We’ve all been guilty of downing our wine in less than two seconds (we were thirsty!), or worse, drinking straight from the bottle (okay, no excuse there). Even as a total wine noob, you know these are terrible habits you just have to kick. But if you want to go a level up at the next dinner party and actually look like you know plenty about what you’re sipping on, that would require a bit more finesse. Don’t fret, we’ve done the work for you.
We sat down with the business development managers of the Singapore Straits Wine Company — Aditya Lamba (who’s a sommelier too!) and Rachel Westbrook — who shared with us some simple tricks to the art of appreciating wine. An amateur, are you? We’ll have you looking like a wine connoisseur before you know it.
Singapore Straits Wine Company will be presenting their wines at Wine Fiesta Singapore 2018. The event, which will showcase over 250 featured wines, will be held at The Clifford Pier @ The Fullerton Bay Hotel, 80 Collyer Quay, on the 20th and 21st of October. Visit here to get your tickets.
1. The ANP: Appearance, Nose & Palate
If there’s only one thing you need to know, it is this: Appearance, Nose and Palate. These are the three basic steps when it comes to savouring a glass of wine, says Lamba. First, once you’ve poured your wine into a glass, you should place it against a clean, white surface. “This will help the wine drinker understand the colour and appearance of the wines made from different grapes and regions better,” he explains. Next, give the wine a good swirl — this opens up the aroma of the wine — before sniffing it. Take note of the scents that could be present, such as red fruits, dark fruits, or oak, he adds. Lastly, sip the wine and give it a nice swirl inside your mouth. “This will help the drinker comprehend the flavour profile of the wine. Normally, [the taste] lines up with the aromas on the nose.”
Our takeaway: Enjoying wine is all about slowing down and focusing on the various properties of what your wine is made of (that means no gulping!). Engulf your senses to get a better feel of the different notes present. That’s what makes wine tasting an enjoyable and special experience.
2. Decant or aerate the wine before serving
Let your wine breathe before drinking, whether by decanting it or using an aerator. Doing this helps to open up the wine after it has been cooped up in the bottle for many years, and will allow it to showcase its true flavour profile, characteristics and aromas, explains Lamba. “The job of an aerator is to mix a proper amount of air [into the wine] for the right amount of time. This creates a better bouquet, enhanced flavours and a smoother finish.”
Our takeaway: Use an aerator, or an oxidiser, to speed up the process of “airing” the wine if you have an impromptu dinner party. Otherwise, you can pour your wine into a decanter a day before. Either way, don’t be too hasty to just pop and drink.
3. Remember the 2Bs: Burgundy and Bordeaux
French wines have had a long history and are often seen as the king of wines, so you should remember this: The two most famous wine regions in France are Burgundy and Bordeaux, Westbrook explains. “The French label their wines by region as opposed to by grapes, so you’ll know what you’re getting if you know the wine’s country of origin,” she adds. “If the wine’s from Burgundy, a red will be a Pinot Noir and if it’s a white, it’ll be a Chardonnay. If it’s from Bordeaux, the wines are normally reds like Cabernet [Sauvignon] or Merlot.”
Our takeaway: A little goes a long way, and knowing these two wine regions will help you go far. Whenever a waiter at a restaurant goes: “How’s the Merlot?” Your response can be: “Oh, I’m loving this classic from Bordeaux.” Pro-tip: Wines from Bordeaux are rich and heavy, while those from Burgundy are light to the palette.
4. Don’t force yourself to speak the “wine language”
You don’t have to know all the notes and terminology when it comes to wine, notes Westbrook. And it’s okay if as a beginner, you can only say “wine smells like wine”, she adds. “You’ll need to be in tune with your sense of smell [in order to comprehend the notes present within the wine], which is hard to do. But, if you do get the chance to compare two wines, try both of them out and you’ll understand that each wine has a different taste to it. Some has a little pepper or spice, while others have notes of mango, or lychee even.”
Our takeaway: Don’t try too hard or be too eager to impress with lingo you’re unsure of. For starters, we’d suggest simple terms like fruity or spicy for taste, or richness and lightness when it comes to the wine’s texture.
5. Pair the right food with the right wine
Pairing the right kinds of food with the right kinds of wine can enhance your dining experience. But wine preferences are subjective, and so is wine and food pairing, says Lamba. “The classic combination is to pair white wine with white meats, like chicken or fish, while red wine will be great with red meat, like beef and pork. For those who are more knowledgeable in wine, they’ll match the flavour profile of the wine with the dish.”
Our takeaway: Generally, you should pair foods and wines of the same weight. A steak will call for a more full-bodied red, while something like baked scallops would go well with a crisp and light white.
6. Try to understand the difference in country of origin.
Although all wine is made from grapes, every country has a different climate, rainfall and soil texture, which will result in a variety of different grapes, Lamba says. “Old world countries such as France, Italy and Spain focus on the terroir (the environmental factors such as soil, temperature, rainfall, farming practices and even down to the winemaker) whereas new world countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America emphasise on the grape varietal.”
Our takeaway: Every country has its own environmental uniqueness, and they are reflected in the taste of the wine. If you simply aren’t ready for an influx of information, just remember this: Bordeaux and Burgundy.
7. Check in with your friends on their preferences
Most Singaporeans love their Aussie wines, says Lamba, adding that many have an inclination for wines in regions such as Barossa Valley and Margaret River. However, there are those who go for Italian or French wines too. “Wine preferences are really subjective as taste preferences are different among one’s age and gender. It’s like asking what’s the common favourite fruit juice — the answer’s sometimes apple, at times orange. It really boils down to each individual.”
Our takeaway: If your pals are oenophiles, avoid committing a faux pas by simply asking them which wine regions they’re into. If your friends are a laid-back bunch, choose Merlot if you want a richer taste, and Pinot Noir if you prefer something that’s light. And remember to get wines that complement your meal!
By Sean Tham