Who wouldn’t want to tour the world and see all its magnificent sights and experience vastly different cultures? While it may not always be possible to visit in person other countries, you can always go on a luxurious wine tasting adventure, thanks to online wine repositories like Millesima that collaborate with the vineyards all over the world to deliver quality wine right to your door.
The World of Wine
Wine has its own terminology and classification: Old World and New World; red, white, and rosé; sweet, dry, acidity, and more. Old World wine regions are defined as the countries wherein winemaking traditions were developed and as such influenced the rest of the world. These countries include those in Europe, such as France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Greece, and in the Middle East, such as Lebanon and Israel. New World regions, meanwhile, are those that both borrowed and innovated from the Old World regions: the United States, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Australia, China, and South Africa.
Characteristically, wines from the Old World are lighter-bodied and have lower alcohol content. These also have more strictly-enforced methods of winemaking, as per tradition held for centuries, and bottles are labeled according to the region the wines were produced. This is because each wine region produces specific varieties of grapes, and connoisseurs were expected to know the grapes grown in each region. For example, different regions in France have Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay; Portugal has Madeira; and Germany is known for Riesling. New World wines tend to be fuller-bodied and more fruity, created with a more entrepreneurial, modern spirit, and labeled according to the grape variety. California has its own version of Cabernet Sauvignon; Canada’s popular Ice Wine is from Riesling; Argentina has taken on Malbec and Chile on Carménère; and New Zealand boasts of its own Sauvignon Blanc.
Why the stylistic difference? The largest contributing factor is ‘terroir,’ a French term used to denote the special characteristics in the geography (e.g. altitude), geology (e.g. topsoil, subsoil), and climate (e.g. temperature) that influences grape varieties. The taste of wine does not simply depend on the grape itself but also where its grown, as the vines absorb flavors from their surroundings. This is also why even the same blend can differ in a yearly basis.
Now you can imagine why sipping a glass of wine can magically transport you to its place of origin. Old World wines are grown in a shorter season, and with higher levels of rain and humidity. Because the fruit is picked earlier, the wine is more acidic and tastes stern—some people say you can taste the earth in these bottles. With New World wines, the grapes are grown for longer and in warmer and sunnier days. There is then more sugar when the grapes are harvested, and there are less tannins.
Your Wine Tasting Tour
With the vast types of wine available, how can you go about your tasting tour?
For starters, you can select a red and white wine from both Old World and New World regions. You’d be surprised at the difference, even when choosing the same grape variety! Choosing a type of red and white wines can enhance your experience, as they are made with different grapes. In addition, red wines are fermented with the skins and seeds on, hence their rich color. Another difference is that red wines are typically aged in oak barrels, lending a rich, nutty flavor due to oxidation, and white wines are kept in stainless steel so that floral and fruity flavors are preserved.
After you have purchased your wine, set aside a time and place for this indulgent treat of tasting. Ensure you have the proper glassware, usually designed to maximize taste and smell, and prepare a tray of food with which to pair your wines. As a rough guide, red wines pair better with bold-flavored meat such as steaks, and white wines do well with fish and chicken. Old World wines, bitter due to the tannins, are smoothed out by fatty foods. There is much more to consider in food and wine pairings, such as salt and herbs, but you can refine your palate later. As for the ambience, set the table, light some (unscented) candles, play some music, and relax!
Serve wine at the temperature that best accentuates its scent and taste. Reds are generally served warm, and whites are chilled. Decant the wine before pouring into your glass, starting with a third of its volume capacity. Swirl it around to release the aroma, try to identify the components of its scent. Is that leather, tobacco, or even blackcurrant? and admire its color, clarity, and sparkle. Finally, ah! Take your first sip and focus on the flavors engulfing your taste buds. Is it sweet or dry, acidic, astringent, inky? Is it full-bodied or light? Do you taste something fruity, earthy, spicy, flowery, or even smoky? Nibble on some food and repeat!
The Next Adventure
Whenever you’re longing to but unable to travel, call on your reliable wine vendor and ask for a selection to take you on your next adventure. With wine and some imagination, you can bask in the sun and sea of California, sigh at the quaint cottages lining southern France, feel the romance of the ports in Portugal, and stand awestruck at the medieval architecture in Spain. Bon voyage!