Learning how to taste wine properly is the best way to get the absolute most of your wine experience. And the more you taste the better taster you become. Who can argue with that?
There is no need to be overwhelmed, or to remember a jumble of technical words…. Instead, here are eight simple tips to help anyone taste wine like a pro.
Don’t pick the glass up and drink straight away.
Instead hold the glass up to the light, or against a pale background, to get a good look at the colour and clarity.
Most wine is pretty clear, unless the winemaker has intentionally skipped using a clarifying agent to remove the naturally occurring haze.
Tilt and swirl the glass delicately to get some air into the wine and release some of those smells you’re going to want to sniff at the next step.
By swirling wine you also get to create ‘legs’ up the glass – depending on how quickly, or slowly this disappears is a great indicator of the level of alcohol or sweetness.
A big heavy red, for example, will had big legs which almost coat the glass.
Stick your nose right in there and give it a great big sniff. What does it smell like? Floral? Acidic? Fresh?
Take a good mouthful of wine but do not immediately swallow it. Try to let the wine coat your entire mouth as it helps you taste it better. Does it feel heavy or light? Oaky or sharp? Or it is tannic, which makes your mouth furry like a cup of tea?
Slowly swish it around your tongue and teeth. You can try inhaling some more air but just don’t dribble or make loud gross slurping noises. This really helps to bring out the wine flavours.
Spit or swallow
Either is fine.
Hardcore wine tasters in the wine trade have to spit, else they’d be drunk the entire time, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun!
The longer the overall flavour stays in your mouth, the better the overall quality of the wine. Savor enjoy, and start again.
What to avoid
Pretend to like all the wines as the winemaker will have no idea where your tastebuds lie.
Grab a bottle and help yourself
Smoke or wear strong perfume
And what NOT to do or say when tasting a wine:
“I’ll say when.”
“Is that all I get.”
“Yuk”, or something along those lines. It’s just plain rude!
The Mitchell family moved to South Australia’s Clare Valley when the property was a dairy, an orchard and a small patch of vineyard. After being born and growing up on the family vineyard, Andrew left to study wine science in the late 70s, a move which has driven the vineyard’s winemaking philosophies today.
Around 40 or so years later the family operating has welcomed the third generation of Mitchell’s to grow up on the vineyard and it’s this family-orientated ideology which really comes through in in balanced and elegant wine.
And now it is time to hand down some of the responsibility and his 42 years’ of experience to Hilary, who although helping out since she could walk, is now working on her second vintage as Andrew’s apprentice.
This dad and daughter duo share their love and memories of their time in the Clare Valley wine region.
Why did you decide to become a winemaker?
Andrew: I grew up in Clare and always loved the smells of vintage when the aromas of fermentation wafted from the old Stanley Wine Company through the classrooms of Clare Primary School. After studying science and economics at Adelaide Uni I wanted to establish a business of my own and winemaking just seemed the natural thing to do.
Hilary: When I was younger I never wanted to work in the winery because I had seen how hard Mum and Dad worked! I trained and worked in the fashion industry in Spain for 15 years, and one year came back to Clare for Mum’s Birthday and helped out cleaning some picking bins….it was way more fun!
What attracted you to the Clare Valley wine region in particular?
Andrew: Born to it.
Hilary: (same answer!)
Can you describe your winemaking style, and how it differs to your peers in the region?
Andrew: In Clare we can make wines with incredibly intense flavour but still with real elegance. Wines which drink well when young but can age beautifully in the long run. We like to make wines that have a soft, gentle touch. Not “show” wines which grab your attention but complex wines that seduce.
Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?
Andrew: they are like children, they are all so different but all have their own unique qualities.
Hilary: I wonder which one I am…? :)
What most surprises people about you or the wines you produce?
Hilary: That we are completely family owned and run, you can come into our cellar door and 9 times out of 10 you will be served by a family member.
What are you drinking now, and what are you cellaring?
Andrew: Right now its a glass of 2015 Watervale Riesling, but I will also be cellaring it with a view to enjoying it at its peak in 10 years or so. But for the long run everyone needs a cellar of old shiraz and cabernet.
Hilary: Drinking now, Semillon. It’s the perfect autumn drink: chilled in the afternoon sun or closer to room temperature on the cooler evening. The Cabernet Sauvignon is released at what we consider to be its “ready to drink” age (current vintage is 2008), but will still keep developing over the decades!
If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would that be?
