GUIDE TO THE GRAPEVINES
Travel and wine go together like … well, anything and wine. Whether you’re ordering a bottle in a restaurant, wine tasting your way through Tuscany, or trying to impress someone you’ve met on your Topdeck tour, having a bit of vino knowledge and vocab comes in handy on the road.
While you can be limited to eight pinot noirs at the local bottle shop, the whole world of wine opens up when you travel overseas. In London, I spent a seafood-fuelled evening with a Georgian wine – I didn’t even know Georgia produced wine. In Ljubljana, our travel party of three spent an afternoon tasting our way through the Slovenian wine list, not once coming upon a grape we were familiar with and yet enjoying each one.
There are about 1200 different grape varietals in the world. “Unless you’ve tried everything you’ll always find something you might like just around the corner,” says James Boden from the National Wine Centre (wineaustralia.com.au).
While I’d consider myself a wine novice, some are born into it. In South Australia, I’m convinced babies are born understanding tannin structure and why a complex riesling pairs well with a preserved lemon risotto. So when I found myself in South Australia – home to 26 different wine regions, producing 49 per cent of Australia’s grapes – I set out to sleuth some of Adelaide’s sommeliers and self-confessed wine nerds to learn how to appreciate wine like a pro (so you’re not afraid to try new varieties when you travel).
START WITH WHITE
multiple tastings, start with white or sparkling. Arranging by palate weight builds you up to the bold red end of the spectrum.
LOOK AT THE COLOUR
the lighter a white wine is the younger it is, maturing to a honey shade as it ages. With reds, the brighter the wine, the younger it is. Pigment fades as it gets older.
GIVE IT A SWIRL
Swirling wine doesn’t just look fancy pants. It will “open up the bouquet” to bring out its full flavour.
PICK YOUR FRUIT
If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about during a tasting, James advises running through food groups. Is it citrus? Is it apples or pears? Then think about spice and earthiness. No answer is wrong. “Everyone is different in how they taste and smell,” James Boden says. “Everyone picks up different aromas, we have different histories and backgrounds of what triggers a memory.”
SKIP THE WEIRD NOISES
though you might have seen it done, sucking in air, swooshing wine around your mouth, or gargling isn’t necessary.
LEGS DON’T MEAN QUALITY
You might have seen someone swirling their glass and holding it up to nod and murmur over its “legs” or “tears” as a sign of it being a good drop, but all this really means is it has high alcohol content.
CUT THROUGH THE BUZZWORDS
“crisp” and “full-bodied” all just relate to how the wine feels in your mouth.
TRUST YOUR SOMM
the sommelier and you might find yourself fawning over a new style of wine you never knew existed, so do ask for advice.
“I’m not here to upsell you and rip you off, there’s no value in that,” says James Parham, sommelier at Sean’s Kitchen (adelaidecasino .com.au). “I’m your wine sherpa, here to get you to the top of the mountain and have a good time while we’re doing it.”
FORGET THE MYTHS
The more expensive the wine, doesn’t necessarily mean the better it will taste.
Once you’ve learned what you like do research into which wine regions grow the grapes you love, to help you pinpoint where you want to visit, or which wine to buy. Love shiraz? In Europe, it’s usually called syrah.
Part of the joy of drinking wine anywhere – whether South Australia or South Africa – is the experience of trying.
THE WRITER TRAVELLED AS A GUEST OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN TOURISM COMMISSION