I’ve recently embarked on a journey, I wanted to learn more about wine- the different types, where they come from and most importantly- what I like about them. In doing this research, I found so many types of wine I have never heard of but am now eager to try! Each wine comes from a specific grape, grown in a specific region and produced a certain way- all of these things combined explain why your palate is the way it is. With this knowledge it becomes easier to pinpoint factors to look for when picking out a bottle for yourself.
I suggest starting with ALL THE WINE.
We’re going to work backwards on this one- start with a bottle of wine you already know you like. Easy, right?! Now dissect the label.
Producer (Name of the Winery)
Region and sub- region (Where the wine is from)
Varietal (Grape/ name of the type of wine)
Low- intervention (Imported/ Distributed)
Producer Route 44 Stellenbosch
Region South Africa
Varietal Cape Blend (Pinotage)
Volume 14% ABV
Low- intervention Grantoine Imports
Step 1: What is the name of the wine? That is the type of grape (varietal) the wine is made from.
Step 2: Where is the wine from? This is the region and sub- region the grape is grown in, also know as Terroir. The terroir describes the grape and the climate it’s grown in, for example: cool climates produce tart and acidic wines where warm climates produce more sugary and less acidic wines.
In two quick steps you were able to identify solid facts about a wine you already know you like. Now you know exactly what to look for in the wine aisle. Once you know your preferences, you can perfect your palate by exploring similar wines from different regions OR you can travel completely outside the box and try something new!! Below are just a few examples of the importance of a wine’s terroir, I chose to highlight these regions based on what I prefer.
France– minimal, simple, casual elements (AOP/AOC are gradings to look for)
Germany– fruit forward and grown in an acidic, cool climate
Italy– made to complement the regions cuisine (DOC is the grading to look for)
Portugal– known for port, refreshing whites and dry reds
Greece– warm and Mediterranean mixed with cool and coastal, tannic reds
Spain– reflect their terrains and rich food, serve with light meals
Argentina– velvety reds and floral whites
Australia– delicate wines resembling French Syrah
South Africa– both warm and cool climates. They produce their own grape, Pinotage, a mix between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut
Chile– ideal environment, both warm and dry climates with natural irrigation *age worthy reds
Napa/ Sonoma– oak, light and terroir driven wines
Paso Robles/ Santa Barbara– becoming a hub for Italian wines, though most famous for Pinot Noir
San Diego– #norules
Oregon– cool climate
Washington– full of finesse
Now that you can see which regions produce the ideal elements for your palate- play around with body, acidity and tannins. (Reference my original blog post All the Wine for descriptions of varietals). My personal preference include: dry, red, oak, medium to full body, medium to high acidity and medium to high tannins. Very specific- but there are still so many wines to try based on those descriptions.
Whenever trying a new wine, especially from another county, it’s a great idea to read the back of the label too. This is where you can find the importer/ distributor listed. Just like you would associate a wine with a grape and a grape with a region- once you start taking notice of a wine’s importer, you will start to correlate distributors with quality.
I have also created a list in my notepad for logging the wines we have tried. Although Jon and I have similar palates, sometimes we differ on how much or how little we enjoyed a bottle. This is a great way to keep track of what you have tasted and are willing to purchase again.
You are on your way to becoming a wine (drinking) expert!! On my next blog post I will cover how to correctly taste wine- yes there is an actual way to taste wine that doesn’t involve chugging from the bottle (but, hey, I’m not opposed to it!)
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