Benjamin Franklin once said ‘Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy’. That probably spells out, in a nutshell, what a good wine is all about: Bliss, pure bliss. What’s more, one of the marks of sophistication - besides impeccable grooming and good breeding - is to know your way around vintage wine specimens. So quite naturally, if you’re dating someone who mingles in high society and is a bonafide wine connoisseur - it’s best you arm yourself with some valuable information on the same.
Folklore, culture and even modern society is filled with examples of the romance and mystery associated with wine. For instance, Jesus’ first miracle, in fact, was to turn water into wine at the wedding at Cana. The medieval Spanish clan, the Borgias, were infamous for poisoning their enemies - by offering them wine laced with lethal poison. Additionally, in that hopelessly romantic classic, ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’, the king’s enemy, the Duke Michael, prevents the king from attending his own coronation by sending him a bottle of the choicest wine laced with a sedative. More recently, Neil Diamond sang, ‘Red, red wine, Go to my head, Make me forget that I still need her so’ in a song aptly entitled ‘Red Red Wine’.
If you are wondering what on earth the fuss is all about, and have only tasted wine out of a cooler or cardboard box, you’re in some serious hot water. Remember, a cultured partner, like any other partner for that matter, is subconsciously sizing you up, measuring both the chemistry and compatibility you two share. And while ignorance may be bliss for some, being unable to distinguish between a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay, may not earn you any brownie points with your refined and well informed date.
Wine tasting is not just an ordinary activity - it’s an experience, one that’s to be savored.
Let’s first examine the types of wine glasses, the manner in which a wine glass is to be held and how the wine is to be tasted.
Types of wine glasses:
There are three main types of wine glasses, namely, the white wine glass, the red wine glass and the champagne flute.
White wine glasses are typically shaped like tulips, with medium sized bowls and long stems. They are designed to retain the coolness of the champagne - their long stems ensure that the person holding the glass does not touch the bowl, thereby transferring body heat onto the glass. Also, their bowls are smaller as compared to the red wine glasses, ensuring that there is less circulation of air, which in turn would keep the wine chilled.
The bowls of the red wine glasses are rounder in comparison to those of the white wine ones, and they are designed to let the wine breathe.
Finally, champagne flutes are glasses with long, slim stems and tall, narrow bowls.
How to hold a wine glass
All wine glasses, regardless of the type, should be held by the stem. The only exception is when the wine is too cool, in which case you can hold it by the bowl, to warm it to a more comfortable temperature. Not only is holding a wine glass important, but to get the maximum out of the experience, it’s best that you sip the wine slowly, but don’t swallow immediately. Swirl the wine around in your mouth for a while, and then swallow. This way you can savor the flavor at leisure.
Types of wine:Bubbly wine:
No romantic evening can be complete without popping open a bottle of some bubbly. Prepared through a laborious procedure by blending Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes, genuine champagne is from the Champagne region in Northern France. The most important pointer to keep in mind, where champagne is concerned is that the more expensive the champagne, the better the taste and flavor. No wonder, therefore, that champagnes are usually served at special occasions only.Red Wines:
Syrah (or Shiraz)
The Shiraz variety of red wine are wines with a full bodied, spicy flavor and deep red color. Typically, the best quality of this type of red wine comes from France's Rhone Valley, Australia and California. You can enjoy a bottle of this wine with all kinds of red meat, including beef, wild game, meat stews and the like.
Light- to medium-bodied and packed with an array of fruity flavors, Merlot is a very popular red wine variety. It pairs well with many foods like creamy pastas, beef, lamb, strongly flavored cheese, veal, seafood and barbequed chicken and pork. Much like bubbly, Merlot wines of the cheap variety can be quite awful.
Dark, heavy and best when medium-to full-bodied, Cabernets are also best served with red meats of all kinds. Different varieties of this red wine variety, with interesting undertones, come from across the globe, including California, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Chile and Australia. Interestingly, some of the best quality Cabernets have vanilla undertones, which come from the oak treatment.
Chianti comes from the Chianti region in Tuscany in Italy. The best quality Chiantis have slight floral undertones. Chiantis should ideally be paired with Italian cuisine - so the next time your man takes you to an Italian restaurant, order Chianti with confidence.
Most sommeliers know that Chardonnay is the grape that champagne and burgundies are made from. However, a little known fact about Chardonnay is that it is the most popular of white wines. With delicious honey, apple, fig and nut undertones, this is not difficult to believe.
Pinot Gris or Grigio
Much like a good croissant, Pinot is crisp, dry and subtle. Best paired with a light salad, Pinot has rich fruit undertones.
The Bordeaux versions of Sauvignon Blanc can have slightly grassy undertones, whereas the most common varieties can be quite fruity, with berry or melon undertones. Just like a good Scotch, Sauvignon Blanc wines are best when aged.
Rieslings are typically sweet wines and the best quality ones usually come from Alsace and Germany.
Food and wine pairing
Traditionally, white wines are to be served with poultry and fish, and red wines should be served with red meats. But rules are made to be broken. Finding a combination that works for you, takes time and loads of practice (enjoy!). It’s best, however, to first try out the suggested pairings and then get creative and mix-n-match.