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Of Wine and Men: First steps to knowing what’s in your glass

“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.”

This French proverb – only one of thousands of fine sayings about wine - is attributed to many prominent figures in history. But what makes this drink special?

Drinking wine with etiquette requires some toilsome work and research. Wine has many dependents including cheese, meal, glass and most importantly, territory. Needles to say, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding how to serve wine, what kind of meal it should be matched with and the etiquette. Quality brings complexity – and speaking of wine, its complexity is what makes it classy.

Wine

In order to shed some light on these controversies, we spoke with wine expert Selin Ekim, who attended top-notch culinary institutes in the world, including Le Cordon Bleu and Culinary Institute of America. At the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of this prestigious drink and a better knowledge of its complexity.

To the general population’s understanding, wine is a topic of clutter. Despite having the basic knowledge on red, white and rosé, there are in fact several other types of wine – not to mention what the wine tries to tell us on its label.

“People find what they do not know complicated,” says Ekim. “I was once on a small plane, sitting right beside the pilot. I was totally shocked in the cockpit and I asked the pilot ‘This looks very complicated; how do you monitor all those buttons and indicators at the same time?’ Of course, it was complicated for me, not for the pilot.”

Wine – with its process of making, aging, storage, tasting and meal-matching – is indeed a subject that requires serious knowledge, she says. On the other hand, there is no such rule as every wine drinker has to know these processes, with weighty education.

Getting back to the label on the battle – it tells you a lot about what you are about to drink. The type of the grape is the most important tip. “If it says ‘Pinot Noir’ on the label, then you know you’re going to drink something that will make you feel the red-fruit flavors around your palate and nose, and that will have low level of tannins,” Ekim says.

Label also has significant sets of information including the harvest year and aging duration – all of which tell you about the wine you are about to drink before you pull out the cork.

There are so many wine experts highlighting the importance of the taste you should experience in return of your money. You don’t have to grasp the knowledge of a sommelier or a winemaker. However, gaining familiarity with grapes, learning how to read the label and improving your olfactory memory will boost up your pleasure you’ll get from a glass of wine – completely worth every single penny paid for it.

All this is by the way, grape is the most important determinant for wine’s soul. Soil and climate can add different characteristics to two grapes of the same variety.

“This is called the terroir difference,” says Selin Ekim. “A Napa Valley chardonnay and a French, Burgundy chardonnay essentially have the same grape characteristic, but they make utterly different notes for the palate and nose, because of the terroir.”

To get started, we can name Cabernet Sauvignon as the most known grape varietal, grown in a diverse range of areas and climates throughout the world.

Climate is a very important factor for varietals. However, New World Wines, compared to Old World Wines, are somewhat lucky. Unsettled weather conditions in the old world’s wine areas (Italy, France and Spain) directly affect the growth, changing the acidity and sweetness.

You know some things about wine – but we will do some fact-checking. Here are a few tips from wine expert Selin Ekim:

Aging of wine: Is it good wine?

This is a common misconception. Aging of wine does not improve or worsen its quality necessarily. In fact, not every wine is a good fit for aging. “For example, some grapes like Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc usually come right into our glasses without being stored in oak barrels,” says Ekim. “This doesn’t mean that the wine is bad.”

Matching with food

The common conception is the two typical “red for red” and “white for white” matches. Red meat with red wine is highly preferred; however, Ekim says it is more important to discover your own palate for personal matches.

“This is a very detailed one,” says Ekim. However, as she suggests, you can find a joyful harmony for your palate when accompanying a sweet wine with a slice of chocolate cake. You can also feel the terrific harmony of contrasting tastes if you have some sharp, salty blue cheese with the same wine.

“Apart from having some general rules about matching food and wine, it isn’t wrong to match those up to one’s own taste. The important thing is discovering your palate’s happiness and making your decisions accordingly.”

Rosé’s bad reputation

When rosé is the primary product, it is made with the skin-contact method; however, it is also widely known that blending different wines is another method. In the past, rosé was produced by leftover wine – when the wine wasn’t qualified enough to go into red or white labels. However, today, it is much more popular, and the skin-contact method is the one that applies.

But it is true that rosé wines have a bad reputation – “Rosé wines are called ‘girl wines’ or ‘summer wines’ because of their silky, mellow taste,” Ekim says. According to her, a rosé wine is a perfect go-to for your glass, especially with its red-fruit aroma and refreshing acidity.

“They don’t deserve to be called ‘bad,’” she adds.

If you’re planning to be a winemaker…

Although it seems easy technically, it needs some knowledge and experience, according to Ekim. Yes, as long as you make that simple chemical process work, you will have your wine. However, just like you want to make the most of it as a drinker, it is also important to make your own network of wine enthusiasts and to get to know people who have things to say about winemaking.

Get out of your boundaries and discover – wine is an infinite world.

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