By Lynne Coyle MW | O'Briens Wine Director
We are encouraging you to “wine mindfully”. Wine mindfulness is to tune into and fully consider the wine you are about to drink. To question where the wine is from, when the grapes were harvested, appreciate its aromas and flavours and throughout this mindful exercise you can enhance your overall understanding, experience, and appreciation of the wine.
Here are some tips of enjoying your wine mindfully:
First pick any bottle of wine, the only criteria being that you like the label. Don’t open it yet, sit the bottle in front of you and consider how many senses you will use when you eventually open the bottle, pour it, smell it, taste it and how you can enhance these senses if you take more time to fully consider every aspect of the wine.
- Do you recognise the grape variety? Have you tried it before? What do you know about the grape? Maybe explore how vines grow, their annual life cycle, how wine is made or as farmers, what are some the issues grape growers face, such as climate challenges.
- Now consider using a decanter just for its beauty. Decanters are normally used when a wine requires breathing and allows its fruit to open up and develop. However, decanters can and should be used simply because they are attractive and can add style to any occasion. Usually decanters are used for red wine, but you can easily use a decanter for richer fuller white wines which will look very enticing in a decanter.
- Now take your favourite wine glass, which should be long-stemmed, tulip shaped and thin glass: it need not be expensive. But, these features are important as they will allow you to assess and enjoy the colour and the wines aromas more fully.
- Gently pour two mouthfuls of wine (2 horizontal fingers width), then take your glass by the stem and tilt it gently towards a white background to fully appreciate its colour.
- Whether your wine is amber, red, white, or rosé consider the colour carefully, have you seen this colour before in wine? in nature? in food? Does the colour appeal? The colour is defined by its grape variety, its age, the wine's style and the wine making. Pinot Noir for example tends to be lighter in colour due to its thin skins and light extraction methods versus a darker more opaque coloured Australian Shiraz for example.
- Now consider the intensity of the colour of your wine. Is it solid or is it varied? is it deeper coloured in the middle? Is it consistent and intense? Or do the words red, amber, white or rosé inadequately describe the colour of your wine? Perhaps its a garnet red, a yellow white a light amber or a deep pink rosé? Perhaps explore wine colour charts and think about what the colour most closely resembles for you. Could you imagine its smell or even taste from looking at the colour?
- To assess the smell or for the "nosing" of the aromas, pick up your glass by the stem and put your nose deep into the glass, take a good two or three full sniffs - think about what you smell in the glass, what does it remind you of? Although, wine is made from grapes but may trigger memories of other aromas.
The Aroma & Memory
What you as an individual can identify in a wines aroma and flavour is deeply personal as taste recognition differs from person to person depending on individual experience. Therefore, taste recognition differs from person to person depending on individual experience. If for example, you have never tasted a fresh Guava, then you would struggle to recognise it in your wine. Even if the wines flavour is dominated by a Guava like fruit character, you may identify melon instead and this is fine.
- Start your own tasting note booklet, develop your own wine tasting language, a language of descriptions that evokes something personal. It will soon become apparent that the same grape variety triggers your brain's “taste” memory which will allow you to identify a common thread between grapes and wine styles.
- Now for the best part, the taste. Take a mouth-full of wine and swirl it over your palate, gums, and tongue. Consider the flavours, do they relate to the nose? Think about the wine’s style and structure. Is it dry, off dry or sweeter in style? - sweetness can be easily confused with ripe fruit flavours so when assessing sweetness it can be helpful to consider honey as sweet and anything less a version of dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet etc.
- A wine’s structure simply put, is how the wine presents on the palate. Here, the key components to look for are acidity, alcohol and tannin and oak where appropriate. In a well-balanced wine, all component parts of the wine should be in harmony.
- - Acidity
- All wine contains acidity- although it may be more noticeable in white wines. With acidity use fresh lemon-juice as your benchmark, high acidity can be detected on the sides of the tongue by a slight salivation. Acidity is important for wine because it keeps the flavour profile fresh, balances the fruit, alcohol and body on the palate and helps a wine age and evolve successfully.
- - Alcohol
- Now assess the alcohol: this should be in balance with the other structural aspects of the wine. This means that the alcohol should not stand out and there should be no alcohol burn at the back of the throat regardless of a wines % alcohol.
- Tannin is mainly associated with red wines. If you imagine leaving a pot of tea to infuse for too long, those grippy mouth drying sensations that result are tannins. The level of tannin in red wine is dependent firstly upon grape variety, for example Pinot Noir is low in tannins and Cabernet Sauvignon has naturally high levels of tannin. Typically, tannins are more prominent in younger wines, but wine making choices and the ageing process are also influential eg ageing in oak will usually impart additional tannins.
- With both red and white wine, the use of oak in the cellar can greatly influence its tannin structure. The age, size of barrel, type of wood and toasting level as well as the cooper’s skill all have an influence on the wine. The current trend is towards judicious oak use that does not overpower the other structural aspects of the wine, even a wine with notable tannins should still be structurally balanced and harmonious.
- The aftertaste, or the finish, relates to the flavours, structural aspects and overall impression of the wine once it has been swallowed or perhaps spat in a professional wine tasting environment.
- This stage of the tasting helps you assess a wine's intensity based on the length of time the flavours stay in your mouth once the wine has left it.
- A harmonious, persistent finish usually suggests that the wine is of good quality.
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Available in our 34 stores nationwide and online while stocks last.
Lynne Coyle MW is O’Briens Wine Director and sources and selects our wine and Champagne range. One of only 418 Masters of Wine worldwide, she has dedicated her career to the food and drinks industry. Lynne also writes, judges at international wine competitions, is a Wine & Spirit Education Trust Certified Educator and makes her own wines in Spain.
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