Andrew: It would be a painful decision but if it could only be one it would be a cabernet sauvignon of at least 15-20 years of bottle age. The 1998 is just perfect now.
Hilary: For me it’s the cabernet, when I lived abroad, just the smell of this wine would make me homesick. It smells like every good memory.
What is the most exciting thing coming up for both you and the business over the next 12 months?
Andrew: The next vintage. It is always exciting to watch the grapes ripening and to anticipate the potential.
Hilary: Dad letting me make my own mistakes! Getting to play around with the blends and smaller batches that will probably only end up being drunk at our kitchen table!!!
The widely-renowned Riesling grape comes in many different shapes and sizes across the world – ranging from lusciously sweet to bone dry. Gone are the days of incredibly sugary low priced Riesling, welcome to the new world where the wines produced are nothing short of elegance and style.
The German-origin grape takes on a whole new and delightfully refreshing form here in Australia – overflowing with ripeness of passion fruit and clear citrus while also having a good grasp on when enough sweetness is enough.
A huge congratulations to The Wine Pig’s top 5 Riesling and their producers, which have all managed to blow The Wine Pig away with their varied and equally delicious versions.
For the Riesling lover in all of us!
Pokolbin Estate Vineyard – 2014 Riesling
As the only vineyard in the Hunter Valley region which grows Riesling, Pokolbin Estate Vineyard really is a step ahead from its local peers with its exceptional version of the renowned wine! An outstanding vintage across the board, the 2014 Riesling is beautifully smooth and delicate with lashings of acidic tropical fruit to give that zesty finish. Utterly delicious and it only leaves you wanting more.
Mountadam Vineyard – 2015 Eden Valley Riesling
Eden Valley’s cool climate produces a wonderful distinctive Riesling. Mountadam’s wonderful 2015 vintage is wonderfully soft but refreshingly dry and classically zesty but with a simple twist where a hint of rose petals comes through. This wine can surely only get better and better with age!
Kilkanoon, Clare Valley – 2013 Morts Block Riesling
The Clare Valley’s cool and mostly dry conditions created the perfect environment for a powerfully-flavoured dry Riesling by Killanoon. It’s enchantingly lemony and citrusy in flavour and wonderfully fresh and light meaning it goes with pretty much anything, for any reason.
Pikes Wines, Clare Valley – 2014 Traditionale Riesling
Another gem from the Clare Valley region. Pikes Wines version of this wonderful varietal it typically fresh and crisp with plentiful of citrus and tropical fruits coming through when you first put your nose to the glass. Hello shellfish, you’re a perfect pairing to this delicious wine!
Heemskerk, Tasmania – 2012 Coal River Valley Riesling
Very light in colour and soft in taste, this Riesling is simply stunning. There is ample but not overwhelming lemon notes balanced with a very soft sherbet acidity which makes it a pure pleasure to drink, either with friends or without, depending on whether you can bring yourself to share!
While we're all celebrating the festive seasons, The Wine Pig would like to introduce it's top 12 wines of Christmas! Enjoy!
1st wine of Christmas - 2010 Maluna Block Shiraz by Eagles Rest
The Wine Pig's 12 wines of Christmas begins! Day 1: the 1st wine of Christmas is a gorgeous 2010 Maluna Block Shiraz by Eagles Rest in the Hunter Valley. Medium bodied yet intense, with fantastically powerful deep cherry and chocolate notes. A perfect start for this year's Christmas season!!
2nd wine of Christmas - 2013 High Eden Chardonnay by Mount Adam Vineyards
The Wine Pig's 2nd wine of Christmas is a wonderful 2013 High Eden Chardonnay by Mount Adam Vineyards in Eden Valley, South Australia. An amazingly deep flavoured wine with fantastic body. Packed full of stonefruit notes with an additional hint of nuttyness. A wonderful elegant Chardonnay! Thank you Mount Adam!
3rd wine of Christmas - 2013 Ernest Allan Shiraz by Gemtree Vineyards
And... the 3rd wine of Christmas is a 2013 Ernest Allan Shiraz from Gemtree Vineyards in McLaren Vale, SA. It's everything you want in a great Shiraz - punchy, fragrant, medium bodied and delicious but with an amazingly silky finish. And if it could get any better... all Gemtree's wines are organic AND biodynamic! It's true, this wine is literally ernest!
