Wine tasting is the process of analysing the wine in your glass through the senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch with the goal of finding a wine to suit your palate. Most of the time if you’re tasting wine, instead of simply drinking it with dinner, the purpose is usually to help you evaluate or better understand the wine in your glass. Wine tasting will help you discover what wines you really like, or not. The more wines you taste will help you become a better, more informed wine taster. We spoke to Amrut Vare, Winemaker and Wine Ambassador, Chandon India to learn a few basics.
What is the right method to taste a wine, and what are the flavour profiles one can expect?
There are three key points to keep in mind while tasting wine: The look of the wine – The Colour is the first thing which tells you about the wine. If the wine becomes brownish in tone it means that the wine is oxidised due to incorrect methods of storage.Second is the smell – Wine has a strong aroma that depends upon the grape variety e.g. Chenin Blanc is Citrus, Sauvignon Blanc gives a grassy/ gooseberry aroma; Cabernet Sauvignon if you harvest early smells like Capsicum / Tomato leaves. Lastly the taste – The wine should have a balanced flavour between sweetness and acidity but should not be bitter.
Tell us a few markers of good wine, champagne and prosecco.
A characteristic of good wine is that it should stay on your palate for a long time with a pleasing taste and it should linger on the palate for a while.
All champagnes are sparkling wines, but all sparkling wines are not champagne. Champagne needs to be produced in the Champagne region in France. Champagne is produced by only one method “Méthode Traditionnelle “(It means secondary fermentation happens inside the bottle & that’s how we get the bubbles). Most Champagne wines have citrus and apple-like aromas with subtle notes of brioche or almond pastry because of yeast lees in the bottle. The longer you keep Champagne with dead yeast it will become toastier & creamier.
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. Prosecco is made with primarily “Glera” grapes. Produced using an affordable method called the “Tank Method.” (Secondary fermentation happens in the tank instead of individual bottles like in Champagne) It can also be called a shortcut way to produce sparkling wine with ageing on yeast lees. Proseccos are generally light-bodied, vibrant, fresh, highly aromatic and crispy sparkling wine without autolytic characters which comes from yeast lees in Champagne bottles (Méthode Traditionnelle).
The wine industry has seen an uptick in India in the recent past, do you agree and what are the changes you have seen?
Yes, currently wine industry is evolving in a good way I have seen the wine industry growing in my 20 years of winemaking experience. Wine consumption is increasing amongst all, and more and more people want to learn about wine and their production. Individuals are also moving from cheaper products to drinking good quality wine. Hence today, with the uptick in the industry wine education is very important and at Moet Hennessy/Chandon our focus is all on wine education which will change the future of wine consumption.
Tell us about the different kinds of wine
Wine can broadly be categorised into dry, heavy-bodies and sweet wine. Dry wines have little to no residual sugar content. This means that dry wines are generally not sweet wines. Other components in the makeup of wine including tannins and alcohol levels play an important role in the overall flavour profile of the wine. The sugar Level is generally below 3 mgs per lit in dry still wines.
Next are Heavy Bodied Wines. Generally speaking, wines with an alcohol content under 12.5% would be considered light-bodied, those between 12.5% – 13.5% would be considered medium-bodied, and those with an alcohol content of more than 13.5% are heavy, or full-bodied wines. e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon.
Finally, there are sweet wines. Sweet wine is any wine that has retained a high level of residual sugar during the winemaking process, including Moscato, Lambrusco, Fortifieds and Dessert wines. However, the sweetness in sparkling is a little different than in still wines (Refer to the image below)
When storing wine, what is the appropriate temperature and humidity level?
If you have a wine fridge at home, then that’s the best. Alternatively, you can store wine horizontally in a cupboard or dark place away from sunlight to protect your wine. For wine which has a cork remember to keep them horizontal as the cork should always be in contact with the wine to prevent it from getting soiled. The storage is a little different for sparkling wine. They can be stored vertically for up to 3 years post which they must be kept horizontally.
Champagnes / Sparkling Wine – 6℃ to 8℃
White Wine – 10℃ to 12℃
Red Wine – 14℃ to 18℃
One challenge and one plus point of having a winery in Nashik?
Nashik is the best place to make Sparkling Wine and it has a suitable temperature and rainfall profile to create wine. Nashik’s cooler temperature (12-25 degrees C) during cropping makes it the perfect choice as this may give better fruit character and fewer challenges with escalating sugars as the season warms up towards harvest. During the ripening of grapes, the weather gets cooler at night & warmer during the days which will help to preserve the natural acidity in the grapes. Nashik is also the biggest grape-growing area in India and Dindori is widely recognized to produce the highest quality of grapes in the Nashik region. Also, the slopes of the gentle hills with their better-drained red soils and slightly higher elevation is regarded as the best viticultural area.
The main challenge is that if you are making wine in Maharastra you cannot import the grapes from other regions /states.
What are a few things to keep in mind while buying wine?
If you are new to wine, start by trying a white or rose and always go with your taste preference. Also, try to reflect on other flavours you enjoy and consider the occasion while choosing a wine. Be sure to read the label and learn what you’re reading.
Other than cheese and grapes, what food pairs best with wine while hosting at home?
The wine should have the same flavour intensity as the food. Acidic wine goes well with acidic food, sweet wine goes well with sweet food. Red wines pair best with boldly flavoured meats like red meat, white wines pair best with light-intensity meats like fish or chicken, and sparkling wine pairs well with fatty food e.g Pizza, pasta, and cheese, as it will cut down the acid in sparkling wine / Champagne while tasting / drinking.