The latest 2023 South Africa Report by international wine critic and Master of Wine, Tim Atkin, has unveiled an impressive array of South African wines that have earned 95+ points, and a longer list of wines that made 90+ points. This has sparked lively debates within the wine-loving circles of social media. Are these results a testament to the rising quality of South African wineries, or is there more to the story than meets the eye? In this blog, we delve into the world of wine tasting, subjectivity, and the factors that make a wine exceptional.
Wine tasting is, by its very nature, subjective. Each palate is unique, and personal preferences play a significant role in how we perceive and enjoy wine. However, there are objective aspects to consider when evaluating wine, and it all begins with understanding the purpose of wine.
First and foremost, wine serves as an accompaniment to food. Its role is to cleanse the palate, and for this task, it must strike a delicate balance between acidity, fruit flavors, texture, and complexity. These elements should seamlessly merge into a harmonious symphony when paired with the right dish.
Pairing wine with the appropriate food is crucial for a delightful culinary experience. For instance, savoring a high-quality French Burgundy with a spicy Indian curry might overshadow the wine's nuances. However, when enjoyed with a classic beef bourguignon and crusty bread, the wine comes alive, enhancing the entire dining experience.
The Art of Wine Tasting
To truly appreciate wine, it's essential to understand how to taste it properly. This process involves three primary components:
The color of a wine can reveal much about its characteristics. White wines vary from young and straw-colored to older and gold-hued, while red wines evolve from purple-rimmed to deeper ruby and amber hues with age. Additionally, the legs of wine provide insights into its alcohol and sugar content.
Begin by assessing if the wine is out-of-condition, which may result from cork taint or improper storage. Swirl the glass gently to release the wine's aromas, which should encompass a range of scents, from fruits and flowers to earth, wood, spices, and more.
The tongue, guided by the sense of smell, identifies flavors. Swirling the wine in your mouth allows it to touch all areas of your tongue, which can perceive sweetness, saltiness, umami, sourness, and bitterness. This step is pivotal in honing your wine-tasting skills.
Wine enthusiasts often rely on various rating systems to evaluate wines. Some follow Jancis Robinson's 20-point scale, Robert Parker's 100-point system, or Vivino's 5-star ratings. Alternatively, you can create your own personalized system. Here's a straightforward guideline:
- 5 Stars: Exceptional wine, a classic
- 4 Stars: Outstanding
- 3.5 Stars: Very good wine
- 3 Stars: Good, decent wine
- 2 Stars: Average wine
- 1 Star: Would not drink it ever again
Developing Your Palate
Ultimately, the best way to appreciate wine is to develop your own opinions. The more you explore different wines, the better you become at understanding your preferences and distinguishing objectively good wines from the rest. Wine tasting is an art, and like any art, it requires practice, patience, and a willingness to explore the vast world of wine.
Improving Your Palate
To further enrich your wine tasting experience and refine your palate, consider keeping a wine journal. A wine journal is a valuable tool for recording your wine experiences, preferences, and discoveries. It allows you to track the wines you've tasted, their aromas, flavors, and pairings, helping you identify patterns in your likes and dislikes. This practice not only enhances your wine-tasting skills but also deepens your appreciation for the art of winemaking. You can get one from our online store, winetoshare.com which has guidelines and prompts on what to look out for, or create your own digital version to help you along your wine journey.
South African Wine Excellence
While the debates surrounding the 2023 Tim Atkin South Africa Report may continue, one thing is clear: South African wineries are producing exceptional wines worthy of recognition. The art of wine tasting allows us to appreciate the nuances, complexities, and beauty that each bottle holds.
Whether you're an experienced oenophile or just beginning your wine journey, remember that your palate is your guide, and every sip is an opportunity to savor the world of wine.