4th wine of Christmas - 2014 Eight Acres Semillion by Mount Pleasant Vineyards
The Wine Pig's 4th wine of Christmas comes from Mount Pleasant Vineyards in Hunter Valley, NSW. Wow, this 2014 Eight Acres Semillion is stunning! Its floral notes are perfectly balanced with critrus and even a little hint of lemongrass has been included. A great choice of wine for a warm Australian Christmas evening.
5th wine of Christmas - 2013 Pinot Noir by Toolangi Wines
For the 5th wine of Christmas we're taking a trip to Toolangi in Victoria's Yarra Valley. The medium bodied 2013 Pinot Noir had an excellent colour and is generously fruity but so soft. An excellent example of a great cool-climate pinot noir and a simply perfect addition to the Christmas table.
6th wine of Christmas - 2015 Pinot Grigio by Lou Miranda Estate
The Wine Pig's 6th wine of Christmas is a 2015 Pinot Grigio from Lou Miranda Estate in the Barossa Valley, SA. A wonderfully fresh and vibrant wine with lovely green apple acidity and a slight floral note. An incredibly refreshing wine, perfect for a warm evening. Fantastic work Lou Miranda Estate!!
7th wine of Christmas - 2013 Lofty Range Chardonnay by De Salis
The 7th wine of Christmas is an absolute beauty of a wine.De Salis's 2013 Lofty Range Chardonnay sits right at home in The Wine Pig's top 12 wines for this Christmas season. Located on the edge of Mt Canobolas in Orange, NSW, the cool climate helps create a perfect full bodied wine. In keeping with the De Salis style, this Chardonnay is complex, big flavoured and rich but also fantastically balanced. It truly needs to be tasted to be believed!
8th wine of Christmas - Sparkling Durif-Zinfandel by Petersons
And for the 8th wine of Christmas The Wine Pig couldn't help but crack open a wonderful bottle sparkling Durif-Zinfandel from Petersons, NSW. Inky black with fine little bubbles and a hit of rich dark berries with savory spice and hints of dark chocolate. A fantastic wine for when you're looking for something a little bit different when celebrating this Christmas! And as Petersons say themselves... "life is flat without bubbles"!
9th wine of Christmas - Old Tawny Liqueur by Patina Wines
The 9th wine of Christmas is a spectacular Old Tawny Liqueur from Patina Wines in Orange, NSW. The amazing blend has had many years of aging in small oak barrels and the outcome is fantastic. A wonderfully fruity and complex post-Christmas dinner wine which is offset by lucious nutty and sweet toffee notes. No Christmas would be complete without it! Great work Patina Wines!!
10th wine of Christmas - 2014 Shiraz Viognier by Clonakilla
The Wine Pig's 10th wine of Christmas is from the wonderful Clonakilla! This stunning 2014 Shiraz Viognier is to die for. This wine is simply breathtaking! Made straight from Clonakilla’s best Shiraz Viognier grapes, all of which are sourced on the site, its wonderfully smooth, balanced perfectly between grace and power. It’s Clonakilla’s iconic wine, and one it should be proud of!
11th wine of Christmas - 2011 late harvest Golden Triangle Semillion by Mudgee Wines
The Wine Pig's 11th wine of Christmas is a 2011 late harvest Golden Triangle Semillion from Mudgee Wines, NSW. a wonderful desert wine which is golden honey in colour and has full torpical mango and pinapple notes with a hint of oakiness. Incredibly smooth and incredibly wonderful. Hello Christmas!!!!
12th wine of Christmas - 2013 Pinot Gris by Lake George Winery
The Wine Pig's 12 wines of Christmas ends with a 2013 Pinot Gris by Lake George Winery, Canberra. This wine is deliciously rich with wonderfully strong pear and tropical fruit notes balanced with just the right amount of acidity. An absolute delight to drink! Merry Christmas!!!
The white wine spectrum is so incredibly vast that it undoubtedly offers something for every kind wine drinker. The colour alone varies from anything incredibly clear and neutral, all the way through the palette to straw-yellow or even gold. Similarly there are 100s of varieties, and within those varieties, 100s of versions. Confused much?
Undoubtedly the best occasion to reach for a bottle of your favourite white is when the temperature outside is scorching (or at least when the heating is up high inside). Either way it’s best served cold – not so cold it has turned to slush and tastes like water or worse, acid, but cool enough that it retains some character – so skip the fridge (it gets too cold) and invest in a nice fancy ice bucket instead. And while you’re visiting the shops, why not grab one of our top five whites under A$25? It won’t even stretch the budget!
