When it comes to a well rounded alcoholic drink to match our ‘social’ and ‘personal’ calendar, for many of us, wine is by far the best type of alcohol there is. Red wine exudes sensuality, confidence, passion and comfort, well suited to the excitement of date nights and the warmth of a night in snuggling your boo on the sofa. Rose conjures up summer nights abroad, decked out in our holiday finest, thirst quenched by the pink wine that sates your lips. And who could forget white wine, a timeless classic, associated with dinner parties, a light and versatile tipple gulped frequently? Made from fermented grapes, the earliest known traces of wine are from Georgia (c. 6000 BC), Iran (c. 5000 BC) and Sicily (C. 4000 BC), proving that wine has been ingrained as part of our social, cultural, personal and political culture since the beginning of time, which has only intensified over the ages. From its reverence in religion, where red wine was associated with blood by the Ancient Egyptians to the earliest known reference to a named wine in the 7th Century, where lyrical poet Alcman praises ‘Denthis’ a wine from the Western foothills of Mount Taygetus in Messenia, it’s clear that the societal impact of wine is vast. But what do we know about red wine I hear you ask?
The first known red wine was known as ‘Chian’, which although known to the Greek’s as ‘black wine’, became an integral product to augment economical demand and economic growth throughout the region, with other countries following suit. It’s also thought that the ‘Greeks’ influenced the production of red wine in Ancient Egypt, although there is no clear evidence to suggest so. However what might surprise you is that China, defined as the ‘new, new world’ in the world wine map, was actually growing grapes and making wine since 7000BCE and 9000BCE, demonstrating that wine culture is in fact rooted in Chinese History, and that the very definition of it as a ‘New New World’ is a misnomer that imparts a Eurocentric bias onto wine history and ignores fact. Professor Hames research declared that the ‘earliest wine, or fermented liquor came from China, predating Middle Eastern alcohol by a few thousand years. Arguably wine history has been rewritten to reflect a eurocentric bias, and whether you are a wine historian or someone who consumes red wine passively, it is important to note and credit the creators who paved the way for how we use wine today. Regardless, you don’t need to have a deep understanding of the technicalities of different wines in order to appreciate them, but the more you know, the more you will be able to appreciate it.
If you are a lover of red wine who wants to enhance their enjoyment of their favourite drink, this article is for you. Here are some simple tips that even the most novice wine drinker can adopt to learn more and enhance their experience.
Read the Label
The easiest thing you can do to learn about wine, whether it is red wine or wine is to make sure that you always read the label before you drink it. Even if it doesn’t mean anything to you initially, you will soon begin to understand what the different terms mean and which grapes and regions appeal the most to you, building up a taste profile as you add more wines to your palette. For example, as someone who has been introduced to a variety of wines over the years, I would say that my favourite type of wine is rose, with my preferences being sweet, refreshing, and occasionally sparkling such as the delightful 1086 Rose Prestiege Cuvee Magnum, a 2010 vintage that celebrates a pure expression of pinot noir red fruit alongside floral and pastry notes. While it is far from cheap, made from 25% Chardonnay and 75% Pinot Noir, it’s a treat to gulp. When it comes to cheap and cheerful, Barefoot delivers, like its Pink Moscato , a gorgeous sweet wine with lush fruity aromas. Hints of citrus skip across juicy peach and ripe apricots, with a bright crisp finish that waltzes in at the end. At £6.75 a bottle, it’s well worth every penny and then some. While ‘sweet and fruity’ is something I look for in a rose, for red wine I tend to gravitate towards both ‘fruity’ and spicy varieties, such as the divine Portada Reserva Tinto 2014 Lisboa, a rich blend of Shiraz, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet, a structured wine with rich berry flavours and light acidity.
If there’s anything you don’t understand, a quick Google search should clear up any confusion you have. It’s actually much easier to get your head around than you might expect.While wine isn’t as strong or sharp as a spirit, it is more alcoholic than beer and cider, making it the perfect tipple for social gatherings.
Get the Right Glass
There is a reason that wine is served in special glasses, and why even the most esoteric glasses and decanting vessels conform to certain features with regards to their shape. Oxygen is said to improve the flavour and the nose of wine, so red wine will taste best out of a glass with a large rounded bowl.Some connoisseurs recommend that lighter varieties of red are better enjoyed in a shorter glass. These glasses will mean that your nose is nearer to the wine when you drink, ensuring that you are able to appreciate the full spectrum of flavours in your wine. Enjoying wine whether that is red or white is also about releasing aromas for an enjoyable experience, with the aromas coming through as the alcohol volatilizes from the surface of the wine. The choice of a red wine glass has a lot to do with mitigating the bitterness of tannin or spicy flavours to deliver a smoother tasting wine , with a Large Bourdeaux glass best with bolder red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, as it delivers more aroma compounds. This is versus the burn of the ethanol from being farther from nose.
The Next Level
Once you think that you are beginning to get a sense of what different red wines are like, and which ones you like the best, you might feel ready to take your wine game to the next level. You don’t have to become an expert in wine to make this a worthwhile pursuit; even learning a little bit about different wines, grapes and producing countries will enable you to enjoy wine on a new level. This might be taking a wine course to have a deeper understanding on wine varieties, to go wine tasting to open up your tasting/sensory palette or to brush up on your wine history, whatever you choose to do, it’s always exciting to go outside your comfort zone and try something new.
There are plenty of accessories out there that can enhance your enjoyment of wine too. From common accessories like corkscrews and glasses, to coolers, wine racks, and other display units, there are plenty of options out there for those who have just discovered their passion for wine. You can start by visiting a site like wineandbarrels.co.uk who sell all of these and more. Not only will you find the usual wine accessories on here, but you will also be able to buy a number of original display units. You can even get some wine-themed furniture.
Once you know a little bit about wine, you will start to feel confident choosing a bottle from the shelves, instead of just picking up whatever is the right colour and right price. Once you have taken those first steps, everything else will fall into place with ease.
We live in a world where buying wine has never been easier, no longer needing to leave our house, with a wide variety of wine retailers available online such as Berry Bros (experts in the fine wine world), The Fizz Company (specializing in all things sparkling) and Hennnings Wine Merchants (who has over 200 vegan wines). Whether you went abroad and came across a wine that titillated your taste buds and wanted to recreate that experience in the UK or are looking to try a red wine that offers something a little different, a quick Google search will help you purchase the wine of your dreams. But what do you need to look out for when it comes to buying wine? Well first of, while I am a bargain Queen, I think it is important to not just limit yourself to what your supermarket offers, even if supermarkets are convenient to access. This is especially relevant when you are vegetarian like myself or vegan, because many wines are not vegetarian friendly as they use a clarification process called fining, with commonly used fining agents including casein- a milk protein-, albumin – egg whites-, gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). However even if you don’t have any dietary requirements, doing some digging before you settle on a wine can be a surefire way to find a wine that you love.
Another great tip for buying wine is to try something new; if your favourite wine is a Nyetimber sparkling rose, you might want to try a deep, fruity and dry red wine like a South African Merlot, to introduce new tastes and flavours to your wine portfolio. You should also think about where you are going to drink your wine, as what you choose to buy can determine what type of red wine you choose.For example a bold French Pinot Noir is well suited to both a cheese and wine night with friends, as well as a romantic dinner date with your love, whereas an Australian Tempranillo is a great vegan wine option for a vegan summer BBQ so that no one has to miss out on the fun.