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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Artikels | Features

Wine 101 – KWV tells you all you need to know


Many of us have been in the situation at a restaurant where the waiter hands you the wine list to make your selection. You break out into a cold sweat, hoping you make the right choice and that everyone at the table doesn’t think you’re an amateur.

Even worse, what are you supposed to look for when the waiter then pours you a tasting of your chosen wine before he pours for the rest of the table?

“There are no hard and fast rules when drinking wine. If you enjoy it, drink it,” says Uschi van Zweel, Brand Manager for KWV International’s wine portfolio.

“Today, it is perfectly acceptable to put ice in your white wine , chill your red wine or send back a bottle of wine in a restaurant once the waiter has offered you a taste.”

There is a perception that wine is for connoisseurs, but this is certainly not the case. KWV offers some simple guidelines for the layman that give a basic overview of the type of wines available; which wines suit certain food types; and what to look for when you are asked to try out a wine.

The basics

The six most popular grape varieties used to make wines are:

1. Chenin Blanc: is a good choice for lunch as it is generally made into a lighter style wine. With flavours reminding one of watermelon or roses it may be dry, off dry or semi sweet.

2. Sauvignon Blanc: a crisp white wine with tropical fruit tones which is generally made dry. It goes particularly well with salmon or other fish dishes.

3. Chardonnay: a dry white wine which may be aged in wooden barrels giving a vanilla tone in addition to the citrus fruit flavours. Creamy pasta dishes work well with a Chardonnay.

4. Pinotage: is the only South African grape variety which is distinguished by its plummy or jammy flavours. It’s particularly good with everyday red meat as one of the lighter reds.

5. Shiraz: a Persian grape variety known for its spicy black pepper taste. It is generally made as a medium weight wine to be enjoyed with a wide variety of dishes especially spicy ones.

6. Cabernet Sauvignon: as the king of red wines is generally made in a heavier style. It varies in flavour from a smoky cigar box to minty blackcurrant flavours. It complements heavier dishes and is great for a formal occasion.

There are also wines known as blends, they can be red or white and are the most popular styles of wines. Using two or more grape varieties, it is easier to create a more complex, layered wine. The most famous white blends are Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc and the best known red blends are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rosé is becoming an increasingly popular summer choice, although those who like it seldom give it up - even in winter!

There are generally two styles of rosé; blanc de noir is pink wine made with a red grape variety where the wine’s contact with the grape skins is limited and often produced in a dry or off-dry style. The second style is a blend of red and white wines and is mostly a semi-sweet or off dry blend. Rosé is such an easy drinking wine it can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

Wine and food pairing

A good basic rule is to pair lighter wines with lighter food and fuller wine with richer and fattier dishes. However, the best pairing advice is to enjoy the wine you like, with the food you like. Be adventurous and experiment, but a basic rule is as follows:

Sauvignon Blanc – delicate fish, shellfish, sardines, calamari, light chicken dishes, cold cuts, veal, pesto or seafood pasta, light sauces

Chenin Blanc – flavoured fish, shellfish, smoked/roast chicken, ham, curry, spicy pasta, spicy sauces

Chardonnay – crayfish, prawns, salmon, roast chicken, lamb, pork, creamy pasta, creamy sauces

Pinotage – spicy fish, paella, roast chicken, turkey, lamb casserole, veal, pork, tomato-based pasta sauces

Shiraz – mackerel, tuna, roast chicken, lamb chops, beef, ostrich, meat-based pasta sauces

Cabinet Sauvignon – roast chicken, game birds, roast lamb, roast beef, steak, baked pastas or meat-based pasta sauces

Merlot – venison, beef fillet, steak, spiced lamb, oxtail, stew, heavy sauces

Ensuring your wine is up to standard

“Rather than just accepting what is brought to your table, there are some simple notes that will assist you in ensuring the wine you ordered is suitable for drinking,” says van Zweel.

In white wines younger vintages are a pale yellow with green tinges. The older a white wine becomes, and the more wood component used, the deeper the colour.

Both Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc should not be older than two years as these cultivars lend themselves to a fresh crisp style of wine.

As Chardonnay is offered in two different styles, unwooded and wooded. Unwooded Chardonnay has a pale straw-yellow colour and a wooded Chardonnay has a deeper yellow colour due to the wood component – this also enhances the fatty texture of the wine. To choose the right Chardonnay, always look at the food you are ordering first.

Red wine is more complex that white wine and has a better chance to mature. The style of a red wine depends on how long the wine was aged in oak barrels and the grape variety. Young red wines start off with a tinge of blue and over time with bottle maturation, the wine changes colour. The older a red wine, the more brick red the colour becomes. To age any wine, one needs a good acidity, a firm tannin structure and a strong fruit basis.

For further information on KWV International Wines, please contact Uschi van Zweel on 011-656 0424 or log on to www.kwv.co.za.