for the chance to win a trip for two to Napa Valley, CA.[/infobox]
Entering is easy:
- Take a Picture: Raise a glass of Beringer wine against an inspiring place that captures the spirit of Better Beckons to you.
- Upload Picture and Share Your Story: Post your picture on a public Instagram account using BOTH #BeringerUS AND #Contest. In the caption, share with us how the place inspires you with a sense of optimism.
- Every Vote Counts: Besides the creativity of your post, the other 50% of your score is based on how many votes your entry receives, so get your friends and family to help you reach the top. The 10 entries with the highest overall score will receive consolation prizes and 1 grand winner from them will enjoy a trip for 2 to the Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley, California in May 2017.
- 3 first prize winners will win a $500 gift card
- 1 Grand prize winner at the end of the three pulses will receive a trip for two to Beringer vineyards in Napa Valley, CA
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