Wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting the non-coloured pulp obtained from grapes. The grapes used in wine making differ from table grapes by being smaller, having thicker skins and seeds. There are hundreds of different grape varieties but only about a hundred are used to produce the bulk of the world’s wines. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most commonly planted wine grape in the world. White wine is produced when the grapes after harvesting is crushed into a pulp and afterwards drained to separate the juice from the solids. This is what makes the difference between white and red wine. The white wine is fermented at lower temperatures than red wine, to enhance the clarity of the wine it can be racked several times. Racking is the process of separating the clear wine from the sediment at the bottom of the barrel.
The colour of white wine can vary from a greenish-white to a yellow-gold and the colour and taste is determined by the variety used, wine making method used and the sugar content of the wine. Dry white wine is the most common type and one the glamorous white wines is sparkling wine.
The following four things must be kept in mind when you taste white wine:
The glass must be tilted slightly while you hold it in front of your face. This ensures that you can look at the intensity of the colour as well as the clarity. The reason is that colour denotes the age, clarity if the wine is unfiltered or faulty. The lighter the colour the younger the wine.
The wine must be swirled in the glass to create droplets (legs) running down the glass. This will indicate the wine’s body which describe the wine’s texture inside your mouth, full-bodied or light-bodied. The droplets also gives an indication of the alcohol level of the wine.
The wine must be swirled to increase the oxygen interaction. This releases the fragrance to enhance the tasting. Thereafter the smell must be sniffed into the nostrils with an open mouth to try and identify smells that are familiar. Try and identify the scent grouping and not specific scents.
To taste, you must take your first sip while inhaling some air, to release more aromas. Don’t swallow immediately but roll the wine around in your mouth with your tongue. After that move it around in similar fashion as a mouthwash. Compare the scents and aromas you smelled with the taste you experience in your mouth. The flavour and the structure are the two basic factors determining the taste of wine. The structure consists of the sweetness, alcohol, acidity and the tannin which must be balanced in a good wine.
Try to establish, after you have taken a last sip, how long you can still experience the aroma of the wine. The longer it lingers the better the quality of the wine.
The best advice for a beginner is to start by getting to know the basic types of white wines available in restaurants and supermarkets. By studying what other people choose to buy and drink, you learn a lot.
Attend wine tastings, where the opportunity is on offer, to taste the wines and learn from those present.
Get to know the five most common white wines for beginners namely Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon, Riesling and Semillion. This wines will give any beginner an excellent introduction to the different white wines and will start you of on your journey of the appreciation of quality white wines.
Two of the great white wines that beginners and aficionados will enjoy is: