Life skills: Tips to help you become a wine snob

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Stop buying the cheapest bottle on the shelf and start understanding wine with our top tips.

wine glasses

© Getty - Handbag

Understanding grape seasons, vintage blends and complementary tipples doesn't have to be left up to the well-paid sommelier.

You too can become a wine connoisseur with a few simple top tips...

Bluffer's guide to knowing stuff about wine


Wine glass


How important is the growing region?


Usually, regions specialise in growing a particular type of grape (known as varietals). The two most well-known varietals of white grapes are called Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

California is thought to be an excellent grower of Chardonnay, as is the Burgundy region of France. Bordeaux in France produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc grapes in the world.

The leading red varietals are Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

California is considered a great region for Zinfandel, Chilean Merlot is fantastic and Bordeaux is responsible for great Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

wine

© Kate Gilbert



What do people mean by 'Classic vintages'?


Once you've narrowed down your wine preferences to region, colour and variety it's time to get even more specific.

White wines are usually ready to drink sooner, but they also become old quickly. Red wines take a few years to mature and last for years after that. Wine everywhere excelled in 1990 so that's usually a safe choice, but here are a few more 'classic' years to boast about...

French wine - Stick to anything brewed before 1993. 1986, 89 and 1990 were all good years for red. For white wine, anything from 1989 and 1990 is a good shout.

Italian wine - For reds go for 1985, 1988 and 1990 (but nothing before 1984). White wines from this region were best in 1988.

Californian wine - Don't drink any reds that were made after 1994 (until they've had a few more years to mature). For white wine lovers opt for something from 1994 to 1996.

Grapes

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How to taste, smell and swirl


Check out the colour and clarity of the wine first. Pour it into a wine glass and hold the glass up to a white wall or a piece of paper.

Forget about white or red - is it maroon, claret, purple, ruby, cream, light green, amber etc. Next, move on to the wine's opacity - cloudy, clear, dull or bright?

Older white wines are darker, whereas older reds will have a slight orange tint to them.

To smell a glass of wine properly, swirl the glass for at least 12 seconds and take a quick whiff to get a good first impression. Now stick your nose in the glass and have a really deep sniff. Decide what you can smell (oak, berry, citrus, vanilla or flowers perhaps?) and then take a sip. Let the wine roll around your mouth.

There are three stages of taste: the Attack phase (the initial impression), the Evolution phase (the flavour) and the Finish (how long the flavour lasts when you've swallowed it).

Well done, you are now a wine-know-it-all.

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