The ABC’s of Wine

By Ndugu Abisai

The ABC’s of Wine

If you ever talk to a wine enthusiast or an experienced sommelier as a casual wine consumer, you most likely will feel like they are on to something. Something that has nothing to do with wine. When they say such things as, “let it breathe, the wine is dead, lay it down.” Or “this wine is hot.” When talking about wine that is chilled and cold. The problem is that these should be the people that also sell us the wine or the wine idea we are supposed to enjoy. You will stand next to a person swirling a glass of wine or sniffing it and swallowing it as if they are pulling it with a straw with closed eyes while you ebb away from their experience both in word and action.  How can you better your experience with wine? The answer is simple. Learn the basics. It is like driving a car, once you know what peddle does what, you are in for a good ride. Provided you maintain a good deal of self-control. Here are the basics you need to know about wine. 

Look, Swirl, Smell, Sip 

These are the bottom of the barrel (no pun at all) basics of wine. Especially if you are hanging out with wine lovers. You don’t want to look basic when it comes to wine. It is the polity of wine. To be well versed with good “wine behaviour.” Look at the content of your glass, swirl it like a suave wine connoisseur, smell the wine and let your lungs fill with that exclusivity, let it invite your taste palate to its greatness, then sip. Remember it is not a mouthful. Just enough to let your whole mouth enjoy its goodness.


Wine Characteristics

By now you know that wine has a personality and therefore, characteristics. This is what distinguishes wines from other beverages, say beers. There could be more than the list of characteristics we will offer here but check these ones out. 

  1. Sweetness (how sweet or dry is the wine)
  2. Acidity –the tartness of the wine.
  3. Tannin—how astringent or bitter the wine is.
  4. Alcohol—the ABV percentage of the wine you are taking.
  5. Body—the overall impression of the wine.

Price is not always indicative of quality

When looking to enjoy good wine, consider these three factors especially when the price is in contention, vintage, oak, origin. For instance, a Barolo is aged in oak barrels for about three years, wine speaking, it has room for growth. You can leave it to age for the next seven years for a special occasion. In those seven years, the price will have changed as compared to its younger version despite the brand name. Check those three factors and determine whether the pricing you are getting is right.

Clean wine is not a thing

There is no wine in the market that is “chemical-free”. Anyone that uses this as a selling ploy is just trying to make an extra coin by tapping into the booming wellness market. All wines and beers and cheeses contain Sulfites which are natural products of the fermentation process. They help in protecting the wine from premature oxidation, bacteria and yeast. 

There are no rules.  

Does this sound counter-intuitive? Maybe it is or it is not. Every now and then you hear people say, if you are having white meat, pair it with white wine. However, if you want to try red wine with your fish, it is not preposterous to enjoy it with a Red Burgundy. Develop your palate for other existing but rarely exploited tastes. 

Taste is influenced by origin 

Originating in France, the cabernet sauvignon grape is now grown all over the world, and the terroir– the geographic topography, soil, and climate – of each region imparts its own unique twist on this adaptable grape. It could be the same type of wine but varying in taste. 

Wine is subjective 

From the same bottle, I may smell pithy grapefruit and you may smell a totally different thing say oranges. You could taste smoke and leather while I taste jammy, cooked fruit. It remains a very subjective thing.

Friends make it better 

Borrowing from the lyrics of the song by Iyaani, “Furaha ni kua na marafiki.” Pair your wine enjoyment with friends. It is always a good time. 

You can watch more wine mannerisms and how to behave around wine, how to serve wine, how to lay it down on Showmax’s The Grand Crew