The Grapevine Wine Bible


Your introductory to wine

You won’t often find a restaurant without a wine list and that’s for good reason. Wine is primarily enjoyed alongside a meal and this really has been the case for centuries by millions of people.


Why then is it such an intimidating subject to learn about? Why do guests always go for the same wine they always have? Why do wines all have different prices? We’ll answer these questions for you in the course of your tailor made training session.



Harvest 

Grapes are grown in countries and regions all over the world on vines and are tended to by winemakers. They look after these vines all year round to make sure the grapes will be as good as they possibly can be come harvest time.


Pressed 

Once grapes have been harvested, they are taken to the winery where they are pressed to bring out the juice. All grape juice is white and the colour in red wines comes from the skins. This means that white wine can be made from red grapes, but not the other way around. The best example of this is in Champagne, where red grape varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot  Meunier  are  commonly  used. In production of white wine the stalks are normally removed as they add tannin (see page 3) to the wine, whereas in the production of reds tannin is sometimes sought after so the stalks may be left on.

Fermentation

The wine is then transferred to a fermentation vat, which can be made from oak, stainless steel or concrete. All of which add different qualities to the wine. Red wine is commonly fermented with skins, seeds and stalks to add colour and tannin. Once the fermentation has taken place the wine can be either bottled straight away or matured in oak. Maturation in oak takes place in barrels of varying sizes and adds flavours like vanilla, baking spice and butter to both white and red wines. This can take years and once the wine has reached the right level of maturation then it is bottled.



Features of Wine

Acidity

This is present in all wines and is most noticeable in whites. Effectively it’s how much the wines makes your mouth water after you’ve tasted it! It’s essential when pairing with foods as acidity can ‘cut through’ rich foods, cleansing your palate.

 

Tannin

Most commonly found in red wines, but not all. Tannin is the puckering sensation that you feel between your lips and your gum. This can be very light, intense and everything in between. It comes from the grape skins, stalks and pips. Thicker skinned grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon generally produce wines with more tannin than a lighter skinned grape like Gamay.

 

Body

This is the way the wine feels in your mouth. Think of the difference between water and milk. One is very light and the other is heavier and creamier. Notice the way the wine coats your mouth when you taste.

Dry/Sweet

This is a subjective one and can be split into two parts.


1. Residual Sugar
This is the amount of sugar left in a wine after it’s fermented. Very noticeable in dessert wines and can be found in lesser quantities in some other wines like Gewürztraminer. Wines that are ‘dry’ have virtually no sugar left and include wines like Muscadet.


2. Sweetness of Fruit
This is when wines have jammy, fruity flavour characteristics rather than actual sugar. This can be present in wines like Shiraz. If people are looking for a dry wine, it will have less bold fruit flavours like Nebbiolo.


Flavours of Wine

Length/Finish

You’ll often hear people talking about the length and finish of a wine. This is how long the wine’s flavours stay in your mouth, and literally the last flavour the wine leaves – the finish. Generally, the longer the length and more flavours you can pick out, the better and more expensive the wine.

 

Complexity

The way the wine changes and how many different flavours are present. The change and variety of flavours, the greater the complexity. Again, usually more complex wines demand a higher price.

 

Body

This is the way the wine feels in your mouth. Think of the difference between water and milk. One is very light and the other is heavier and creamier. Notice the way the wine coats your mouth when you taste.

Primary

These flavours derive from the grapes themselves. These can include fruit, flower, herb and mineral notes. All don’t have to be present, but there may be a combination of any number of these can be present depending on the grape and where it’s grown.

 

Secondary

These come from the way the wine’s made. Flavours here can include butter, cream, mushroom, toast and smoke.

 

Tertiary

These flavours are from bottle ageing. This can include nutty, vegetal and earthy aromas.


Food & Wine Matching

Going out for dinner should always be an experience. The guest should always walk away feeling they couldn’t have done the same at home! What better way to elevate someone’s experience than with food and wine pairing, a subject of great interest for a lot of guests. As someone on the floor it’s also an opportunity to introduce guests to something other than their usual bottle. Below are some food and wine pairing suggestions that may come in useful.



Choosing the Wine

Some guests will know exactly what wine they would like from the list and others may want your opinion and suggestions. If you’ve been asked your opinion it’s important to remember that not every-body will have the same tastes as you, so you must get a feel for the type of wine the guest likes.

You can start with questions like;

• ‘Do you prefer full bodied or lighter bodied?’
• ‘What style of wine do you normally drink?’
• ‘Do you prefer wines of a certain country?’
• ‘What sort of budget would you like to stick to?’

