Wine 101: Learn to talk about wine with confidence
What do sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and syrah have in common? They all taste good! But what makes them taste this good? In preparation, here’s a quick round-up of the basics of wine:
If you’re in South Africa, you’re lucky enough to live in one of the best wine-producing countries in the world. People (used to) travel from all over the world to sample our wines, and Cape Town specifically is one of the wine hubs in the world, boasting a Mediterranean climate ideal for vines. There are over 1,000 types of grapes that can be used to make wine; however, far less are used commercially and planted widely. The most common and widely planted are known as noble grape varieties. They are cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling.
Drinking great wine shouldn’t be intimidating or expensive, and the beauty of wine is that you don’t have to drive to these regions or travel anywhere in the world, for that matter, to experience its magic. You can create these experiences at home – the goal is simply to enjoy it.
Discovering, understanding and evaluating good wine
The evaluation of wine is dictated by three senses: sight, smell and taste. Ever wondered why people sniff and swirl the wine in the glass? They’re evaluating all the different factors that make the wine unique. No two bottles of wine taste the same. Every bottle is a reflection of where it comes from. Everything is unique – from the soil in which the vine grows to the amount of rain that particular spot enjoyed in that particular month of that particular year.
A guide to white wines
Beautiful citrus and tropical fruit characters. It’s often wooded, but there are some fantastic examples of unwooded South African chardonnay as well. This wine is super on a hot summer day and many South Africans enjoy pairing chardonnay with a variety of different dishes, especially beautiful West Coast mussels.
The go-to wine for most white wine-drinkers, this versatile wine is enjoyed on all occasions – with or without food, summer or winter, day or night. It’s zesty and refreshing with a beautiful balance of cut grass and Granny Smith apple layered with tropical fruit notes of granadilla and pineapple. It has a lingering citrus finish.
A guide to red wines
Some of the best-known and most expensive wines are made with cabernet. When enjoying cabernet, one can traditionally get beautiful deep, dark fruits, usually dominated with blackberry compote and black plum. It’s complemented with spicy aromatics of clove and cinnamon, as well as a lovely hint of dried herb. Big and bold, it makes for a magnificent companionship with any meat.
Some of the best red wines being produced in South Africa are made from syrah. It has a naturally spicy aroma and can show distinct white and black pepper characters. Typically it shows black plum and cherry as the fruit aromatics.
Tom Orpen is the global sales and marketing manager at Warwick Wines