Wine is popular, many people love it paired with a meal or simply enjoy drinking a glass in the evening. However, it can be confusing at times; grape varieties, years, regions … in a restaurant you may not know which wine to ask for from the waiter. We’ve compiled wine expert Dawn Davies’s interview for London Wine Week to give you some insight into this.
Wine names come either from the region in which they are grown or from the type of grape.
“Wine is a very complicated subject and I think that is why people are nervous. There is not much information on the bottle about what exactly you drink, so you may not know if you have not done research before. In some parts of the world, wines are named according to the grape variety. For example ‘chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, cabernet. Sauvignon, all of these are grape varieties, and the countries that have this habit are Australia, New Zealand, America, South America …
There are also Europeans, who are mostly French, Italian, and Spanish. They are good at confusing everyone because they write the name of the region where the varietal grows on the bottle instead of the grape variety itself. In wine terms, we call this concept ‘terroir’. The reason for this is the climate of this region, whether it is the soil or the height of the hills, all kinds of features affect the taste of the wine. In other words, the place where the grape is grown is more important for the Europeans. For example, when you see the French Chablis, it represents the region, not the Chablis grape. The grape variety is actually chardonnay.”
There are thousands of grape varieties in the world, but we call the most known noble varietals.
“For white wine, we can give examples of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. The first is extremely oily and soft, perhaps citrus-like, and the second is probably the most well-known, tropical, and fruity flavor.
As for red wine, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz or syrah. These are just a few of our main varietals. However, there are between 2000-3000 grape varieties in the world, so we can continue forever. These are enough, to begin with.”
Grape harvest is important for the ‘old world’ but we cannot say the same for the ‘new world’.
“The year we are talking about is the year the wine was grown. The important reason is that the climate is different every year. As you know, the wines are affected by this because it affects how the grapes grow. If it rains too much that year, the grapes will swell and become too thin. That is, the wine becomes sugary in sunny years and more acidic in cold years.
However, in the ‘new world’ countries (Australia, America, South America, etc.), vintage is not a big problem because the weather in these countries is not very volatile. You will see diversity but not as much as ‘old world’ countries. “
Some wines are long-lasting, others should be drunk within a short period of time.
“Different wines are aged differently. If you have an easy-to-drink New Zealand sauvignon blanc on hand, you don’t want to wait too long. You should drink it within half a year because the wine will not taste good. Instead, the fruit will start to become tasteless, even if no one opens the wine, we cannot ignore its interaction with oxygen. In short, you have to open and drink the wines.
However, the situation is different for others. Take Cabernet sauvignon. It can last for decades if grown properly in the right area. Some rieslings last even longer than that. For example, Madeira goes for centuries. As the wine ages, less is available and the wine becomes rarer. There are some wines, like ’61 Bordeaux, so rare now that everyone wants this bottle. When the region where the wine comes from is of good quality, the prices are quite high. “
The color of the wine comes from both the color of the grape and the length of time the grape skin remains in contact with the liquid.
“Some grapes are light on the inside and the whole color is in the skin. White wine is made with white grapes, so it’s easy because the skin doesn’t have color. In red wine, you have to change the color from the peel to the liquid. That’s why you leave the skin in contact with the liquid. The longer it stays, the more intense the color becomes.
There are two big differences in taste between red wine and white wine. Red wine contains more tannins (the astringent substance in the grape skin). If you drink too much-brewed tea, a feather-like substance will deposit on your palate, that is tannin. The tannin present in red wines is transferred to the liquid through the shell that comes into contact with the liquid.
You will also taste darker fruits in red wine, e. g. blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, cherry, etc. White wine has a more floral, citrus flavor. However, these are the rules that change according to the wine. “
Rosé is more like white wine, although it is made from black grapes.
“There are two methods of making rosé. In the first one, you mix white and red. It is not very common lately, but it is not made. For example, rosé champagne is made this way. The second method is to use black grapes and leave them in contact with the liquid for a very short time.
Although it is closer to white wine in terms of taste, it still resembles dark-colored fruits. There is no tannin as well and it should be served cold.
