Assistant winemaker, Nederburg
Different wines require different types of glasses. As a standard, a tulip-shaped 250ml glass with a stem is often used. A glass with a larger bowl generally works for red wine as it allows more surface area for oxygen to come into contact with the wine and hence allows it to breathe. Small glasses are great for white wines as it keeps them cooler for longer
Always hold the wine by the stem. Wine quickly adapts to changing temperatures and your palm is bound to warm it, making it taste unpleasant. Never fill up a glass to more than two thirds its size. Rather refill or top up. Putting ice in your wine is a personal preference. It is however not the best practice if you consider the physical attributes of the wine that will be watered down by the addition of ice blocks. You’d much rather cool the whole bottle and keep it on ice. If you’re considering wine older than 3 years, open the bottle and let it stand for 30 minutes to an hour before serving to let it breathe. This opens it up more.
Sommelier, Capital Club
Learn to understand wine by looking at it’s appearance, nose and impression on the palate. Appearance – Look at it’s clarity, brightness, colour, intensity, viscosity, etc. Just looking at the legs alone can for instance tell you if it is high in alcohol and sugar.
Nose – I am all for blind tasting. 90% of it is on the nose and 10% on the palate. Is it clean? What’s the intensity on the nose? Get the development- is it young or aged? Look at the fruit character, complexity, minerality and find out if it is oaked or not. If it was french oaked then you will get a nosing of vanilla and if it was American then you’ll get caramel. Palate – Consider the anatomy of your tongue’s taste buds. Sour on the sides, sweet in the middle, bitter in the back and sweet and salty at the front. Where does the wine fall? Is it dry or sweet? Consider white wines on their acidity and reds on their tannins. Identify if there are any fruits you didn’t pick up on the nose…the
body, balance and finish. The longer the finish, the better the wine.
Taste what’s in the glass in front of you. It sounds rather basic, but we often get too caught up trying to taste from what we think about the
grape variety, region and also what our peers think. We then end up saying things just to look smart. Forget all that and simply taste the wine that’s in your glass at that moment, even if you tried the exact same one the day before.
Getting a little nasally fatigued? Is everything starting to smell the same? Don’t worry, smell the back of your hand to refresh your nose then smell the wine again. It works wonders. As often as you can, taste blind; that is without knowing what wine is in your glass. This not only forces you to stick to point one, but it’s fun and the best way to train your mind to use deduction to understand varieties and country styles better. There’s no place for close-mindedness. The fun thing about wine is that something as simple as a different vintage, production process or addition of a percentage of a different grape variety produces an infinitely different wine from the one you last had. Embrace that variety and depth. If you can, write down what you taste. You’d be surprised just how often your palate changes.