At the dawn of civilisation, man realised that whilst food was great/forestalled starvation etc. something was missing. A few accidents with some grapes later and wine became A Thing*, some would say The Only Thing that sets mankind apart from the animals.
I’ve discovered however in the course of my long(ish) existence that it’s quite difficult, nay almost impossible, to talk about wine without coming across as:
- A twat
- All of the above
Luckily for you, I don’t care. Below is an attempt at an introduction to wine in less than 800 words.
Most wine guides begin with a lengthy exposition on all the different styles of wine, grape varietals and so on but obviously that’s not why we’re here. All wines can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Meh, I’m just trying to get drunk; and
There is another unholy category known as
boxed wine which I will not be discussing because in addition to
Pairing wine with food
Don’t freak out about wine lists and pairing. The rules of pairing food and wine aren’t really so much rules as they are general guidelines, but you’ll be all be better for having a basic handle on them.
You’ve probably heard wine described as “light” or “heavy”, or my personal favourite “robust”; now this has nothing to do with the literal weight of the wine but rather the feel of it in your mouth. So lighter wines go with lighter foods like salads, seafood e.t.c whilst the more robust ones go with heavier foods like steaks and so on.
Sidebar: Contrary to popular culture****, popcorn actually pairs much better with white wine than red.
Examples of good, showy-offy “lighter” wines are
- Reisling (A great interpretation of German efficiency, just make sure it has “Alsace” written on it)
- Pinot Noir (Also known as Burgundy or Bourgogne if you must be French about it; has also been described as “sexy”)
- Sauvignon Blanc (If Chardonnay** was Jennifer Aniston, this would be Angelina Jolie; also the only reason to drink anything from New Zealand)
Some solid “heavier”/ “robust” wines are:
- Cabernet Sauvignon (a.k.a MTN: Everywhere You Go, calling this the “beige of wines” wouldn’t be an overstatement)
- Merlot (Plays well with everyone)
- Syrah/Shiraz (the wine equivalent of a sledgehammer)
To make things even simpler, white wine = white meat and red wine = red meat. Got it? Good.
Some “Wine words”
Guaranteed to make you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Vintage: For all intents and purposes this pretty much means the year the wine was grown and bottled. Depending on weather, some years are usually better than others. Fun fact: Like humans, not all wines get better with age, but we’ll come to that later.
Decanting: This is a process of “airing” out wine (usually the more robust reds), imagine wine as a living thing, when deprived of oxygen it shuts down and tastes like dust, so letting oxygen in “reboots” the wine and allows you to enjoy it as the good Lord intended.
Notes: What the wine actually tastes like, for instance a Sauvignon Blanc could have notes of lime, guava and peach. Three different tastes, all from one bottle of wine, MAGIC.
Reserve/Reserva: Unless the wine is from Spain where there are strict naming regulations, this doesn’t mean anything. In Spain however it simply refers to wines that have been “reserved” i.e. aged for longer before being released into the market.
Appellation: This will usually only apply to wines produced in France, the French may suck at foreign policy but they win at wine. In place is a borderline totalitarian regime regulating the wine industry from what grapes are permissible to minimum alcohol level, to even how dense the vineyards can be. An “appellation” is basically the name that only wine made in a specified region in line with specified standards may be referred to. Some more (in)famous appellations include Champagne.
- A Quote:
“A journey of a million wines begins with the first glass, or bottle, depending on the day you’ve had.”
– A wise man.***
- Generally speaking, any wine from 2012 is probably going to be good. #GoodYear.
- You’ve probably heard that red wine should be served at “room temperature”; well that’s about 21 degrees centigrade, so remember your climate and be guided accordingly.
Join us next time when we’ll be talking about the two “worlds” of wine, the horizontal/vertical debate and whether or not Champagne is the biggest scam since Diet Coke.
*Summarizing obviously, I have a world limit you know.
**Chardonnay has often been described as “pedestrian”.
***I am wise.
****I’m looking at you Miss Pope, guess there’s really no accounting for taste.