Getting clued up on wine

Confused about how to correctly taste wine? Curious about the origins of Pinotage or are you just daunted by the jargon and sheer magnitude of information about wine etiquette?

by: Readers Digest | 08 Nov 2007

Well help is at hand. The November edition of Reader's Digest provides 20 facts and tips that will put you on the fast-track to connoisseur status.

Tips and facts
1. The John Platter Wine Guide (2007) lists 64 new wineries and 600 new wines compared to 2006.
2. South African are not great wine drinkers. The French consume five times more wine per person than South Africans.
3. South Africa is the eighth largest producer of wine in the world. France is tops.
4. The biggest wine producing region in South Africa is Worcester and the smallest is the Little Karoo region.
5. Pinotage is a true South African wine – the result of cross pollination of Pinot Noir with Cinsaut in 1925.
6. Chenin Blanc covers more hectares than any other white varietal in South Africa.
7. Only about 46 percent of the South African wine consumed locally is served from the bottle.
8. South Africans tend to drink white wines too cold and reds too warm. A good rule of thumb is 15 to 18 degrees for reds (cool room temperature) and eight to 12 degrees for whites (moderately chilled).
9. Swirling in the glass is not just an affectation, helps you smell the wine better.
10. Letting a wine breathe releases all its flavours. To best aerate wine it must be decanted into another container.
11. Wine is a very natural substance compared to other alcoholic drinks.
12. If wine was a living thing, it would spoil as there are no live microbes in wine.
13. A corked wine is one that has been tainted by a chemical compound in the cork and does not refer to the fragments of broken cork.
14. Grape varieties do not determine sweetness: winemakers do. Any grape can be made into sweet or dry wine.
15. Grapes and wines share flavour compounds with various herbs, spices, vegetables, other fruit and organic matter.
16. The juice of most grapes is clear. Red wines are fermented with their skins to extract colour.
17. Cap Classique is the name given to South African sparkling wines made using the traditional champagne method.
18. Bubbles in champagne are caused when wine ferments and produces carbon dioxide. The gas is trapped in the bottle and is released when the cork is popped.
19. Only a small proportion of wines produced improve with age.
20. The indent found at the bottom of most wine bottles is called a punt.

The article also provides a guide to wine tasting and how to pare wines with food. Visit or see the full story in Reader’s Digest.

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