Like a drink but don’t know where to start when it comes to knowing your grapes? Follow our basic tips to help you get more value and pleasure from wine

All you know about wine is it’s either red or white, sweet or dry. When someone probes for more, you fumble for descriptive words: “Mmmh, lovely wine. Very drinkable, so pleasant.” When people say their wine is creamy or grassy or oaky, you stare back with a blank expression thinking, “WTF, it just tastes like wine.”

When you look at wine lists in restaurants, all you see are the prices. The thought of making an order intimidates you because a) you don’t recognize them and b) you can’t pronounce the names. Is this you? If so, don’t worry. With the following basic information, you will start getting the most from your bottle.

Selecting Wine

First, the price of a bottle is not usually a pointer on how good the wine is. “Price and quality are rarely proportional, meaning you cannot assume a $20 bottle is twice as good as a $10 one,” Andrea Immer Robinson says in the Great Wine Made Simple. “The quality of wine depends on the methodology of winemaking and the reputation of the winemaker”, says Geoffrey Kariuki.

Most wine lovers buy wine in supermarkets because they are reliable and an adventurous source of wine. Special wine merchants also have much to offer in terms of advice. Take time to discuss your requirements and preferences; price, types of wine you enjoy, food with which you plan to drink the wine, and the occasion on which you want to serve a restaurant, state your budget and preferences and a good sommelier should help you find the perfect wine.

Tasting Wine

It is best to taste wine in a naturally-lit, odorless room to allow its true color to be examined and avoid other aromas interfering with the scent. Avoid perfume, mints, and smoke. There are important steps to wine tasting. First, pour into a glass so it’s about one-third full. Have a look to help you determine the color, the depth, and the clarity. Then you want to give the wine a swirl to release the aromas hemmed in the wine. Then smell it to indulge in its full features. Now take a sip to get more of its body and texture.

Detecting Flaws

“Some wine flaws are oxidation and cork taint”, says Kariuki. Oxidation is when the wine is exposed to oxygen for too long and eventually turns into vinegar. Wine is likely to become oxidized if its seal is insufficiently airtight or if the bottle is left open for too long. The result is an annoying flat taste. Cork taint, on the other hand, is caused by a mold found in some natural corks that taint the wine, causing it to lose its fruit flavors and collect a musty smell

Serving wine

No matter what they told you, glassware matters. If you use a juice glass for your wine, those little volatized molecules coming out of the wine simply dissipate into thin air, leaving you nothing to smell and enjoy, says Dara Moskowitz in Drink This: Wine Made Simple. The most important factor when tasting wine is the shape of the glass. The ideal wine glass should have a stem so that you do not have to hold the bowl, and the bowl should be large enough to hold a decent measure, yet still allow room for the wine to be swirled. The bowl should be narrower at the rim than at the base, directing aromas towards your nose.

Hold the glass by the stem so you can easily swirl it without warming the bowl with your hands. The serving temperature is extremely important to the taste of wine. Some guidelines to follow: sparkling wines should be served around 8°C and white wines at around 10°C to 12°C. Chilling temperatures emphasize the crisp, fresh taste. Light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir and Gamay should be served at 13°C while full-bodied reds should be served at 16°C to 18°C.

Storing Bottles

Keep in mind that light is an enemy of wine, which is why many bottles are made of colored glass. Dark rooms or sealed boxes are ideal for wine storage. Lack of moisture causes the cork to dry out, contract, and let air into the bottle, which will oxidize the wine. Wine is best stored on its side, as constant contact between the cork and liquid prevents the cork from drying out. Sparkling wines and wines with a screw cap can be stored upright due to the difference in closure material. If you have leftover wine, suck out the excess air using a vacuum pump and store it in a temperature controlled fridge for a few days.

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