I know basically nothing about wine. There- I've said it. Of course, that's not a bad way to start learning, especially when you can ease your way into things via an interesting blogging event called Wine Blogging Wednesdays, this time hosted by Jeanne over at Cook Sister!.
The current theme is 'South African Reds', and Jeanne kindly listed some great tips for everyone. These would be the same tips that I read once, didn't print out, and promptly forgot when I was faced with a lot of bottles at my local Sainsbury's. The two employeess in the wine section couldn't help me at all, so my son and I got down on the floor and started perusing the bottles. I asked his opinion, he pointed to a bottle with a giraffe on it, and a lightbulb went off! Jeanne had warned about dreck with animal labels, so that eliminated about 1/3 of the bottles in front of us. The first one I grabbed, at
L5.99, was in my price range (that's about $12). It had no animals on the label. The notes on the back said it sould be good with red meat or spicy foods (lasagna was on the menu). Into the basket it went.
The wine notes that I've read online were very confusing at first (tastes of lead pencil?!), but they started to make a bit more sense once I had the wine in front of me and was really making an effort. It had a deep, ruby-red colour and a ripe-berry nose- it really looked and smelled luscious. First note taken! My husband and I both had a taste, pens and notepads at the ready, and both said "blech!" at the same time. The flavour seemed really strong, and it burned the back of my throat a little; how we were going to finish what was in our glasses, never mind the rest of the bottle? I said to my husband (and to myself), "C'mon...get it together...we're trying to learn about wine and grow a little! Let's try to figure out how to describe what we're tasting." But, I just couldn't put my finger on what I disliked about the flavour until I read notes specific to this wine. The reviewer mentioned a strong taste of 'herbs or cheese'. That was it! It was cheesy! That wasn't the type of note I was expecting to write, but what can you say? My husband just gave up and said, "Cheesy? What? I don't know what to say about this, besides 'blech!". Hmmm...this wasn't going too well.
What happened next surprised the both of us. We sat down to dinner, looked at the nearly full bottle of wine, and filled our glasses just because it was there. We were both tired and hungry at this point, and figured that we'd be able to choke down a glass somehow, but that's not the way things went at all. We both took a sip after a bite of food, and the wine that had been sharp and 'cheesy' became lovely, smooth and a bit spicy- the perfect accompaniment to our lasagna. I'm not sure, but I think it had an 'oakey' finish. Maybe I'll have to try it again- for the sake of furthering my education, of course.
Obviously, it makes complete sense that wine (or beer, or whatever, really) would taste different with food than on its own, but it just never occurred to me before. This was a great experience, and I'm really looking forward to learning more about wines, improving my note-taking, and discovering more about what I do and do not like. Thanks for hosting, Jeanne!
If you'd like, you can read more about Beyerskloof Pinotage 2003.