1.Jim Barry, Clare Valley – 2014 The Lodge Hill Riesling Jim Barry makes The Wine Pig’s top spot again, this time with the whites. As one of the highest vineyards in Clare Valley, the winery is also fantastic for producing strong ‘minerally’ Rieslings. This wine is gorgeously citrusy and acidic but wonderfully smooth, its fruity but flowery and dry but with a hint of spice – it is the tightrope of the Riesling world, an incredibly well balanced and stable tightrope made from grapes…
2.Robert Stein Winery & Vineyard, Mudgee – 2014 GewürztraminerDo you love lychees? Are you partial to a block or two of Turkish delight? Yes? Well then you’ll love Gewürztraminer, and you’ll certainly fall in love with Robert Steins Gewürztraminer! This wine is incredibly refreshing and mixes that addictive crispness with a big dollop of sweetness. It’s one of those wines types which make you sound drunk trying to pronounce before you’ve even touched a drop, and as the bottle empties, trust me, this only gets worse. Say it with me: guh-vorts-truh-mee-nur… or is it ge-vert-stra-me-nar? I rest my case.
3.Mitchell Wines, Clare Valley – 2014 Watervale Riesling As home to some of Australia’s best Riesling wines, it is probably of no surprise that another Clare Valley local has made it into our top five whites. The unique winemaking style sets it apart from anything else it sits next to on the shelf, and makes it extremely quaffable. It’s fragrant, zesty, crispy, dry and intense and always leaves you wanting a little more. Sit back, enjoy the warm air and have another glass.
4. Hungerford Hill, Hunter Valley – 2014 Classic Hunter Valley VerdelhoIt’s punchy, it’s spicy, citrusy and flowery. This unwooded version of a Hunter Valley Verdelho is fab for anyone wanting to look further afield than your traditional sauvignon blanc but who still likes the full flavoured crispness. YUM!
5.Voyager Estate, Margaret River – 2014 Chenin BlancVoyager Estate have done a great job with this very easy drinking, early Chenin Blanc. It’s got all the succulent and juicy tropical flavours with a hint of great sweetness while also being a fine full bodied white wine. Imagine swaying in a hammock in the warm breeze, in one hand a plate of tropical fruits and in the other a cool glass of Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc. Heaven.
This isn’t a question often pondered in The Wine Pig household, because it’s rare we find ourselves in the position where we have an open bottle of wine which isn’t empty. But occasionally we get carried away – usually when we have friends or family over – waking up the next morning with sore head and a scattering of half-drunk bottles around the apartment.I’m sure nearly all wine-drinkers have been in the awful situation where we’ve sat down to drink a glass of our favourite vino only to take a sip tasting something similar to sour plums or vinegar.This usually opens up a debate – how long can the bottle stay opened before the wine goes off? God forbid we would have to throw any of our precious fermented grape goodness away!Annoyingly, the answer seems to be dependent on the type of wine, temperature, conditions of storage, whether it has a cork or is screw top, and also whether the wine has been decanted or not (we do this often). The general consensus seems to be 1-3 days but I personally feel that wine begins to deteriorate after 24 hours. And the worst case scenario? An amazing cooking wine.Sparkling wineAn opened bottle of sparkling wine can last for up to 24 hours if it has the right champagne stopper – no, putting a silver spoon handle in the bottle opening does not make the bubbles last longer. The moment you take that cork out the carbonation is released and it will begin to go flat, so take my advice and drink the bottle.White wineIn our experience, lighter more acidic white wines tend to last around 2 days, and the deeper more oaky chardonnay-esk wines a little longer, although the taste does alter. Once opened make sure it is sealed tightly and refrigerated (not in the door where the temperature is temperamental).Red wineSimilarly to white wine, the deeper heavier wines tend to last a little longer than the lighter ones. As for something like a pinot noir, it’s unlikely to last longer than 24 hours assuming it is stored correctly in a dark cool place.I’m not convinced that refrigerating red wine after opening slows down the process, partly because my fridge does not count as a ‘dark’ place when I’m opening it every five minutes looking for treats, and also because the extra time it then needs to get back up to room temperature. Feedback on this topic is welcome!Fortified wineWe ask this question of most the winemakers we meet, and are answered with anything between 24 hours and 6 months. Generally, as we understand it, our much loved fortified wine and port can happily last refrigerated up to a month due to the high amount of sugar involved. However I’ve also heard that the longer the bottle has been stored the shorter it lives once opened. Best crack open that bottle of 1985 port at the weekend then!