Get a feel for what the guest wants. You can then start to use your knowledge to help guide them through your list. If they say they like Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe suggest they try a Malbec. If they like Sauvignon Blanc, maybe suggest they try Albarino. It’s also important to remember that budget is a factor, so don’t go straight in and suggest the most expensive bottle. Be tact and suggest a wine that you feel (or know) is in their budget and maybe just suggest an alter native wine that’s a few pounds more expensive but will be just as if not more rewarding. 


Serving the Wine

Once the guest has picked the wine bring it to the table and present it to the lady or gentleman who ordered it. State the name of the wine, the producer who made it and the vintage, for instance – ‘This is the Pinot Grigio from Flavorelli, 2017’. This is your confirmation that you’ve brought the customer the right wine and eradicates the danger of opening the wrong bottle!

Once the bottle is open, ask the lady or gentleman who ordered the wine if they would like to try. They are doing this to check that the wine isn’t faulty, not to see whether they like it or not. This is a common misconception which is part of the restaurant theatre!

On the next page we’ll show you what to do if there is a fault with the wine. If everything is fine with the wine then proceed to pour to the ladies first, then the gentleman, pouring the glass of the person who tired the wine last. Don’t fill the glasses up to the top. They should be half full at a maximum.


Opening Wine

If it’s a screwcap, simply open and put the cap in your pocket. If it’s a cork you’ll need to go through a number of steps with your waiter’s friend corkscrew.


1. Using the foil cutter on your corkscrew cut around the lip on the bottle neck to remove the top of the capsule so you can see the cork.
2. Put the blade away and open out the worm. Line up the sharp end of the worm just off centre on the cork and start to drill into it. Stop when you’ve gone all the way down.
3. Grip the boot lever against the bottle with your left hand with the handle facing towards you. Then pull the lever up. This may be done in two stages depending on the corkscrew.
4. The cork should then pop out and you can unscrew it from your corkscrew after you’ve left the table.


Opening Sparkling Wine

1. Find the tag around the foil. This is normally underneath the cage and can be marked with a different colour. If you can’t find it, then use the foil cutter to cut around the
bottom of the cage.
2. Place your thumb on top of the cork and the rest of your hand wrapped around the rest of the cork, with the cage still on.
3. Then start to undo the wire on the cage until it’s fully open.
4. Hold the bottle at a 45o angle and start to twist the bottle slowly, holding the cork firmly. As the cork becomes further away from the bottle make sure that you hold the pressure until it is nearly out. Then you can  take your time to gently ease out the gas.

The cork SHOULD NOT make a noise in a restaurant. You should just hear the sigh of the pressure being released.


Reading a Wine Label

The wine label can often be a difficult thing to understand – and there’s nothing wrong with that! Every country across the world has different laws and these are reflected on the labels. Effectively all labels will contain the following:

 

 

Appellations Explained

An appellation is a specific place in the world where a wine has to come from in order for it have that name. Along with an appellation comes a number of rules and guidelines that a winery must follow. We’ll take Sancerre as an example. Sancerre is a region in the Loire Valley in France. The grape they use is exclusively Sauvignon Blanc and if any other grapes are in it can’t go under that appellation.


Sancerre can’t be made anywhere else in the world. Sauvignon Blanc, however, can be grown elsewhere in the world. In New Zealand, because there’s not the same laws wine’s will be labelled as Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand. Producers may wish to include the specific region that they’ve grown the grapes in, such as Marlborough.


Oxidized Wine

 

Warning Signs - Look for ruddy, brownish whites that may smell of Sherry or cider, or brick-orange reds that seem flat and lifeless.

Cause - Oxidation is a common consumer complaint. It can begin during winemaking, storage or within hours of opening the bottle. Always ask your bartender which day he or she opened that by-the-glass pour. Packaging may also be the cause. Boxed wines have shorter shelf lives than bottles due to the high rate of oxygen exchange in the boxed bags. If a bottled wine is fresh off the shelf and still tastes oxidized, the problem most likely started with the producer. In the case of Sherry, vin jaune and some white wines, those nutty flavours are normally deliberate.

Fault Line Modarte - Oxidation presents itself in degrees of intensity, but if the colour, aroma and flavour loss are very severe, consider making vinegar.

Corked Wine


Warning Signs - Sniff for dusty aromas of wet newspaper and damp basement, and dull, muted fruit.

Cause - TCA stands for 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, and it’s the chemical culprit behind “corked” wine. It frequently derives from natural cork closures. Tasters may mistake mustiness for the forest-floor and mushroom notes called sous bois by the French, or confuse it for oxidation or other out-of-condition problems. The rate of cork taint hovers around 3 percent globally, but many wine industry professionals argue it gets blamed far more frequently.

Fault Line - While cork taint isn’t physically harmful to it’s drinkers, it can easily render a wine undrinkable.


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