It’s funny how you can slowly acquire a taste for something without really even noticing it happening. I know there was a time when I didn’t have a palate for espresso, really dark chocolate or wine. And how I came to love each of them I couldn’t even tell you. I guess one little sip just becomes a slightly bigger sip, which becomes a little glass… and the next thing you know it’s something you’re savouring every drop of.
Needless to say, a couple years ago this post would have been of zero interest to me. But since starting to drink a little bit of wine and very much liking it, I gobbled up every little bit of information that came my way when Josh and I took a winery tour during our time in Niagara.
As a side note, I am the FURTHEST thing from a wine aficionado; I can’t really tell the difference between cheap grocery store wine and expensive ones, nor do I have a clue about wine pairing. But my newbie status is probably exactly why these little facts fascinated me so much. I hope they can pique your interest a little bit too!
Our tour guide expressed and explained her beef with the new trend of stemless wine glasses. According to her, the body heat we transmit to a wine when our hand is in direct contact with it is a no-go. All glasses should be stemmed and whites should be in glasses that taper at the top to keep the aromas in the glass. On the other hand, reds are better suited in big and wide-rimmed glasses so that they can get maximum oxygen exposure.
Tannins are a type of polyphenol in wine grapes that end up in the final product; the higher the tannin content of the wine, the drier it tastes. And as wine ages, the tannin content decreases and the wine becomes more full-bodied.
AGING IN BARRELS
A lot of the subtle flavours that we can detect in red wines come from the barrels that they’re aged in, which are toasted before being filled in order to maximize the flavour they impart. American barrels provide leather and tobacco tones while French barrels contribute cocoa and vanilla notes. After a barrel has been used 5 times, it doesn’t have enough flavour to offer anymore and is donated for craft purposes. White wines, by contrast, are aged and fermented in stainless steel barrels that are not intended to provide flavour.
The guide crushed a grape into a Brix meter and had us hold it up to the sun and observe the little meter. Brix is a measure of the sugar content and allows the employees to know when a grape is ready to be harvested. A typical white wine grape is harvested at about 20 Brix, whereas the grapes we measured were still sitting at about 15 and therefore needed a bit more time on the vine. The frozen grapes that make ice wine are harvested at about 35 which explains its crazy delicious sweetness!
MAXIMING WINE ENJOYMENT
We were shown a little technique that should precede wine drinking to get the mouth prepared for it (I laughed at that statement at first but I must admit that I noticed a difference when I did it!) The first sip should be swirled all around before being swallowed. When the second sip is in the mouth, we should try to intake as much air as possible my tipping the head forward and sucking in. The third and subsequent sips can then be drunk as usual and will probably be more enjoyed because the harsh alcohol taste has been mellowed and the palate is better prepared to decipher the complexity it’s encountering!
Here’s to having a glass of wine (or whatever it is that you love) alongside good food and good company and the joy that brings. Hope you’re having a great week!
Are you a wine-drinker?