Wine 102 for beginners: Finding your perfect match - Greenspoon
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Wine 102 for beginners: Finding your perfect match

You are browsing through catalogs of wine pages and there are unlimited bottles of wines to choose from. It can be tedious when you are new to wines and spoilt for choice. Luckily, here is our guide to guide you to your perfect match!

Also, remember that most of our wines listed come with tasting notes, which you can read through to get a sense of whether they are what you are looking for. 

Wine terminology 101

Dry basically means the absence of sugar. Most people do not seem to distinguish between a wine that is dry and wine that is tannic.  A wine that is high in tannins leaves you with a dried out feeling in the mouth. Many red wines have a high presence of tannin.

Nose is another word for aroma, this term describes the smell of wine in a glass. If you want to get better at wine tasting, then the first place to start is with your nose. Swirl the wine to let it breathe, then put your nose into the glass. Try to think about what you smell – it’s indicative of the flavours that you’ll taste. This gets easier with practice! 

Sweet wines are wines that do have sugar remaining from the fermentation process.

Acid is a natural part of wine that creates a lively taste and balances out the sweet and bitter components. 

The basics

Good wine is subjective and matches our preferences. That said, it is important to try a different kind of wine to expand on what you enjoy.

An unspoken rule of the thumb is that white wines are perfect for lighter dishes like fish or chicken, while reds are ideal for beef and lamb dishes. 

Occasion

Do you want to enjoy the wine over a dinner party with friends? Are you pairing it with a meal or using it for a recipe? These factors will guide you to choose what is perfect for each occasion.

Prices matter

There is a likely chance that the more expensive a bottle is, the better the quality – however, a high price doesn’t always mean that the bottle is better. You should pick a bottle depending on your taste. Prices should be a secondary guide.

Wine body

Wine body is an important component. It simply means a way the drink feels in your mouth – richness and weight. Flavours and textures of wine are affected by numerous factors: grape variety, sweetness of grapes during harvest, alcohol levels and so much more.

Any wine with an alcoholic percentage of 12.5% and below is considered a light-bodied wine. These are generally the white wines we think of as crisp and refreshing like Italian Prosecco. Medium-bodied wines usually range between 12.5% and 13.5%. A good example is Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc.

Full-bodied wines contain an alcoholic level higher than 13.5%. Chardonnay is an example of a full-bodied white.

Grape Varieties

Get to know the grapes that work well for you. Some wines are made from one grape (eg Merlot), other wines are a blend of wines from different grapes. 

Cabernet Sauvignon

A red grape variety that grows well in almost all climates except from northern regions. It has a full-bodied but firm taste, due to the high tannin content winemakers often blend it with other varieties such as Merlot and also Syrah.

Merlot

Red grape variety is the most-planted grape variety in Bordeaux, France. It’s widely recognized also in Italy, Romania, California, USA and Chile. It has deep color, full body and contains less tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon that’s why, it is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, or both.

Airen

A white grape variety mostly recognized in Spain. It tolerates hot and dry conditions and poor soil. Wine is often acidic and characterless, that’s why it’s mainly used in brandy industry, production of high-alcohol local wines and lighter-bodied red wines, when blended with Cencibel.

Tempranillo

A red grape variety of Spain. Since it prefers warmer climates, it is widely recognized also in California, Australia, South America, Turkey and New Zealand. It has a full-bodied taste and high acidity level.

Chardonnay

A white grape variety that grows in almost every wine-production country in the world, because of its adaptability to a wide range of climates. It has a full-bodied taste and medium to high acidity. Normally chardonnays are dry or half dry wines.

Syrah

A red grape variety mostly grown in California, Australia and France. It has a full-body taste and firm tannin; the grapes contain the most antioxidants among all popular wine grape varieties.

Garnacha Tinta

A red wine variety that needs hot and dry conditions, and ripens late. It has a low acidity and tannin, and is usually used for blending with other red varieties.

Sauvignon Blanc

A white wine variety that grows in France (Bordeaux and Loire Valley), Italy, South Africa and California. It is high in acidity with pronounced aromas and flavors.

Trebbiano Toscano

A white wine variety originating from Italy, it’s also grown in France, Portugal, Spain, South America and Australia. Wine is fresh and fruity with high acidity, usually is used for blending with other wines and for brandy production.

Pinot Noir

A red wine variety, grown in France, California, New Zealand, Australia and Chile. It has medium to high acidity, medium to low tannin, and fruity or earthy flavors. It’s not common to blend it with any other grapes.

Country and region

Once you are familiar with regions or countries, you will know your wine a little better!  It will also be easier to identify quality wines you prefer.

Certain countries have higher average temperatures and are more likely to produce sweeter wines than cooler countries. Cooler climates produce fruitier, more medium bodied wines. The hotter the climate, the richer, more robust and less acidic a wine will become.

Producer and wine name 

If you love a specific type of wine, chances are you might love other wines made by the same producer. It is important to keep track of each wine and producer you try. Getting to know the origin of the wine can add a lot to the experience too – see if you can join tasting sessions whether they be virtual or live, and learn more about the vineyards and winemakers. 

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