How’s your year going so far? It’s been an exciting year for me – not least of which has been the publication of my new book “Love Your Wine”! I’ve felt frustrated for a long time about the attitudes of far too many wine fundis and writers (even occasionally myself – mea culpa) when it comes to making people feel inferior or embarrassed about the wines they drink.
Wine is meant to be something enjoyable, something fun to share with friends, not a competition or an excuse to look down on others. So this is why I wrote this book, hoping to not only help people become more confident about the wines they enjoy, but also so that they can become a bit more curious to perhaps try something new.
Food24 will be publishing a few extracts like the one below over the next few weeks and if you find them useful/interesting/funny/informative then please do go and buy the book (plug plug) which is available in Exclusive Books, CNA and lots of other outlets including wine farms and wine retailers. And let me know what you think of it – you can email me here on email@example.com or you can catch me on Twitter. Happy drinking y’all!!
'What’s a balanced wine?
At the risk of sounding like a sleazy magazine article - have you ever tried breast milk? I bet most mothers out there have caught a drop from time to time and when you do accidentally taste some, you’ll discover it’s sweet. As human beings, we are actually programmed to like sweet things (it’s something to do with giving us enough energy to go and forage for more food) and chances are that as a baby, you also graduated from milk to pureed apples and pears, mashed butternut and sweet potato.
It’s often the same with wine – most of us start on sweet, semi-sweet or off-dry wine styles, simply because they’re easier for us to accept and drink. I’m from the UK so I cut my vinous teeth on semi-sweet German Riesling called Liebfraumilch, but lots and lots of people in SA first come across wine through labels such as Van Loveren’s Four Cousins, The Saints range or Robertson Winery. These tend to be low in price and often come in big bottles or boxes as well as being lower in alcohol and very (sometimes worryingly) easy to drink.
These are the sorts of wines that most people are snobby about “Oh God, you mean you actually like that cheap, sweet crap” and I bet that many of you who drink them find yourselves apologising for your wine choices to these Taste Nazis. Stop that, stop that now. When it comes to wine – in fact, when it comes to life – your motto should be ‘Never explain, never apologise.’ And when their gums swell up from an excess of acidic Sauvignon Blanc – who’s going to have the last laugh then eh??
Everyone needs a bit of balance
To be a little bit fair to wine snobs, a lot of what makes them despise these sweeter wines is that they often lack balance. What do I mean by that? When you put a wine in your mouth, you should taste an even combination of sweet, sour, acid and fruit (we’ll add more factors to this list later on). Often these sweet/semi-sweet wines go so big on the sugar-stakes, they forget to offset them with any of the other factors, and the result can be a wine which is cloying or sticky in your mouth. If you want syrup, then drink syrup, but if you want a balanced wine you should look for one with a pleasing sweetness, some nice fruit flavours and a refreshing clean finish to it. That’s balance.
How is a wine made sweet?
Simply by leaving sugar in the wine – some people refer to this as ‘residual sugar’ or ‘RS’ but whatever you call it, it’s sweet. Depending on how it’s made, the winemaker may either stop the fermentation before the yeast has chowed all the sugar (they can do this by filtering or sieving out the yeast), or she may have added some sweetness in afterwards by mixing in some sweet grape juice.'
Extract from ‘Love Your Wine’ by Cathy Marston. Available from all good book shops for around R175.
I hope you all enjoyed the extract, and happy drinking!