Have you ever been on a first date and found yourself presented with an overwhelming-looking wine menu? Should you order a red? Does that go with chicken? Never fear! Follow our quick and easy guide and you’ll never hesitate with your wine order again – and it will certainly impress your date!
Where to start
In general, the most popular wine regions in the world are Italy, France and Spain. These are often considered the ‘best’ wines – so if you’re new to wine or want to stick to a safe choice, go for one of these!
The five basic characteristics of wine are sweetness, acidity, tannin, fruit and body. The best way to learn is to jump right in (maybe not on the day of your date!) and find your own personal preferences.
Sweetness: This is pretty straight forward but a good way to look out for a sweet wine is a tingling on the tip of your tongue.
Acidity: If your mouth feels a bit like you bit into an apple.
Tannin: The presence of phenolic compounds that add bitterness to a wine, it dries your mouth – imagine a tea bag on your tongue (but a nice tasting one).
Fruit: This is often down to the region the wine is from. Red wines tend to use blackberry or raspberry with white wines using zesty lemon or lime.
Body: The overall ‘fullness’ – the darkness, the alcohol volume, how long the taste stays in your mouth i.e. a full bodied wine will be dark with a high alcohol content and will make a lasting impression on your mouth.
A light and fruity wine is great to start the evening with and is very easy to drink, whereas a light and earthy wine is slightly more ‘intellectual’ with more complex aromas and is ideal for drinking more slowly.
A bold and fruity wine is often thought of as a general crowd pleaser and a safe bet, satisfying a lot of tastes and preferences. However, a bold and earthy wine is heavy and often an acquired taste – a bit like the black coffee of wine.
In terms of food, an acidic wine is good to balance out sweet foods, with sweet wine taking the edge off of salty food. Easy, right? Another good tip is that wine with a high percentage of alcohol is good for cutting through fatty foods, with your body being able to ‘soak’ it up much better.
Toasty? Flamboyant? What do all these wine words mean? Here are a few basics to get you started.
Oaked: These are the non-grape flavours in a wine. In white wine, it adds vanilla or butter and in red, flavours referred to as baking spices or dill.
Silky: A pretty obvious one, imagine a silky red wine on your tongue.
Creamy: The white wine equivalent of silky.
Complex: This is when the flavour changes in your mouth as you taste it.
Big: When the flavour takes over your mouth, making a big statement.
Refined: The opposite, a very subtle taste.
How to drink
Your waiter will bring the wine to your table, in order to show you that it’s the right bottle. She/he will give you a small taste of the wine – this isn’t for you to decide whether or not you like it but instead for you to agree that the wine is of suitable standard. Basically, you’re confirming that the wine has not been ‘corked’ – where the aroma is ruined impairing the taste or ‘oxidised’ – where the bottle has not been sealed properly and the taste has again been ruined.
Smelling the wine before tasting it will give you an idea of the flavours, enhancing the taste as a result. When tasting the wine, swill it around your mouth and tongue to get the best idea of the flavours. You don’t have to be snobby about your answers, guessing what you can taste is all part of the fun!
So there you have it! The next time you find yourself on a dinner date, hopefully you’ll be a little better equipped to read the wine menu and order the perfect taste to complement your meal, evening and your date.
What is your drink of choice on a date?
Image via asante_magazine on Flickr