The Wine List, Part II
Words by Sarah Egeland Photographs by Parker Fitzgerald
The second part of wine buyer and educator Sarah Egeland’s wine guide. Read this and you’ll be able to amaze your friends with your wine knowledge.
Tips for Enjoying Wine
How to taste wineSwirl, sniff, slurp and think. This is the best way to try wine. You will start to taste things you never knew existed in wine.
How to smell wineWine smells like grapes, but it also smells like other things: blackberries, mushrooms, tobacco, fresh-cut grass, ripe melon, Granny Smith apples. These scents that waft pass your nose come from esters, compounds of acid and alcohol that form in wine and carry its aromatic qualities. Of course, no one will pick up a glass of wine, swirl it, smell it and automatically say it smells like violets, eucalyptus and Easter Sunday dinner at their grandmother’s house. Sensitivity to smell comes with practice. Take time to really smell the roses in the garden, the fresh herbs in the kitchen and the crushed garlic on the cutting board. You will start to place memories with these smells, and connect them to the wine or foods you are enjoying.
How to swirl wineSwirling wine helps to vaporize the alcohol, which makes it easier to smell. Place the stemware on a table, and swirl nice and neat in small circles—this will keep the wine from spilling.
How to look at winePick up the glass and take a good long look; it shimmers and has so many layers of colors. Tip the glass away from you, and look at it against your place mat. Color reveals two things: Is the wine in good condition? White wines darken and red wines lighten as they age, and both turn brown from oxidation, the same way that apples and pears do. Color also hints at body: The lighter it is in color, the lighter it is in body.
BalanceThink of balance in wine the same way you think about it in your favorite foods; it’s like butter and salt in mashed potatoes. Is it too spicy, too sweet?
Body, TextureThink of these as you would milk: nonfat, 2%, whole milk and half-and-half. Wines work the same way.
AcidityAcids give wines their characteristic crisp, slightly tart taste. Alcohol, sugars, minerals and other components moderate the sourness of acids and give wines balance. Some acids are naturally present in the base ingredients of wines while others are byproducts of fermentation.
DryA dry wine by definition means that all the sugar was fermented into alcohol and that there is no residual sweetness left in the juice. A sweet wine by contrast had its fermentation stopped early either by force, or by the alcohol content reaching a level at which the yeast could no longer survive. This is the traditional use of the words dry and sweet to describe a wine.
CrispA crisp wine has a perceptible acidic feeling, but in the good, refreshing sense. Applied to white wines with a clean, fresh flavor.
OakyMost red wines and many white wines spend some maturation time in oak after fermentation and before bottling. Oak maturation helps create additional complexities in the wine as the compounds in the wine interact with the compounds of the oak. In red wines, oak maturation helps fix color and soften tannins. You can sometimes smell and taste the oak in these wines, and the key is balance: The use of oak is meant to enhance the wine and not overpower it. Not all wine, however, is aged in oak, as oak is very expensive. Many bulk wines are aged in stainless steel enhanced with wood flavoring by using oak planks or chips.
TannicTannic wines contain an abundance of tannins—the chemicals that give color to grape skins and stems. This is not bad if balanced by fruit; sometimes the wine simply calls for extra maturation.
Parker Fitzgerald shot this story using a Leica M3 and Kodak Professional Portra 160 Film. Special thanks to Kate at SE Wine Collective for her help with this shoot.