17 June 2015
"I don't know much about wine, but I know what I like!" If I had a bottle of wine for every time I have heard that statement, I would have a very well stocked cellar. The truth is, that only half of this statement is correct. The lack of wine knowledge may well be true, but there are probably a great number of wines that the person may like, if only they knew! The main problem is in knowing why you like a wine. Very few people (apart from those in the wine trade) take the time to analyse the components of a wine. They just drink it and either like it, love it or hate it. But just what is it you like or dislike?
All wines, red, white or rosé – have certain components making up the wine, which can be identified with a little thought and practice. These components are such things as sweetness, fruitiness, acidity, body, tannin (for red wines) and alcohol. These elements can be identified on their own, but also combine to produce the style of the wine. There are, of course, a whole range of other components which contribute to aroma and taste of a wine, and these will also differ greatly – particularly in intensity and concentration – depending on the quality level of the wine in question. Flavour characteristics and length on the palate (how long you can still taste the wine for after you have swallowed it) are other factors greatly affecting the perception and appeal of a wine.
Thus, when you find a wine you like, it is worth giving a little thought as to why. Is it because it is dry, has high acidity and light body, with fruit flavours and refreshing finish? Or is it one which is off-dry, low acidity, full bodied with deep vegetal flavours and oaky character with a long, spicy finish? Whichever it may be, once you have identified the elements of the wine you prefer, it may then be possible that you will like a number of other wines which are previously unknown to you, but which have similar characteristics.
To help identify other wines which you may like due to their similarities of style, there is now a wealth of information available. Some readily available information is often found on back labels of bottles if purchased in supermarkets, and far more information can be acquired from the knowledgeable staff in the independent wine merchants. If buying on-line, take time to read the tasting notes which are normally provided for each wine, and compare them to your own analysis of the elements you like in wines you know.
Of course the best way to increase your wine knowledge and hence greater appreciation of perhaps a broader range of wines, is to either join a wine club or society or to take a course of study, such as those provided by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Courses designed by WSET are open to both trade personnel and consumers and lead to an internationally recognised qualification. West Sussex is fortunate enough to have a wine school – The Sussex Wine Academy - which is approved to run the WSET courses locally without the need to travel to London, and there is a less formal learning option with the Arundel Wine Society, which runs informative tastings, dinners and vineyard visits throughout the year. Whichever option you choose, if you enjoy wine, then knowing more about it will undoubtedly increase your enjoyment.