New Year New You: Wine Whiz

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The New Year has officially arrived and with it, comes  the opportunity to transform your liquor expertise and become a real master of your drink of choice. In this instalment of this 4 part series, we will be exploring how to become a true Wine Whiz.

START WITH WHAT YOU KNOW

What's your go-to wine that's always in the fridge? Go and find it - look at the label and start there. What do you see? Probably a grape variety, name of producer and a region. Well you're already an expert! You've found 3 things you already appreciate and like!

Get Regional

Now you have 3 things you love: go explore! Buy wines from the same region - do you like them? Do like them more or less? How are the flavours different?

 
 

Living so close to Margaret River, a world renowned wine region, means it’s a great idea to further familiarise yourself with some of the area’s traits. 

Photo: Steve down at Swanny Cellars has been in the trade since the 80's. He literally has ALL the answers. 

Photo: Steve down at Swanny Cellars has been in the trade since the 80's. He literally has ALL the answers. 

Picking a local expert independent wine store where you can introduce yourself to knowledgeable staff who will help you on your journey to wine wizardry *cough-Liquor Barons-cough*. Pop down to your local Liquor Barons where we'll offer you expert suggestions for your wine tastes. Then, taste a whole bunch of different wines from different places and see how you like them - This is the fun part!

The Basics

Now you've found a few things you like and have  had a few experiments - why not get your geek on and explore some more. The basics of every bottle of wine comes down to 4 elements, grapes, viticulture (the growing of grapes), region, vinification (the wine-making process) - change one of these elements and the wine itself will change. 

Look at the wines you've liked and find out what has happened to these four elements and you'll start to isolate the sorts of things which make a wine you love.

1.   Grapes

There are literally thousands of grape varieties - if you want to get your geek on check out Jancis Robinson's book on them.

Or alternatively just start with the ones you already know you love - ask your knowledgeable friend or shop-keeper to point out some others you might enjoy.

Remember the joy is opening another bottle and having another taste experience, especially with family and friends.

 

 
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2.   Region
Where in the World?

Regions change wine styles due to the differing soil and weather conditions. Think about WA - we have in Perth the Swan Valley, down south - Margaret River and even further down south  - The Great Southern.

Hotter equals more ripeness, less acidity. Cooler equals less ripe fruit flavours more minerality and other flavours coming through (this is of course a sweeping generalisation!).

Pick a grape variety you like and buy wines from 3 or 4 different regions then work out what's different - you'll find out whether you prefer hotter or cooler regions or maybe more coastal regions.

Want to know more? Check out the World Atlas of Wine.

 
 

3.   Viticulture
How does the vine grow? How is it pruned? How many grapes are produced per hectare? This gets very technical, so probably better to worry about the others first!

If you're interested in organic or more environmentally friendly things - check out bio-dynamics and organics.

 
Image: A fruit picker amongst the grape vines.

Image: A fruit picker amongst the grape vines.

 

4.   Vinification
Oaked or unoaked? Wild yeasts? How long was the fermentation? Was there malo-lactic fermentation? Is your head hurting yet? 

Starts with the most obvious first - do you like oaked or un-oaked wines? Wines need a vessel in which to ferment and age prior to bottling the most obvious choices now-a-days are either stainless steel or oak. Oak imparts a flavour (how much of a flavour depends on how old the barrels are and whether they have been toasted). Oak flavours are typically vanilla, nutty, caramel  and smoky. Some people love these flavours others not so much! 

Once you've mastered oak - start looking into the other practices.

AND FINALLY

Enjoy yourself! Don't become a bore and remember there are loads of places to find out more. Why not go to the website of your favourite wine and see if they tell you how the wine is made, what they did in the vineyard and what the region is like that the wine comes from.

You're well on your way to being a wine whizz with just this knowledge!