According to new research from Tesco, almost half of us here in South Wales have been experimenting and trying new reds, whites and pink wine during lockdown. As our favourite bars and restaurants have been closed for so long, we’ve taken a DIY approach at home, and have effectively stepped out of comfort zone, and tried something new.

What we are trying, we seem to like, and it seems the more we understand about the bottle and its contents, the better our appreciation.

More of us are experimenting with our wine choice during lockdown

I suppose we should start at the very beginning. Wine is made from fermented grape juice. The type of grape, vintage and process defines the taste experience. However, drinking wine is more than simply consuming an alcoholic beverage; it is an enjoyable experience. You don’t just knock a glass of wine down (although some do), it’s all about the experience, and the more you understand, and know what the relevant terms mean, helps you enjoy the various wine tastes.

We have a beginners guide to wine tasting and drinking below, but first we’ve been speaking to wine expert and author of Knackered Mother’s Wine Club Helen McGinn and Tesco’s Charlotte Lemoine.

Helen & Charlotte – Wine Appreciation

Helen’s book is well worth a read and you can pick up your copy by clicking on the image below.

And for more details on Tesco wine, just go HERE.

To access the special service on offer from Tesco, text the word WINE to 82228 between 12noon and 7pm, and within half an hour you’ll get advice on which wine to pair with your particular food.

A great way to learn more about wine, get a taste for something new, and at the same time support a local business, is to visit one of the many vineyards on our doorstep. And we have many of them here in South Wales. We’ve picked out a few to give you a little flavour of what’s on offer.

Sugar Loaf Vineyards is very much a family run business growing seven varieties of grapes. The setting is exactly where you think, Sugar Loaf Mountain. They produce a range of wines from including a dry whites, medium dry whites, rose, red and sparkling. They have all recently won awards in regional competitions.

You can visit the vineyard for tour & tastings (after lockdown). They also have a coffee shop, which we’ve visited a few times – the views are stunning. For more information, go HERE.

Sugar Loaf

Llanerch Vineyard in the Vale of Glamorgan offer informal, informative and entertaining, vineyard tours led by experts who have a compelling passion for wine.

You’ll learn about Llanerch’s role in the production of Cariad wine: how they look after the grapes, how they’re made into wine, how the local environment influences the taste that is unique to Cariad. To find out more, go HERE.

Llanerch

Ancre Hill Estates is located in the beautiful Welsh county of Monmouthshire. The 12 hectares of vineyards are perfectly positioned on south facing slopes close to the border town of Monmouth and the Wye Valley.

The Estates’ ethos is to deliver wines of the highest quality, utilising traditional Biodynamic and Organic Viticultural practices to produce the best possible fruits from carefully sourced and selected Varieties with excellent heritage. For more details go HERE

Ancre Hill

White Castle Vineyard is situated near the market towns of Abergavenny and Monmouth it is owned and run by Robb and Nicola Merchant.

Having purchased the 12 acre small holding in 1995 they converted the milking parlour into their home a year later, however it was 2008 before the dream of owning a vineyard become a reality, the 5 acre gently sloping, south facing field was purchased, soil tests were performed and vines ordered.

May 2019 marked their 10 year Anniversary since first planting and to mark this milestone they have planted a further 2000 vines these varieties are Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. To see what they do at White Castle, go HERE.

White Castle

This is a good opportunity to share some of the basics with you. The team at Wine Paths understand what a beginner needs to know before opening a bottle and appreciating what is inside.

All wines can be arranged into five basic groups. Within each group there are hundreds of different grape varieties and winemaking styles.

  • RED WINE ranges from light to bold and are still wine made with black grapes. Some of the important red wine grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Grenache and Pinot Noir.
  • WHITE WINE the flavors range from light to rich and are still wine produced from white and occasionally black grapes. Some of the important white wine grape varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.
  • ROSÉ is a still wine from black grapes produced by removing the skins before they taint the wine deep red. Rosé is also made by blending white and red wine together. Both dry and sweet styles of rosé are popular.
  • SPARKLING WINE can be red, white or rosé and ranges from lean and dry, to rich and sweet. The winemaking style involves a secondary fermentation that makes bubbles
  • DESSERT WINE tastes sweet, but many dry, fortified wines exist, such as dry Sherry. The winemaking style involves fortifying wine with spirits.

The wine guide takes you through the process of tasting wines.

  1. Take a look at the label of the bottle This will give us an understanding of the source of the wine such as type of grape and how old is it (vintage).
  2. Pick the right glassware Make sure you choose the right one for sparkling, white and red wines.
  3. Hold the glass appropriately A wine glass should be held by the stem. This will prevent heat and smell from your hand interfering with the wine aromas.
  4. Pour and Swirl Pour about one third of the glass and gently swirl the wine in the glass. Swirling wine in the glass will increase the amount of oxygen in the glass thus intensifying the wine aromas mainly in the reds.
  5. Sniff the glass of wine You will get aroma intensity depending on the complexity of wine. Simple wines will have primary aromas of fruit, however complex wines will additionally have secondary aromas generating from the winemaking process. Lastly, tertiary aromas of vessel ageing such as oak will be present in wines subjected to ageing.
  6. Taste the wine. Sip not swallow, swish the wine around in your mouth to absorb the flavors. Take time to assess the intense flavor and then swallow to get the finish. A good finish will linger on your palate for quite some time. In professional tasting, you spit out the wine to compare and analyse different wine styles.

How long an open bottle lasts depends on the type of wine and storage conditions. For any wine the taste changes subtly after the first day, as the wine oxidises. The “spoiled” wine is essentially vinegar, so it is not harmful. Therefore, storage conditions are critical to the taste experience of various wines.

WHITE WINE

The overall fruit character of the wine will diminish and become less vibrant.

  • 5-7 days in the fridge with a cork for most light white wines.
  • 3-5 days in fridge with a cork for full-bodied white wines.

RED WINE

The more tannin and acidity the red wine has, the longer it tends to last after opening. Therefore, a light red with very little tannin won’t last open as long as a powerful red.

  • 3-5 days in a cool dark place with a cork.

ROSÉ

The overall fruit character of the wine will diminish and become less vibrant.

  • 5-7 days in the fridge with a cork for most light white wines.

CHAMPAGNE OR SPARKLING WINE

Champagne or Sparkling wines lose their carbonation quickly after opening. The lasting of these wines also depends on the winemaking method.

  • 1-3 days in the fridge with a sparkling wine stopper.

FORTIFIED WINE

The sweeter the dessert wine, the longer it will last open.

  • 28 days in a cool dark place with a cork, best to keep them stored in the fridge.

Finally, there’s one wine we haven’t mentioned and that is MULLED WINE also known as spiced wine. It is usually made with red wine along various mulling spices, sometimes raisins. Traditional drink during winters, especially around Christmas.

It is served hot and warm and has both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.

The aromas released by the spices when heated, makes mulled wine delicious. These aromas only come out when the wine is hot adding deeper flavor to the wine.

If you drink cold mulled wine, you will not get the subtle aromas and flavours and the taste experience will not be the same.

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