Lifestyle/Sommelier 101:  a crash-course on the ART of wine.

Don’t know your Sauvignon from your Sangiovese?


If you don’t know your Pinot Blanc from your Pinot Noir then you should definitely be ashamed of yourself and you probably flunked French.

You cannot become a wine expert overnight but you can find out how to get the most from your Merlot and a few other tips…because most of us (I said ‘most’) don’t know everything!  However, SOMM of us have the answers for everything wine.

I watched a captivating documentary called SOMM that was about the taxing process and tireless attempts on how to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. Put it this way, it seems much easier to become a lawyer.  This is a different BAR exam. Luckily the movie theatre I watched it in had a wine list.

Great Doc!
Great Doc!

Between trying to remember ‘that one you had last time that you really liked’ (not to mention that one that you really didn’t), and not wanting to reveal your utter confusion over the different varieties of grape, region or age on offer, it’s little wonder so many of us just give up trying to choose a wine and opt either for the house or a fail-safe favourite.  How very boring!

Here is advice from Jane Parkinson, resident wine expert on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, on how to appear sommelier- like and impress those at the dinner table:

Hold a wine glass by its stem (providing it has a stem of course). It prevents the wine from warming up too quickly by the heat of your hands.

Know your regions from your grapes. Chablis is chardonnay; Sancerre is sauvignon blanc; Soave is garganega (white Italian wine grape); Burgundy (red) is pinot noir; Rioja is tempranillo; Bordeaux (red) is cabernet sauvignon and merlot; Chianti is sangiovese.

Be brave about chilling red wine. Serving wine at room temperature was advice given pre-central heating, which means today’s reds are generally served too warm.  I generally prefer my reds at room temperature and my whites cold, but the correct way to serve whites is not by being too-cold because you don’t get to experience the true essence.

Get to know the on-trend wine regions. These include Swartland in South Africa, the Etna region of Sicily, the Douro Valley in Portugal and, for sparkling wine, England.

An appetite-whetting Sherry is a great alternative to fizz as an aperitif. Fino and manzanilla are the two sherry styles that are zesty, fresh and always bone dry.

Avoid heavily tannic (chewy) red wine with spicy food because they clash. Instead choose wines that are unoaked and/or made with a low-tannin grape, like barbera from Italy.

If in doubt about what to order off a wine list, go for a versatile food-matching grape. Try pinot noir for red, sauvignon blanc for a lighter white or chardonnay for a richer white.

Screwcaps are less romantic than corks, but they’re not inferior or solely for cheaper wines. In fact, they’re perfect for aromatic and vibrant wines, white or red.

There….now you are sommwhat of an expert!  

Exercise is Important
Exercise is Important

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