Most of us enjoy drinking wine without thinking about it too much.
However, learning an appreciation of a wine's layers and characteristics gives you a new insight into the wonderfully vast world of wine. Knowing what to look for in a wine gives you a better understanding of winemaking techniques, a wine's origin and climate, and, as your expertise develops, the finer aspects of vintage variation, varietal blends, cellaring potential and much more. The answer to one question will generate another three. It's an exponentially curious experience!
Essentially, wine tasting can be broken down into three different steps:
2. Nose &
How a wine looks is an important indicator of a wine's character and age. Younger, early-drinking styles will usually have a lighter intensity. Younger whites, such as the Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, will often have a greenish tinge to them compared to a deeper straw-coloured full-bodied Chardonnay for example. Ageing will see whites develop golden and finally tawny colour as they are exposed to oxygen for longer. Similarly, reds tend toward a purple tinge in youth and move through ruby, garnet and brown as they age.
The next step in tasting a wine is to swirl and smell. Swirling is not about being a wine snob, it's genuinely necessarly to allow oxygen into the wine, to release aroma compounds allowing you to identify the wine's character and development. Aromas are devided into three categories. Primary characteristics are derived from the fruit itself and are usually fresh fruit and floral characters. Wines with mainly primary characteristics, such as our Chenin Blanc, will generally be younger, lighter wines.
Secondary characteristics are derived from the winemaking process and include yeast and fermentation effects, such as the buttery character often noticeable in Chardonnay. Tertiary characteristics are from the "third age" - the result of the ageing process - and can include anything from cedar to spice, jam to savoury characters, earthiness to honey. If you can identify a complex array of aromas from each of the three categories, you will most likely be tasting a fine wine intended for ageing. Our newly re-released 2004 Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon is a great example.
As 80% of our sense of taste comes from what we smell, the palate of a wine should confirm what your eyes and nose have already identified. Step three - taste - helps you to make a final judgement on the wine while also distinguishing the four main elements in wine: sweetness, one of the easiest elements to identify leaving a pleasant coating over your palate; and alcohol, which leaves a sensation of heat - the more alcohol, the warmer your mouth feels. The "harsh" sensations are: acidity, which makes your mouth water; and finally tannin, which conversely dries our the palate and gums. A well-made wine will demonstrate balance between each of these elements. Some styles that display an imbalance in flavour, acidity and tannin can indicate a young wine intended for long cellaring.
Armed with some key tasting techniques, its over to you. The only way to embrace your appreciation of wine is to keep trying wines with some of this knowledge in mind. Ultimately, even if you only learn to understand what you like or dislike in a wine and why, you'll already be better prepared for your next wine tasting.
This article was taken from Issue 27 of the VOYAGER ESTATE Magazine 'MAGNUM' - Michael John Maynard Wright