Rosé has a bad reputation, but unjustified. When the first Rosé was produced, it was made from leftover wines. If the wine wasn’t good enough to be processed into red or white wine, it was mixed and turned into rosé so that the leftovers were not wasted. It became a byproduct that was vilified due to the way it was created. However, it has gained quite some popularity recently, so we can assume that the quality has also increased.”
Interesting side-note, when you sip your wine, usually a ring of clear liquid forms near the top of your glass from which droplets drop back into your wine, those are called ‘tears of wine’.
“Tears of wine” are droplets of alcohol or sugar attached to the rim of the glass. So if the wine has a higher alcohol concentration, you will see more tears, same is the case if the wine is sweetened because the glycerin in the sugar sticks to the glass. Your glass gives you clues, watch it closely.
If it is too dark, you can tell the grape variety by its color, albeit the age. The fragrance also gives many clues about the varietal, whether it is good or bad. What you will look at in terms of taste should be acid and tannin, this is called the body. Also of course alcohol concentration, you can recognize it by the burning in the back of your throat. All this has to be in balance in a good wine. “
Most wines are dry, only a few of them are sweet.
“By dry, we mean how much sugar is left in the wine. To reach the wine, there is sugar and yeast, the two together create alcohol and CO2. Yeast consumes the sugar to form alcohol. Sometimes the sugar is not swallowed completely because the yeast dies. But most wines are fermented until they dry.
Have you ever grabbed a pack of sugar and sniffed it? It won’t smell sweet. Many people consider their wine sweet because it contains fruit. But the contrary is the case, you will find that most wines are dry with almost no sugar left in them. Only the scent of fruit will make you believe they’re sweet.”
Wine glasses enrich the taste and aroma of the wine.
“The wine glass is very important. When you hold a glass with a handle, it keeps the wine cool. The most important thing is that the shape of the glass ensures that the wine comes in contact with enough air. So it brings out the flavors.
Wine needs to breathe. If you were trapped inside the bottle for a year, you would feel the same. The round shape of the glass allows the air to interact with the wine and the scent to move, while the narrowing glass towards the tip blows this fragrance into your nose.
I hate restaurants that serve wine in standard glasses. You can’t smell any smell with those glasses. Champagne cups are the same, okay, they are beautiful, but after the foam that dissipates in 5 seconds, you cannot smell anything. Sorry, but if I drink champagne I have to smell it. If you are paying for the wine, you have to taste it properly, right? The right glass enriches both fragrance and taste. “
Keep closed bottles of wine horizontal, refrigerate after opening and consume within a week.
“Keeping the wine horizontal is very important because the cork needs to stay moist. If the cork dries out, it will shrink, more oxygen will enter the wine and the wine will oxidize. If you have a wine rack, put it in a dark, cool place. So not in your kitchen next to your oven! Any under the stairs will be sufficient.
If you have opened the wine, you have to consume it within 3-4 days if it is white wine, 1 week for red wine. Always store opened wine in the refrigerator. The moment you open the red wine and put it in the refrigerator, you will delay the spoilage for 3-4 days. Bring it to room temperature when you want to drink. “
The taste of wine with cork is moldy.
“This is because of the substance called TCA in the cork stoppers. If you think your wine smells like a wet sock left aside, this cork stopper is malfunctioning. Most people make the mistake to think that ‘wine just smells like that’, but all they do is end up with a musty taste. The wine could also be oxidized, therefore we need to be cautious sometimes. Wine can sometimes taste metallic and off, this indicates that the wine needs air. Make little circular movements in your glass, see if the taste changes.
Pair the wine you drink with the sauce of the meal instead of protein.
“I always tell you to match the wine with the sauce. Do not bother with the protein too much, the sauce usually tastes more than the meat. If you have huge red meat in front of you, you will need a huge wine. Pay attention to the texture of your food; if it is rich and heavy, it is rich and heavy. If it is lighter, a lighter wine should be preferred. But always consider the flavors in the sauce as well. For example, you can have pinot noir with it while eating salmon. Most people think that red wine with fish is not going to go, but salmon is a rich sweet fish. It fits with red wine. However, if you have a sauce of the same density, you may want to keep the wine light and balance the taste. “
Red wines contain more alcohol than white ones, but that doesn’t mean it will give you the worst hangover.
