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A quick refresher course on wine tastings

Taste wines starting with the lightest and driest and finish with the sweetest and strongest. It's just like a fine meal. You start with a light entree and finish with a big sticky dessert.

Temperature We drink our White wines way too cold and our Red wines way too warm. Taste a white wine straight from the fridge and you'll miss most of the flavours. Drink a Red wine on hot day and you'll find most of the flavour has 'boiled' off.

As a general rule take your White wine out of the fridge about a half hour before you drink it . Don't put it on ice as this is way too cold. If it's a hot day, then chill your Red wine for a half hour before you drink it. The ideal wine temperature is around 12C for the Whites and 18C for the Reds. Perfect...

Colour The three things you're looking for are colour, clarity and brightness. Find a light backgroundand tilt your glass away from you so you can look through the wine. A purple colour means a young Red wine. An older Red will have more brown or brick colour. A cloudy wine probably isn't sterile filtered and may not age well.

Smell Swirling the wine releases the aroma or the 'nose'. You'll pick up the bad smells first. Vinegar, burnt or mouldy smells mean the wine's off or oxidized. Too much sulphur (preservative 220) gives you a prickly feeling in your nose. Musty smells are harder to pick. The wine may be 'corked' or it may simply be an old wine needing decanting or airing. When you like the smell, take another sniff and see what you can find. Fruits, nuts, spices and timbers supply many of the smells you'll find in wines. As an example, a rich Chardonnay may have a nutty nose, an oaked Cabernet has lots of berry and cinnamon while a Shiraz always has a peppery nose.

Remember there's no right and no wrong. What you smell is another way of personally remembering a great wine.

Taste Take a small mouthful, hold it, swirl it around your mouth and then swallow. The flavour is called the 'palate' and is broken down to three categories for Whites and four for Reds. A good wine has all these categories with no single one overpowering the others.

  • Fruit - Dry or sweet, ripe or green, floral or earthy. You'll taste sweetness on the tip of your tongue.
  • Acidity - Tart or flat, fresh or sour. You'll taste acidity on the sides of your tongue
  • Oak - Vanilla, cinnamon, butterscotch or wood flavours in oaked wines
  • Tannin - Tannins in Reds leave a slightly bitter and dry 'cheek sucking' sensation. Tannins are strongest in young wines and 'soften' as the wine ages.
  • Finish - Great wines linger on the palate while cheaper wines disappear quickly. A good finish keeps a balance of the three or four elements but may change from the first sip. Real wine lovers search for 'complex' wines from cool climate regions

* Reproduced with permission from Peter Svans

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