If you’re anything like me, the prospect of venturing into a wine shop and seeing all those labels you don’t understand, is daunting at best. But never fear – with wine, as with life, a little bit of prior knowledge goes a long way.
The beautiful thing about wine is, the sheer variety guarantees that there’s at least one wine out there that is made for you, and the moment you taste it, you know. Fortunately or unfortunately, there’s only one way to find it, and that’s by going out and tasting them. At this point, a common, and very practical line of thought would be, “Okay, you’ve piqued my interest. But where do I start?” The answer is simple, because it’s completely dependent on your already existing preferences. After that, it’s simply a matter of matching your own tastes to a wine that has those corresponding characteristics.
There are five things in your wine that make it taste the way it does.
- Alcohol. This influences how heavy the wine feels in your mouth, and also how drunk you’re likely to get. This is a factor in the body of a wine (a cumulative term for alcohol content, viscosity, and intensity of the wine on the palate).
- Acidity. This makes the wine lively and gives it that element of freshness. All wines have a certain amount of acidity, but it’s more prominent in white wines.
- Tannin. This applies to red wines only. Taste-wise, tannin is the good kind of bitter. Think black tea, espresso, and dark chocolate. Tannin is also what gives wine the potential to age – high tannin generally mellows over time, which gives it a smoother texture, while also acting as a natural preservative.
- Fruitiness. Wines often smell or taste a lot like other fruits, but ironically, rarely smell or taste like grapes.
- and Sweetness (or lack of it – dryness). Wines can be sweet, dry, and anything in between, depending on how much natural sugar is retained when fermented to produce alcohol. Retained, or residual sugar decides how sweet a wine will be. If all the sugar is used up during fermentation, the wine will be dry.
The term “dry” doesn’t have anything to do with dehydrating feeling in the mouth, that’s actually a characteristic of tannin.
So now that you know what you can expect to taste in a wine, the best way to truly understand it is to go out and buy a bottle. A good place to start would be a Sula Riesling. That should give you an idea of how Alcohol, Acidity, and and Sweetness/Dryness affect the flavour of a wine.
I found it for Rs. 750 (about $11) at my local wine shop, and it’s a good wine to keep around the house. Very refreshing, and a great option if you want something to beat the Bombay heat. The best part is, it’s one of the only wines worldwide, that pairs well with Indian food.
I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan of Riesling. It has everything that I love in a wine. However, since it’s so subjective, it’s entirely possible that you may not like it at all. But do not lose hope. I will be discussing it in more detail soon, and those of you that have tasted it by then will understand exactly what you liked or didn’t like about it, and why.
Always remember, “A thousand wine journey begins with a single sip.”
I shall see you next week. Stay tuned.