Over the course of human history, wine has received its fair share of praise, and worship. Wine is made not only of grapes but of skill and patience. When drinking it, one must remember how much effort has gone into its making — the labour, care and experience of centuries that has been poured into its every droplet. Every sip of wine is indeed like delicate poetry! Ever thought about a wine tasting session? All you need to do is visit a nearby vineyard or tasting session and trust your taste buds. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your wine tasting experience.
The visual appeal
Look at your wine, is it red, rose or white wine. Don’t take a sip before looking at the wine. Tilt the glass and look at it against a white background or in good light. The darker the wine, the more full-bodied it shall taste. Red wines become darker in colour as they age. White wines become more golden as they age.
Recognise the aromas
Why do wine tasting events emphasise swirling the wine around the glass? This allows the wine to release its aromas wafting out of the glass. Take a sniff and try to identify what you smell. The nose can detect thousands of flavours, unlike the tongue which can only detect four.
Taste the wine
Taste the wine, swirl it in your mouth and focus on the feel that wine leaves as you taste it. The tip of the tongue identifies sweetness, the sides the acidity, back the bitterness. Savour the moment and think about what feeling is imparted. Is it a crisp wine or acidic or sweet; does it leave an after-taste; does the taste change after a few seconds?
Feel the flavours
If it’s dry, it implies more tannins thus imparting its astringency. Usually, white wines are not so sweet thus leaving the mouth dry. Rose or white wines are refreshing due to their brisk acidity. Each wine has its own character and identity on the grape variety and region where it was grown and the barrels where it was aged. This also includes the tannin levels, alcohol level, acidity or ph level and aroma and these factors influence how intensely and for how long you perceive the taste of wine in the mouth.
Compare the notes
Wine tasting is a very personal experience — there are no wrong answers but it’s fun to compare notes with other people. If you are new to this wine tasting affair then ask the professional sommeliers to describe the notes.
Cleanse your palate
Too many notes can overwhelm your palate so it’s important to use palate cleansers.
Kinds of wine & food pairing
When it comes to pairing Indian food with wine, it seems like a daunting task since Indian food comes with its own diversities in flavours with bold spices while wine is equally, if not less, complex a drink.
White wine: Unlike popular belief, white wines are not made of white grapes alone, rather, they are a mix of both varieties. The red pigments are extracted away while using the grape juice only. Mostly, it tastes savoury, bright or creamy depending on how it was aged again.
Pairing: It goes well when paired with fish, seafood, white soft cheese, bread and salads. Pomfret fry from Goa with its array of spices pairs well with an off-dry style of wine like Viognier as it tones down the spice quotient while bringing forth the flavour of the fish.
Palak paneer or paneer lababdaar also goes well with the aromatic white wines for the acidity of white wine cuts through the richness of Indian cheese or paneer. A wine with notes of apricot and peaches will add flavour to the whole affair.
Red wine: The production is similar to that of white wine but with the addition of grape pip, skin and seeds during fermentation. The fermentation process could be longer or at higher temperature to extract the tannins, flavours, richness and the aroma of the wine.
Pairing: It could be paired with grilled vegetables, white meat or chicken if it’s a light-bodied wine. If it’s a medium to full-bodied wine, it could go well with red meat dishes, steaks or hamburgers. Awadhi biryani cooked slow on the flame makes every grain of rice flavoured with meat and spices and imparts a smoky aroma to it. This smokiness goes well with wines that have been aged in oak barrels and are medium-bodied fruity style red wines like Merlot. If the biryani is spicy, then go for a Shiraz. Laal maas from Rajasthan is well paired with a Shiraz for its tannins match the proteins in the meat.
Rose wine: Rose wine with a pink rose colour is made from red or black grapes with a short fermentation time, about 12-36 hours only. While popularly it could be made simply by mixing red and white wine together. It comes with lower levels of tannins and the colour could vary from pale to dark pink. The flavour could range from sweet to dry.
Pairing: Typically light flavoured dishes like fruits, fish or poultry go well with rose wine. Indian food with high spice levels and rich saucy preparations are best paired with rose wine that’s with a bit of sweetness. The fruity note of the wine carries the spices in the dish well and balances its richness. Thus lamb tikka masala or tofu tikka masala goes well with this set of light to medium-bodied wines. The Andhra vindaloo dishes are also excellent with rose wines. Maharashtrian Pav Bhaji again goes well with this wine due to its spices.
Dessert or sweet wine: Although its sweet character makes it into a dessert wine which is served with desserts, yet, in countries like the United Kingdom sweet white wine is served as an aperitif or appetiser and sweet red wine as a palate cleanser or after food drink.
Pairing: It goes perfectly with desserts and also smoked meat or cheese.
Sparkling white wine: This is synonymous with celebrations. The bubbly wine has naturally occurring carbon dioxide or sometimes an extra is added during the fermentation process.
Pairing: It goes well with salads, cheese, and more. Let’s move over cheese and try this wine with papdi chaat. The tangy flavours of chaat go well with this dry wine.