We’ve all been there. The panic, the frustration, the false sense of knowing something that you know nothing of, but you can speak fondly of admiring it and thus you now have a label.
That’s right, you’re a “wine lover.” And people mix ‘wine lover’ for ‘wine expert.’ The onus is now on you to become an expert at all costs, after all, you don’t want to lose face in front of friends, your wine fridge/rack/cellar is now the envy of your peer group and you accidentally threw in the line “it’s rather oaky” and can’t be forgiven for knowing your stuff.
There are three scenarios when knowing the difference between a Merlot and Pinot can of course come in handy, these include;
You are invited to a friend’s house for a meal. You’ve been there plenty of times and each time brought round some chocolates or flowers. You dive into your cupboard and pull out a bottle that’s sat there for quite a long period of time. “It’s fine” you think, “they like red wine” is the only thing that springs to mind.
You are greeted by a waiter who proceeds to bring the wine menu. You are struck by the variety of choice, the different nations, the variance of price. You opt for the cheapest French wine you can find.
You’re having a take out and you want something other than beer. Of course, ask anyone what goes with Indian/Chinese/Thai takeout and beer is the only answer. You leave the shop empty handed and proceed with a hipster craft beer.
So is there a way to be a wine expert in less than a day?
According to Jancis Robinson, there is. In 2016, one of the world’s most famous and illustrious drink writers released the book, “The 24 Hour Wine Expert.” In it, she claims that you can learn the most essential elements about wine in 24 hours; which is extremely handy if you’re trying to pass of your knowledge at a large public affair for your love of the grape.
So, if you do like your wine and want to get a better understanding of the kinds of things you should know, how does this book and other research across the internet turn you into a wine expert in 24 hours?
There are no rights and wrongs
There is no right and wrong to enjoying wine, tasting or appreciating a glass. You can only say what you think and what you think is usually what you feel about a wine. Don’t worry about the experts telling you it’s a good wine and disagreeing with them on how it tasted to you; they may not enjoy your taste in punk rock, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong about music, does it?
Don’t match colours but weight
One of the big things people are taught is that if you’re eating red meat, it should be a red wine. But that school of thought has gone somewhat and if anything you should pair your wine based on the “weight of the food.” Think about it this way, if the dish you’re going to have is rich and quite complicated, you want a wine that is full bodied, whereas if you’re having a lighter meal, a fresh, light wine is the drink you want to have.
Choose wine that is out of the light
If you walk into any supermarket, wine merchant or off licence, you want to choose a wine that hasn’t been exposed to too much light, none if possible. The wines at the front of the shelf have lots of exposure to the light which in turn can damage the wine quality through artificial ageing.
Get the temperature right
It seems like you’re being picky but getting the temperature right can be the difference between having a red wine that tastes as it should or tasting like mud; something that can happen when it is too warm. White wines can also be too cold, which doesn’t make them smell of anything. Actually, the serving temperature between white and red is rather close, 15 to 16 degrees, so all you really need is a good thermometer.
Don’t overfill your glass
You want the wine to breath in your glass, therefore anything more than half is actually a waste, especially when you want to get the flavours of the wine. You want to release aromas before tasting and the best way to do it is to swirl the glass. Have you ever tried to swirl a full glass? Pretty hard isn’t it. Aromas are what gives its flavour, around two thirds of it, so to really enjoy it, make sure your glass isn’t overly full.
There is no direct relationship with price and quality
It’s true. There are wines that are overpriced and there are wines that are undervalued. You have to thank marketing departments for this as they will search for the best way to increase the value even if they are not the best wines. Pay little attention to the apparent relationship between price and quality and go off your wine preferences to start establishing what you like and how much you would be willing to pay for certain varieties and producers.
Cheap whites and rose’s should be drunk young
They’re designed that way. Simple. If you get a cheap white or rose drink it young – i.e. the year you buy it, preferably the month you buy it. They’re designed to be drunk with little ageing as more complex ageing on these kinds of varieties can turn them bitter.
Finally, don’t be scared to ask for help
If you don’t know, say. There are lots of people knowledgeable about wine that can guide you. You can get a better idea of what you should be aiming for and how you can develop your palette and knowledge. Part of the most interesting things about wine is understanding the story of where it is from and how it was harvested, professional sommeliers can give you those stories which then goes to add a different layer of your wine knowledge and appreciation.