Wine - A New Experience in Every Bottle

Had I known how much I’d learn from taking wine classes, I would have enrolled much sooner.

In earlier years, I’d been perplexed by the analysis and information wine buffs got from a small sample of wine. I was firmly of the “yuk” or “yum” school. I knew what I liked and knew what I didn’t. It was that simple.

I was amazed at the way wine buffs tipped the glass of wine on an angle and studied it, and then plunged their noses inside the glass emerging to make some erudite comment. And, all of this was before even taking a sip!

They had (or appeared to have) a wealth of information and I had so little. I was sure they had been active participants in wine classes and I had not.

After taking their first sip of wine, these wine buffs would hold it in their mouth for a second or two before swallowing. After tasting, they would think about it for a moment and then comment.

“Aah, it has passion fruit notes” one wine buff would say in a lilting tone. Another would comment thoughtfully “this wine has - a taste of berries; wild berries and - a little mint”.

I had always been amazed by these comments. I couldn’t separate the flavors. And, I am ashamed to admit, I thought these comments were more than a little pretentious and at times they bored me!

I will have to eat humble pie. Now that I have joined the graduate ranks of wine classes I too can make some semi-intelligent comments about the wine I am looking at, sniffing and drinking. What’s more I like the new found knowledge gained now that I've participated in the said wine classes.  Now that I have some knowledge, I can comment on the bouquet of the wine and how it feels on the palate.

Grapes growing New Zealand
Grapes growing New Zealand

Quite frankly, before taking wine classes, I had been looking in all the wrong places. It's hardly surprising because when I stop and think about it, when smelling something, there are so many possible aromas and they all seemed a jumble to me.  Although I could identify the aromas in many things, in such a complex product like wine they blended into one another making it impossible for me to separate them.

Likewise, when tasting something, there are a multitude of flavors to pick from that if I wanted to make an informed comments, I was a gibbering mess, wracking my brains for something to pin my taste experience.

But my wine classes have helped with all of this information. The wine classes have given me some information and experiences. They gave me some tools which narrowed down the choice and pointed my nose and my palate in a direction.

I was given a list to tick. After smelling and tasting the wine, I was able to scan the list of possible aromas and flavors for a like substance and select those I thought appropriate. It was still rather like standing in a candy store being overwhelmed by all the choices but over time and with my trusty list, I'm now able to pick out some aromas; some flavors. It’s such a revelation and one I am enjoying.

I have also discovered that wine varietals have particular characteristics. Each wine variety has scents and flavors characteristic of that wine. For example, a Shiraz is likely to have scents of spices (like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg), mint, eucalypt, dark cherry and chocolate.

A Pinot Noir might have scents of herbs, spice, strawberry, red cherry, beetroot etc.

Knowing this information before you even smell the wine is a great start. If you wanted to be a "noter" and had no real idea, you could even fling around one of these identifying characteristics and you'd probably be right.

The flavors one might discern when tasting a Shiraz are: fruit cake, fruit cordial, blackberry, peppery, meaty etc.

The flavors one might find when tasting a Pinot Noir are: strawberry, red and black cherry, earthy, cow yard (!), the smell of damp forest floor etc. The latter two flavors sound most off putting don’t they?  But nonetheless Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wine varieties.

More soon....

During my wine classes we tasted ten wines each night. That meant that we were able to taste ten white wines in one sitting, ten red wines, sparkling/champagne selection (vintage and non vintage) etc.

It was fascinating to be able to taste ten whites and compare the different varietals in a narrow timeframe.

In previous wine tasting experiences, typically when at a cellar door, they offered the wines produced by that vineyard. Most likely that meant tasting two or three whites and a few reds like pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and then maybe a desert wine.

But, during wine classes we tasted all white one night and all red varieties another which gave the opportunity for much closer examination of the different characteristics. Sometimes we were encouraged to go back to an earlier wine to compare.

One night we tasted an Australian champenoise. We all liked this non vintage wine and resolved to purchase it for a special occasion. Then, we sampled a vintage champenoise from the same vineyard. It was outstanding and a class above the non-vintage. Suddenly the first wine was relegated to second place and we all preferred drinking and perhaps buying the vintage champenoise. It was twice the price!

Previously I knew what I liked and that was typically – champagne and sparkling wine; Pinot Noirs (especially New Zealand Pinot Noirs), Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio), and blended red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and more latterly those blended with some Durif grapes. But, I am still experimenting to determine which Durif wines I like.

Actually, I am still experimenting across the board. This is one of those topics; those interests where I think I will be learning for the rest of my life. Thanks to the information shared in my wine classes I will be back for new, different wines and will continue to expand my wine repertoire.

