There are numerous educators who provide professional guidance on how to smell and taste wine. What I've found most beneficial is blind tasting. Not knowing the wine type can expand your palate and train your brain. Here's a basic rundown to help you identify a wine:
Colour: Examine if it's bright and vibrant or dull and fading. Reds lose colour with age, and whites gain it. This can hint at a wine's age or possible varietals.
Smell: Swirl the wine to introduce oxygen and then take a good whiff. Everyone smells different things; think of the scents and what they might represent.
Taste: Keep the wine in your mouth, allow air in, and swirl it. Detect high acidity if your mouth waters, or high tannin if it dries out, leaving you with a cotton-mouth sensation.
These observations should help you get closer to the wine. Trust your gut instinct, and don't be swayed by group discussions.
How to Store Wine
There are various ways to store your wine collection, including wine fridges, off-site cellars, in-home cellars, and more. The key advice is to avoid temperature and light fluctuations. Sunlight and temperature swings are harmful to wine. Keep corked bottles lying flat to prevent cork drying. Screw caps can stay upright, but store all bottles in dark, cool places, away from sunlight and temperature extremes. If you can't afford a cellar or wine fridge, simply store them in a dark, cool place, like under a cupboard, in the house's cooler section, or your regular fridge.
How to Decant Wine
The practice of decanting wine can be divisive. For me, decanting most wines, even just an hour or two before consumption, is beneficial. In simple terms, heavy young reds and whites benefit most from extended aeration, while lighter reds need less time. Light whites benefit from a quick decant or early pouring. When dealing with older wines, be cautious. Consider factors like the wine's age, grape varietal, storage conditions, and its life expectancy. For sediment in older wines, decanting is crucial but with shorter durations. Wine preferences are subjective, and personal opinion matters most.
Glassware for Different Varietals
Is glassware essential? Absolutely! It significantly impacts your wine experience. You don't need expensive glassware, but using different shapes and sizes enhances the tasting experience.
Wine and Food Pairings
Wine and food pairings are subjective. While certain wines complement specific foods traditionally, you don't have to stick to those pairings. Wine and food enjoyment often depends on the people you're with. However, if you seek classic pairings, here are some:
- Duck and Pinot Noir
- Steak and Cabernet
- Cheese with anything
- Popcorn and Oaked Chardonnay
- Oysters and Champagne
- Kingfish and Chablis
The key is personal preference; follow your values and thoughts. After all, you are the one enjoying the wine and food.
Red Varieties Overview
Yarra Valley boasts various red grape varietals, from lightest to heaviest:
- Pinot Noir: The new king of the Yarra Valley
- Nebbiolo: An emerging grape, one of my favourites
- Cabernet Franc: Savoury and spicy, used in blends and as a standalone varietal
- Shiraz/Syrah: Versatile based on the style you prefer
- Cabernet Sauvignon: The backbone of the Yarra Valley
You can also find Malbec, Pinot Meunier, and Sangiovese grown throughout the Yarra Valley.
White Varieties Overview
White grape varietals in the Yarra Valley include:
- Sauvignon Blanc
You may also encounter Arneis, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling. Chardonnay dominates the region, but the Yarra Valley offers a variety of white grapes.
Rose Varieties Overview
Many Yarra Valley Rosé wines are derived from Pinot Noir grapes, although some producers use Syrah, Cabernet, or various blends. For a balanced taste, look for a savoury edge in Rosé wines with substantial fruit weight. The Yarra Valley boasts exceptional Rosé wines, with favourites including Medhurst, Yeringberg, Giant Steps, St Huberts, and Flock Rosé.
Sparkling Varieties Overview
Sparkling wine, made in the traditional method, can be as delicate and finesse as Champagne. The Yarra Valley has a strong reputation for producing quality sparkling wines. Besides Chandon, other wineries like St Huberts, Gembrook Hill, Coombe, Yarra Yering, and Coldstream Hills offer outstanding options at affordable prices. Try Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier sparkling wines to discover their potential.