“Some people say that the grain gives them hangover, some people don’t drink red wine just because of this. But I don’t know if there is any truth to that. Red wine has more alcohol, we can only say it is more alcoholic.
I think a hangover happens when you drink too much wine. Perhaps worse wines can cause a worse hangover. But the important thing is how much you drink rather than what you drink. “
The place where the wine comes from is very important!
“Two different regions using the same grape will taste different even if they are side by side. Soil, climate, angle of the sun hitting the vineyard, etc. are all important. Take Chablis and Meursault. They are both Burgundy wine and there are 2 miles in between. Chablis is mineral, chalky and citrusy, while Meursault is richer and nutty in flavor. The same grape and 2 miles distance difference between them.
Remember that you have to pay some money for a bottle of wine.
“When we take out the money that should be spent on the production wines, cargo, or the bottle, we see that cheap wine doesn’t have great quality.
But if you’re looking for a low-budget wine, go for malbec or sauvignon blanc.
“Malbec is ideal if you want a fruity wine that is suitable for your budget. Especially Argentine malbecs are extremely nice. Although it is a bit difficult to find budget-friendly white wine, a New Zealand origin sauvignon blanc will do the trick.
The sparkling wine of the British is also very successful. It’s from the same soil and a very similar climate as Champagne, so the flavors are pretty similar too. Try Gusbourne and Furleigh, they’re my favorite. “
A good wine will make you think more and enjoy it longer.
“People ask me, ‘Why is this wine better than another?’ Firstly, a good wine should give you more pleasure than bad wine. When you smell it, it should make you think more. When you taste it, there should be so many different flavors that you will taste it again to come back and understand. You just take a bad wine and put it on your head.
Then it depends on how long you have left on your palate at the end. If you can still taste it two minutes after it is finished, it is an indicator of that quality. You can really understand the quality from the taste left on your palate.
If you want to test it, buy cheap and expensive wine. This is the best way to see the difference. “
Start with the Amateur Sea, pinot grigio, or sauvignon. Take a chance at Riesling.
“Most people start with pinot grigio, which is very normal. Mostly neutral and doesn’t have much taste. A wine that goes well on a hot summer day. If you started with pinot grigio, I think the second step should be the Spanish grape albariño. It has a little more character than the pinot grigio.” If you like sauvignon, you can try Torrontes from Argentina, it tastes like Turkish delight.
Riesling is every wine waiter’s favorite, but we can’t say the same for most people. It can be a different grape, fruit, or dried. I think there was a brand in the ’60s and ’70s that did riesling very cheaply, and people drank it and decided that riesling wasn’t that good. However, there are some really delicious ones in the market. If you give people what they drink without telling them they love it, but if you say ‘Oh, I don’t like riesling.’ they say.”
Never be afraid to ask questions about wine.
“I guess sometimes people are afraid to ask questions. I say they’ll have a better experience if they ask. If you don’t like it, especially restaurants will welcome you back. A good winesman or sommelier will listen to what you like. Always state what you like and say a price range. Most people are also afraid of being defrauded. But as long as you state that, you won’t have any trouble. “
The only way to determine your taste in wine is to step outside of your comfort zone.
“There are courses prepared for this and there are many places out there who do a wine tasting. Find one of them. The more you try, the more you test, the better you will be. The important thing is to go out and try new things.”
Don’t be afraid to try a wine cocktail!
“One of the best drinks in the summer is fino sherry or white port and tonic. But the port should be light. Spain and China mix red wine with ease, but you don’t want to do it unless the wine is bad.
Most people try wine cocktails these days. Bars add wine to cocktails as Spirit goes better with drinks. If you want a bad wine to taste good, add some soda and mint. “
The next time you go on a shopping tour or enjoy a nice dinner in a restaurant, you know what to ask for! Make also sure to check our related products for the perfect wine experience.