Wine Tasting For Dummies

Right so we’re in Marlborough, the wine capital of New Zealand where you can drive through through 24 thousand hectors of grapes (75% of New Zealand’s wine production). This is apparently a relatively new phenomenon that kicked off in the 1970s after an increase of immigration, wine enthusiasts and a few clever entrepreneurs. Before this, New Zealand was supposedly full of beer drinkers and Cherry Trees which have now been replaced, in my opinion, for the better!

They say Marlborough is perfect for wine production because of the sunshine during the days and the cool nights, with the perfect amount of water supply beneath the soil. And then of course you have the masters of the vineyards who know exactly what to do with this ‘perfect’ wine climate.

So, do any of you order a ‘house wine’, not really knowing what you’re ordering and whether it’s any good? Here are some nuggets we learnt if you want to sound smarter next time you’re taking about wine…

What’s the difference between red wine and white wine? This is not as easy as saying white grape = white wine, and red skin = red wine. You can actually get a white wine from a red grape by removing the skin because the majority of red grapes have white insides. A red wine is created when you don’t remove the red skin during fermentation.

What’s Rose? A wine with a champagne pinky colour, but you don’t have pink grapes! Rose is when the grape (typically the red grape) is in contact with the skin before juiced. As soon as the juice starts getting the pink colour, the red skin is removed! It’s not when you mix red wine and white wine

How do you get sweet wine? This is when grapes are left on the vine as long as possible (sometimes until they have shrivelled) which increases the sweetness levels.

What’s an ‘oaky’ flavour? This is when the wine is fermented in an oak barrel (rather than stainless steel cases). There are different ‘levels’ of oaking from light to medium to hard and the longer the wine is left in contact with the oak barrel, the stronger the oaky/smokey/vanillay the flavour will be.

Is there actually fruit in the wine? When you taste subtle fruity flavours of passion fruit or pear for example, there is no actual fruit in the wine! It’s all down to the decisions made by the winemaker such as where the grapes are grown, how long they are grown for, how they are fermented and so on. It’s amazing how so many factors play an important role in the taste of the final product!

What is an ‘acidic wine’? It’s basically saying it’s a crisp, refreshing flavour – usually found in white wines!

What is sparking wine? They contain bubbles!!! These bubbles come from a second fermentation that captures carbon dioxide bubbles under pressure.

What are common white wines? Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling

What are common red wines? Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah

Is Pinot Gris the same as Pinot Grigio? The grape is the same but this is two different types of wine. Pinot Gris = French Style and Pinot Grigio = Italian Style. What that means, who knows!

There is obviously a lot more to wine flavours which we plan on exploring, but for now Chin Chin!


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