You might know the drinks you like. But if you'd like to know more, here's a column to shed some light.
Good grape guide: CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Cabernet sauvignon is known as 'The King of Grapes'. Its grape variety is responsible for the great clarets of Bordeaux and some finest wines in California and Chile. Closer to home, it's responsible for some of Australia's most famous red wines from regions such as Coonawarra, the Yarra Valley and Margaret River - regal reds with their deep purple colour and firm, upstanding character.
Cabernet is famous for its blackcurranty, elegant flavours and its often full-bodied, dry taste. And nearly all of these characteristics come from the small, dark-coloured grapes.
Everything you need to make the wine is in the grape: the sugary, juicy pulp inside the grape to give the wine its eventual alcohol and liquid, and the colour-rich skin with all the tannin and extract to give the wine its dryness and grip in the mouth. Also, because of its white powdery bloom on the outside, some yeasts to kick off fermentation. Because of its full-bodied flavour and dry, grippy taste, cabernet sauvignon is one of the best reds to stash away. After five years or more in a cool, dark place, it develops complex, savoury characters of cedar and earthiness.
Whether it's an old bottle with sediment in the bottom, or a young bottle full of bold, brash fruit flavours, cabernet sauvignon often benefits from a good airing to help it loosen up and give you more drinking pleasure. Try decanting an hour or so before serving - use a posh decanter if you like, or a simple jug. Cabernet also likes to be drunk from big glasses.
It gives you the opportunity to slosh the wine around to appreciate its colour and majestic aromas. Long live the king!
Blending the grapes
You know, it's a funny thing, but quite a few people think wines made from a single grape variety are better somehow than blends of two or more different grapes. So straight shiraz, for example, is more revered than shiraz cabernet, a blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.
For me, this doesn't make sense. I think of wine as food one ingredient can be wonderful on its own, it's very often better when paired or blended with other ingredients. Also, there are some ingredients that go particularly well with each other.Think of the humble tomato. If it's a home-grown, sunripened specimen just picked off the vine, still warm, it'll probably be delicious. But add a slice of fresh mozzarella, a basil leaf and a drizzle of olive oil and ... well, to me the blend of flavours now sounds a lot more attractive. It's the same with wine. Take semillon it tastes lemony, full, soft, but it's not highly aromatic. Now take sauvignon blanc it's much more perfumed, but light and a bit sharp. Put the two together and they complement each other perfectly. Other good examples of blends that go well together include lemony semillon and richer-tasting chardonnay, firm cabernet and soft merlot, ripe shiraz and lean cabernet, full-bodied red shiraz and the perfumed white viognier, and spicy grenache with firm mourvedre, which makes the perfect wine for an easy Sunday lunch. Walking with the wine judges
Walk into a typical bottle shop in Sydney and you're surrounded by wines. Many have a gold medal sticker on the bottle, which means a wine judge at a wine show has tasted that wine and scored it highly. But how do the experts decide which wine is worthy of a medal?
Most judging occurs in clean, odour-free, light-filled surroundings, so the judges can clearly evaluate the wines' colour and aroma.The judges drink from masked bottles and have the wines prepoured so they don't know the identity of the wine they're tasting and can't be swayed by prejudice.They then go through an elaborate ritual of squinting, swirling, sniffing, slurping and spitting to evaluate each wine, looking for faults (points are docked when these are spotted) and awarding marks for good bright colour, pleasing aromas, complexity and persistence of taste. Using the standard Australian wine show system, they award a maximum of three points for colour and appearance, seven points for smell and 10 points for taste and overall quality.
A total of 15.5 points and above is a bronze,17 is a silver and 18.5 is a gold. Gold medal wines are then re-tasted and a trophy awarded to the top wine in the line-up. Right. An award-winning white wine from the National Wine Show of Australia.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: 34565
About the author: Tommy Crans is a Wine expert who writes for The City Web Guide Magazine.