Wine 101: Your Simple Guide To Winning At Wine [Infographic]

We know how overwhelming or even intimidating it feels when you start drinking wine. It doesn’t help that drinking is also an infamously expensive affair in Singapore. Asking for a “bold red” could result in a bill longer than the wine legs in your glass.

If that’s what you feel, the way to go is to simply grab a few affordable bottles at Giant’s and drink at home. The “atas” image of wine is really more misconception than truth. Anyone with a nose and tastebuds can, and should, enjoy wine. It’s not always about the region, grape variety, or even price. These are indicators and not a rule of thumb to how good a wine is—what is most important is whether you like the wine you’re drinking. Everyone has their different tastes, and the food that you eat can dramatically change the experience. It’s what makes drinking wine fun when experienced in a group.

Wine: An introduction

Wine is made from specific grapes that are sweeter, smaller, and carry a lot of seeds. The grape variety is where the wine gets its name from, i.e., Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. We recommend not using the grape variety as a gauge for consistency, however. The regions and climates these grape varieties have huge parts to play.

Blending different grape varieties is also a traditional winemaking method, and most wine blends are blended after fermentation. Some blends you may already know of are Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Nior, Pinot Meunier), Cava(Chardonnay, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarello), Bordeaux (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot for the red, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle for the white), and Chianti (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Sangiovese).

Wine: A vocabulary guide

Before we list down the types of wine, here’s a quick vocabulary guide! Familiarise yourself with these common wine terms:

Body

The body of the wine is, as the term suggests, descriptive of the way it feels in your mouth as something akin to weight. A fuller bodied wine would then feel thicker, more solid, whereas a light-bodied wine would be less viscous, almost like water. A medium-bodied wine would fall in between.

Tannin

The way tannin feels in your mouth is like eating an unripe pineapple—it puckers the tongue and tastes astringent and dry. Naturally, tannin is a term used more for red wine, as essentially its texture and the boldness of the taste. A high tannin wine would thus be more astringent and even bitter, while lower tannin wines would be smoother and softer.

Acidity

Acidity would be the backbone of white wines instead of tannin.

Others

Most descriptors are terms you’re already familiar with, such as flowery, spicy, earthy, woody, fruity, and so on.

Wine: Different types

You have white wine and red wine, and other types in between! Check them all out:

Light-bodied white wine

Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and others round up this category of wines, which we find usually dryer and crisp, and more savoury than sweet. One might spot herbal flavours such as gooseberry from a Sauvignon Blanc, for example. Light-bodied white wines are good on their own but complement most foods well, especially heavy or greasy dishes.

Our recommendations: French Cellar Pays D’oc Sauvignon Blanc for $19.90 and Carlo Rossi California White (2008) for $19.90

Full-bodied white wine

A good full-bodied white is rich, smooth, and holds a creamy mouth feel, much like a sublime cheese that balances both texture and flavour. For wines in this category such as Viognier and Chardonnay, look for something that tastes buttery and fruity.

Our recommendations: Copper Ridge Chardonnay for $19.90 and Paradise Valley Chenin Blanc (2016) for $15.90.

Rosé Wine

The pale pink of rosés come from the short time the wines have with the skin of red wine grapes, imparted either through blending, skin contact, or saignée (French bleeding). Unlike aromatic white wines, rosés are not always sweet; dryer versions can reveal elegant flavour profiles beyond the flowery and fruity. Rosés can range also widely from sparkling to still. The blush may mean rosés are often shunned in favour for whites or reds, but rosés can surprise you with what they carry beneath all the variety—and also perfect for the perpetual summer in Singapore.

Our recommendation: Five Oaks White Zinfandel for $25.90.

Light-Bodied Red Wine

Light-bodied red wines are known to have lower levels of alcohol and bright acidity along with low tannins, and can be seen as more approachable for those new to wines. Think aromas that lean towards the delicate and fresh, even fruity. Varieties in this category include Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Grenache, and Zinfandel.

Our recommendation: Van Loveren Blue Velvet Pinot Noir (2015) for $18.90

Medium-Bodied Red Wine

Wines from this category pair very well with food, with a mix of tannin and acidity that match foods that range from the rich to the light and zesty. Classic varieties include Merlot, Sangiovese, GSM blends such as Côtes du Rhône.

As it is with all wines, do also look out for the regional differences as the style can vary according to where the grapes were grown and where the wines were made.

Our recommendations: Van Loveren Merlot (2016) for $18.90 and Berri Estates Shiraz Cabernet (2016) for $19.90.

Full-Bodied Red Wine

The heavy tannins of full-bodied red wines make them perfect for steaks, especially fatty and juicy cuts like the rib-eye. Typical flavour profiles include dark fruit flavours such as blackcurrant. Look for Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Shiraz, Malbec, and compare a younger wine to an older one to pick out new herbal tones.

Our recommendations: Berri Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (2016) for $19.90 and Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah (2015) for $17.90.

Sweet Wines

Sweet wines are produced with extra sweet wine grapes and/or by stopping the fermentation process before the natural grape sugar is turned into alcohol. Levels and styles of can vary quite a bit, and they can be found in both reds and whites.

  • Sparkling Whites. Sparkling wines gain their carbonation either naturally or via injecting carbon dioxide after fermentation. Sparkling wines are made from a mixture of red and white grapes, with those from the Champagne region being a specific mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and/or Pinot Noir.
  • Non-sparkling Whites. Non-sparkling whites can also be a refreshingly sweet evening pick-me-upper, especially on a muggy weekday night. Lighter versions also pair well with the spices that outline many Southeast Asian and Indian dishes, as well as fruit-based desserts. Common varieties include Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Dessert Wine

Dessert wines are usually sweet and have the addition of other alcohols such as brandy to retain more of the natural sugars that tend to be used up during the fermentation process. Wines that are richly sweet without needing fortification include the Ice Wine, which tend to be priced on the high side due to the rare conditions in which it is produced for its distinct honey flavour.

Like any food or drink, the best way to find out what you like is to try more wines and pay attention when you taste. The more you drink, the more able you will be to pick out different flavour profiles. A good way to learn is also to attend wine tasting events or go to Giant’s Wine Warehouse at Suntec City Mall for tips or advice on the kind of wines to try. Take note of those you like and even take pictures of the labels if it helps. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the wine experts questions—let them know what you have enjoyed so they can share recommendations.

Hope you liked your Wine 101. You can also save or download this infographic:

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