Let’s start with stating the fact that wine is not just a woman’s drink. It is indeed a sign of sophistication and class when a man knows the difference between a Chilean red wine and an Australian white one. So we thought, getting an expert to tell us a bit more about this exciting adventure of tasting wine would be a perfect guide for amateurs and those who would love to know more. Who better than the Chief Winemaker of Sula Vineyards, the first ever wine company to introduce Indian wines to us all, Mr. Ajoy Shaw to educate us about this fascinating drink?
Tell us in detail how a wine tasting session is conducted?
A perfect wine tasting is conducted using wines chilled to the right temperatures and using the right kind of wine glasses. The setting and ambience play an important role: it should be sober, well lit and comfortable to allow proper judgment. There are 4 simple steps in tasting wine: see, smell, taste and conclude. Though all the steps are quite different, each is important to make a judgement about the wine and record information for future tastings.
The wine needs to be evaluated on parameters such as clarity, colour intensity, bubbles, legs, deposits, viscosity. All these will give us vital clues to the way the wine has been made, aged and give us guidelines of how it should smell and taste.
The second step is to swirl the wine in the glass and release the aromas to be evaluated. The nose will identify the intensity of aromas, their types – clean, fruity, floral, fresh, spicy, woody/oaky, old or oxidized and maturing aromas. This builds up the taster to what he actually might expect to taste in the wine.
This involves taking a small, manageable amount of the wine in your mouth and swirling it with a small amount of air taken in through your lips. This helps to taste the various flavours and attributes like sweetness, acidity, bitterness, weight, firmness of tannins or structure, intensity of flavours, alcohol and finally the length or how long the flavours last on the palate even after the wine is consumed.
This should be based on the first three observations and you can tell the wine is of good quality when all the three would go together. For example, a young dry white wine would be pale in colour with moderate or high intensity of pleasing aromas, having no sweetness on the palate, balanced alcohol; lively acidity and weight/mouth feel with a long length or finish. This recording of conclusions will help the taster to register and benchmark the wine.
Tasting Notes, Wine & Food Pairing, Myths and More
Most people still talk about pairing “white wine with white meat (fish, chicken) and red wine with red meat”. This still applies largely, but is not so rigid after gaining a better understanding of different types of food and wine styles over the years. The perfect wine from a particular grape variety or of a particular style may not be always available. So, broad matches are necessary instead of trying to get the ideal wine.
Important points to remember while pairing wine and food:
· Match not only flavour of food to flavour of wine, but also the intensity of flavour and the body of wine. E.g. A heavy alcoholic wine will not suit a delicate dish.
· Try to match acidity of the dish with the acidity of the wine. Else, one of them will dominate the other. E.g. Acidity of lemon or tomatoes in the food should be matched by the acid in wine.
· A rich delicate dish can be matched with a rich wine with elegant flavours and good acidity but it will not pair well with a strong acidic and lean wine.
· Spicy foods go well with spicy aromas in wine, but care should be taken that the spice does not kill the flavours on the wine. The matching wines can be dry or slightly sweet/ off-dry. E.g. Sula Zinfandel Rose, off dry with strong fruit and spicy aromas goes well with most Indian chicken curry preparations.
· Pairing sweet food with wine is very difficult as it will make the wine taste dry, lean and acidic. Try to match some late harvest wines with desserts.
Finally, it is also a personal preference or a combination which has been tried and tested several times.
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