Can you believe we are already midway through January? Is it just me or are the years whizzing past? And, it seems the older you get the faster they go! So we need to set aside some “slow time” for the people and things we love and enjoy. And I know you all love wine, so with these simple New Year’s Wine Resolutions we can make time to truly savour it.
No.1 – Write Tasting Notes
No.2 – Plan a Wine Party
Organise your next dinner party by choosing the wine – not the food – first. You can even get your guests to join in by asking them which of their favourites they will bring. Then you can read around the wines, compare, and learn from the wines, and even plan your menu accordingly. There are many sites that will help you plan food and wine pairings, but play around with it and see for yourself what works and what doesn’t.
No.3 – Try Something Different
Don’t be afraid to contact wine estates or friends who know and love their wines for advice on choosing a white or red wine varietal (type of grape) or different brands. You might just discover a gem you could enjoy for many years to come. For example, if you know you are quite fond of the full-bodied taste of Cabernet Sauvignon, you’re likely to enjoy an equally full-bodied, yet spicier Syrah or a green-peppery-tasting wine like Mourvèdre. As with white wines, both Australia and the south of France are good hunting grounds, so don’t be afraid to try wines from beyond our borders. Look for the words Vin de Pay d’Oc on the label – at the moment, wines coming out of this area are of consistently good quality and value. Equally, try finding estates within South Africa that have some quirky wines such as sparkling red wine, like Solms Delta’s Cape Jazz Shiraz, or perhaps a smooth brandy from FineBrandy.ByDesign. The possibilities are endless.
No.4 – Choose Quality Over Quantity
It is true what they say: Less is indeed more. So this year choose to drink less wine of a higher quality. Treat yourself to one special bottle of wine rather than plumping for the three-for-the-price-of-one plonk or a 2 liter of box wine. Although price isn’t always an indicator of quality, if you seek out a reputable independent wine merchant, you will have more of a chance of buying wine that corresponds in quality with the amount you spend. Alternatively, if you prefer to shop at the supermarket, instead of visiting tiny botique wine shops or purchasing wine directly from your favourite wine estates, resolve to cultivate the wine section, get to know what they stock – and keep going back. This is a great way to really learn what you like. To me, Checkers currently stocks the best selection of wine at the most affordable prices, but certain Spar Tops Shops, aren’t bad either.
No.5 – Getting Back to Basics
When you go out for a wine tasting, pretend it’s your first time. Ask questions. Swirl. Sniff. Swish. Swallow. Unless of course you are the designated driver, then, please for the love of wine, ask for a spittoon and practice your aim. If you like the taste of a wine, make a note of it. If you don’t like it initially, leave it to breathe for a couple of minutes and then feel free to have a second sip, or, if it is really nasty, to pour it out. Ask about the type of grape AKA varietal. Don’t complicate matters too much. Let your taste buds do the work, and give yourself a mental break. Nibble some bread or crackers in between to clean your palate and have a glass of water handy. But most importantly, enjoy the experience.
No.6 – Decant More White Wines
No.7 – Break Wine and Food Matches
I get really tired of all the pseudo-science about what wine goes with what food. Just drink it, eat it and enjoy. This is particularly true with Asian cuisine. The flavours are so complex and diverse, interesting and satisfying. Before heading out to a Chinese, Japanese or Korean restaurant, I just pick out a bottle or two I want to try and let the fun begin once I get to the restaurant. Granted, some amazing food and wine pairings exist, but they are few and far between. Do your own experiments and tread on new territory. Try a new micro-brewery beer with a herby prego roll, or an Eiswein with a hot curry. Apparently Gummy Bears go insanely well with Moscato d’Asti! Be adventurous and jot down what works and what doesn’t. There is no wrong or right – only your preference.
No.8 – Teach your children about wine
Wine is such a pleasure in life; why not talk to your children about it? My friends in the wine industry who have children have often ask them sniff their glass from an early age and describe the wines. Their palates are pure and their sense of smell incredibly acute – although they may lack the scope of references and you end up with a description like “this wine smells like marshmallows”. And you know what? They’re usually spot on. My mother did the same thing when we were little and I owe my love and passion for wine to her. She taught me that it is the perfect balance between art and science, and that a great wine never just happens. It is nurtured, respected, tested, crafted and perfected. It is a huge part of our culture and surely worth passing on to the next generation. I am not saying you should let your kids get sloshed, I am saying that with guidance and communication you can cultivate an appreciation for wine in a child. Take them to harvest festivals and have them stomp some grapes – they’ll love you for it!
No.9 – Learn more about a specific wine region
In South Africa alone there are more than twenty wine regions. Pick one that you find interesting and learn a little about what makes their wines special. If its not too far way, make a wine weekend and go try some of the estate wines, or deliberately try to buy some wines from that region from your local grocer. I am a huge fan of the wines in the Elgin region – due to their cooler climate, they produce outstanding white wines and Pinot Noir. Swartland and the Golden Triangle area in Stellenbosch produce some of the finest red wines, due to their hotter climates and soil types. Not to mention, regions in Argentina, France, Italy, Australia and a gazillion other regions abroad!
No.10 – Start a Cellar / Open and Enjoy
And last, but not least, if you are fairly new to the whole wino world, I would suggest starting a mini cellar for storing wines you enjoy. Just be sure to ask the producer how long it can be kept for best results and then make a little note on the wine label, so you can remember when to open each bottle. You can store both reds and white wines, but each depends on the type of wine and the quality. Find a space in your home which you can dedicate to your wine collection – preferable a dark, cool, dry place away from animals and children. It doesn’t have to be underground or in the roof, our collection is currently very happily tucked away at the bottom of one of our cupboards.