(1) How to choose wine
We don't need to be masters of wineto work out what a wine might taste like before opening the bottle.
Ask yourself three questions: (1) Which grape? (2) Where were they grown (in other words, what's a wine's terroir)? (3) How was the wine made (mainly was it oaked and/or aged)? These three elements make a certain wine the way it is.
1. Which grapes have been used?
Most aspects of a wine are predetermined by the grape it’s made from. For example, Merlot will give a smoother and thicker wine than Pinot Noir, which is crisper in taste.
We can’t really get around the fact that the grape is going to determine what the wine will be like. For that same reason, some producers will use more than one kind of grape for a batch to achieve the balance they are looking for.
2. Where were the grapes grown?
In the balance of nature and nurture, nature definitely takes the lion share of making a wine what it is. Our next deciding factor comes in two parts - Climate and Soil - that together are often referred as the terroir.
As a general rule: the warmer the climate, the smoother the wine. Grapes grown in warmer climes will usually make wines that are “sweeter” and riper in taste and aroma.
However, a wine will not necessarily be better just because its grapes were grown in hot weather. For example, if wew were to grow Pinot Noir in a warm place, we’d end up with a bland wine - it far prefers cooler temperatures.
Vines aren’t happy on plains because flat ground can often mean stagnant water or fog - no good for growing wine grapes.
Strange as it may sound, the vine is a masochistic plant. It’s happiest in places where it’s going to have to work itself to the maximum just to survive, by digging real deep with its roots. Vines love to dig through the poor surface soil of a hill to reach the mineral rich soil beneath it.
3. How was the wine made?
For those that don’t already know, ‘oaking’ is keeping the wine in an oak barrel as opposed to a stainless steel one. This makes a pretty big difference to the taste of the wine.
That’s not to say that oaking necessarily makes a wine better, but it does add flavours and aromas that contrast the grape.
To know more about how oaking changes wine, just go to our dedicated blog post.
Ageing a wine is the process of letting it sit in its bottle for an amount of time (sometimes decades!) to allow its flavours and aromas to change.
Not all wines are fit for ageing and there’s definitely nothing inferior about a younger wine! That said, it’s important to remember that neither oaking nor ageing necessarily makes a wine better, but they always make a wine more expensive. So we’ve got to figure out whether we like the end result before investing in wine that’s gone through either or both processes.
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