The drinkable kind, not the audible kind!
by Elizabeth Kauffman
for Real Families, Real Fun
or some people, finding a good wine is a lifetime's work. But if you're among the number of people who'd just like to find a wine they enjoy, maybe even two wines--a red and a white, have no fear. You can get to a point where you can handle some wine basics without too much trouble. And you can have fun getting there by setting up a wine-tasting evening. An Ohio couple who tried this said they'd enjoy such an evening again "whether it's just the two of us or several couples--as long as we keep it casual."
And right here I'm going to state emphatically that pregnant moms-to-be will have to wait until that baby is born--no ifs, ands, or buts.
Decide what it is you want to learn: To train your palate to distinguish between dry and sweet wine? To be able to tell expensive wines from mid-range ones? To be able to tell domestic wines from foreign ones? You might be surprised to discover that even so-called aficionados, when blindfolded, can't always distinguish a red from a white. So the first rule is not to be stuffy. We've all heard the rule of thumb, "Red wine goes with red meat and white wine with white meat," but adherence to this dictum does not a wine connoisseur make.
To create a relaxed atmosphere, even with a large group, let's not do more than five bottles at a time. Four might be better with a smaller group. A good assortment would be a dry white, a semisweet white, a blush, a light red and a fruity red. Reading the labels at a liquor store will help you find a good variety of qualities; even better, ask a clerk to help you pick a range for your purpose. How about a California, a New York State, a French , a German, and an Australian wine? The Ohioans decided to make it just the two of them and picked three wines offering a wide range of price.
Arrange a buffet table with the bottles at their proper temperatures and an assortment of mild-tasting snacks--crackers, cubes of mild cheese, raw vegetables and, oh yes, grapes. White wines should be chilled and kept chilled while being served; red wines chilled just slightly above room temperature or, in hot climates, at room temperature. Open the red wine about a half hour before serving--"breathing" allows flavor to emerge.
The recommended wine glass has a long stem and a tulip-shape bowl. The rim should curve in slightly to help keep a sparkling wine sparkling, and to hold the flavor of other wine. Wipe the top of each bottle with a clean napkin before pouring. The ritual of first pouring a bit in a glass for the host has a purpose. If any pieces of cork are going to pour out, they will probably come in that first decanting. And if by chance any air got in the bottle and spoiled the wine, the host will be the one to discover that. When the host gives the go-ahead, pour each glass but no more than half full.
Next, look at the wine. Look at it against a background of white paper or a white tablecloth. It should be clear. It is ok if there's sediment in the bottom of the bottle, as long as the wine itself is not hazy. White wines become darker as they age, from a pale green-yellow to a gold color. Reds get lighter as they age. Usually, the deeper the red, the higher the quality of the grapes. A deep red will have a full body and flavor.
The Swirl and the Sniff
Now you are ready to swirl your glass. Keep it on the table, but move it in circular motions. That will release the aroma, which will help you appreciate its flavor all the more. After swirling comes sniffing. Get your nose right into the top of the glass and use short, quick intakes. Did you get a sense of the flavor to come?
Now the real test--the taste! Sip a good mouthful but don't swallow it right away. Let it roll around in your mouth so all your taste buds get a crack at it. Breathing in a little air at the same time will accentuate the flavor. What's the verdict? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
How well did your impressions match the description on the label?
If someone in your group has a strong feeling about one of the wines, ask them to do a blindfold test. See if he or she can pick it out from several of the others when they can't see it.
Back to that red-with-red and white-with-white theory. Some chefs say the key matchup is with the sauces. A heavy tomato-based sauce calls for red wine. Cream-based sauces call for white. But the key point is to find a wine you like, savor it, and let it add to your enjoyment of a fine meal. Bon appetit!
For more wine info check out these web sites:
A site that can give you good tips with its 30-Second Wine Advisor column or take you indepth on the subject through its archived columns written by connoisseurs is wineloverspage.com
Also try tastings.com/wine/index.html
For more information and to order wines, try some of the home sites of the wine makers by searching under their names: Gallo, Sutter, Louis Martini, and so on.
TAKE IT FROM ME:
Even if you don't know a lot about wine, when you get to a really bad one, you know. Also, this helps you figure out what you like and what you don't like, which seems like a good place to start. --By Elizabeth Kauffman