As New Zealand is my home and I am living temporarily in Australia, I have access to some superb wines from both countries. New Zealand, particularly Central Otago, Martinborough and Waipara produces some stunning Pinot Noirs. Our Pinot Noir and our Sauvignon Blanc’s are sold the world over.

Australia has some extremely talented wine makers and they make stunning reds of many varieties. Tasmania produces some excellent Pinot Noirs, the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninusula, Hunter Valley, Coonawarra, and Western Australia’s Margaret River produces some wonderful Cabernet Sauvignons.

I’m in an excellent part of the world to sample some of the “new world” wines. We are experimenting here (as are other places in the world) and it is exciting. I can approach buying and tasting wine with a little more knowledge now that I know where to look.

The new knowledge is excellent but I don’t want to become one of those pretentious wine buffs so I have asked my friends to snap me back into reality if I begin to exhibit those boreish behaviors. But, to be able to identify the flavors is exciting.

Taking these wine classes, has heightened my awareness of how the wine looks, its bouquet, its taste and the impact it has on my palate. I was excited to discover that I could be trained in these aspects. Now that’s always exciting to this ever-lasting student.

This article and the photographs are copyright Travelespresso.  Ask before using them please.

 

And finally......

This hub and the photographs are copyright Travelespresso. Do not copy.

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Comments 17 comments

Leop profile image

Leop 6 years ago

Great hub about the wines and the wine tasting. Yes, once you start exploring about the different wines, you will find out so much information about the wines. I am in the process of learning that myself. May be someday when you come to US or when I visit Australia or NZ, we can go on a wine tasting adventure! That would be lots of fun.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Cool. You are on!


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I really admire your life, travelespresso and I'm sure others will agree. Most of my wine knowledge (no, I'm not whining about it) comes from working in various restaurants--especially the fine dining ones--where I actually had to suggest certain wines to accompany certain dishes (that was a bit difficult).

Great hub! I wish I was there with you!


Hookah profile image

Hookah 6 years ago from Kentucky

I agree, well done! This hub makes me want to take classes too, it's never too late to learn new exciting things.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Hello Dohn ...yes it is incredibly difficult to suggest particular wines to go with dishes. Thanks for your comments and please don't envy. Australia and NZ are certainly great parts of the world to spend time in!

Hello Hookah....thanks for your comments. I continue to learn and I enjoy the process enormously.


Christine 6 years ago

Hookah go and take them, the one thing that Travelespresso has said is that with wine you never stop learning, there is always the new taste even for hardened old tasters like myself. 750 mls of new journeys with each new bottle.


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

You are a gem Christine. I value your EXPERT comments and I have learnt a lot from you.


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

This is a great hub, I've always wanted to take a wine class in order to be a buff :) I simply love to taste an experiment the different flavors of wines with foods, in addition to the health benefits of red wines. Thanks for sharing your experiences!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Money Glitch - just do it. The course I did was presented by a master of wine - they are an elite group in the world. His knowledge was outstanding. The health benefits - yes of course!


OregonWino profile image

OregonWino 6 years ago

Great hub! I had a very similar introduction to wine where I thought that wine was pretty much wine and that people were just being snooty...but I did the same thing and actually took a class...I still think many of them are still just being snooty...hehe, but I also have been able to really start separating out the flavors too! Best of luck and great hub!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Hello OregonWino. I thought I'd answered your lovely comment days ago but something went wrong.

Great name you have there! Some people are rather snooty when they discuss wine aren't they? It's so boring to listen to. But you and I can talk about it without being bores! Te he.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I've been experimenting a little with wines, also. I'm trying to get out of my "comfort zone." Great hub!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Habee - what have you been experimenting with? Your part of the world is cold now so I imagine reds are more popular right now. Here, I've been enjoying Pinot Gris - nicely chilled because its so hot! Others are enjoying Rose which is becoming very popular, particularly with women.


FeliciaM profile image

FeliciaM 5 years ago from Canada

Love this hub about wine! Always thought of taking a wine tasting course...hmmmm...now I'm going to have to!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 5 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Taking a wine course was really useful and |'m so glad I did it.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


Keeley Shea profile image

Keeley Shea 5 years ago from Norwich, CT

Your hub has inspired me to take a wine glass. For fun I worked for Traveling Vineyard, learned the basics of tasting and about some different wines around the world but only tasting a few and usually a variety of red and white wine at a time. I loved learning this way but a class would probably bring it all together. Great hub! Really well written!!!


travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 5 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world. Author

Working for a traveling vineyard sounds like a great experience. I highly recommend taking a good class on wine appreciation. I need to do more!

Thanks for your wonderful comment.

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