GREATLY INCREASE YOUR WINE KNOWLEGE AND ENJOYMENT
About The Wine Board Of Ireland
The Wine Board of Ireland is a division of the Wine & Spirit Association of Ireland, the trade body for the Wine and Spirit Industry. The Wine Board was founded in 1977 with the objective of promoting wine in Ireland through training, education and wine promotion activities.
Since its foundation thousands of students, from general wine enthusiasts to industry professionals, have received qualifications from the Wine Board. This training has greatly advanced wine knowledge and understanding in the Retail and Hospitality sectors as well as in the wider community. Importantly, this activity has also supported the growth and development of the wine market in Ireland.
While the Wine Board of Ireland no longer provides wine club reviews or advice on which wine club is best and worst, we do recommend The Wine Club Directory which is a US based website that reviews all the major wine clubs in the United States and Canada.
The Wine Club Directory is the oldest wine club review website online and provides detailed reviews on the best California Wine Clubs, Italian Wine Clubs, Pinot Noir Wine Clubs, Kosher Wine Clubs, etc. For EU based visitors, their Virgin Wine Club Review will be of the most interest.
The Wine Club Directory is a family run business that has been reviewing wine clubs since 2001. The review California Wineries and wines on a regular basis, but are also not adverse to featuring wines from France, Italy and other parts of Europe. You can learn more about the Wine Club Directory at http://www.wineclubdirectory.net.
Activities Of The Wine Board
The main activities of the Wine Board are as follows:
- Provision of a comprehensive range of wine courses, for every level from complete beginners / wine enthusiasts through to those working in the industry in a professional capacity. WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Certificate courses and the WSET Diploma are also provided. Courses take place in a number of city locations throughout Ireland including Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford.
- A Staff Recruitment service featuring jobs currently available within the Wine Trade in Ireland. This service is accessed via the "Jobs in the Wine Trade" section of the web site. Posting of job vacancies on the web site is free of charge to all members of the Wine Board.
- Publication of annual data on the Wine and Spirits markets in Ireland and the provision of monthly market statistics to members of the Wine Board.
- Participation in wine events for both the trade and general public in order to promote and develop greater knowledge and understanding of wine in Ireland.
- To provide wine information of both a general and specific nature for all interested parties, be they the general public, importers / distributors, retailers or members of the Wine Board.
Whatever your level of interest in wine, you will find it find it catered for at the Wine Board of Ireland. All are welcome.
Whether you are a complete beginner who needs help choosing wine in your off-licence or restaurant, a wine enthusiast who wants to increase your knowedge about wines, or working within the wine and spirits trade seeking further qualifications, we have the course for you.
When tasting wine, you use three senses - sight, smell and taste. Using these three senses helps you enjoy tasting wines and also helps you to recognise wines when you come across them again:
Pour about an inch of wine into your glass (a tulip shaped glass is best). Tilt the glass away from you and observe the colour. Wines change colour with age. Whites from green to gold and red wines start off life as purple and with age change to ruby and then garnet.
Then swirl the glass (this allows some air to mix with the wine) and "sniff" the wine. Smelling the wine helps ensures the wine is fresh and clean (there should be no mouldy smells). It also helps you attribute some fruit character to the wine, e.g. gooseberries, lemons, blackberries.
Finally taste the wine. Take a good sip and swirl the wine around your mouth so it contacts all parts of the mouth, tongue, gums, palate. This is necessary because different parts of the mouth are sensitive to different tastes. Try and draw some air into your mouth and over the wine. Lean forward so that the wine rests on your teeth, purse your lips and suck in through your mouth. This needs a little practice, but is well worth it, as the flavours of the wine are drawn out.
Try to assess the following:
Sweetness is noticeable in the front of the tongue. A wine with no sugar is called "dry"
Acidity makes the side of your mouth water. It is very important in a wine as it makes the wine fresh & lively. Too much and the wine is tart. Too little and the wine is flabby.
This is found in young red wines (as the wine matures the tannin softens out). It is felt on teeth, gums and tongue and makes your mouth feel dry. To experience the taste of tannin have a cup of very strong black tea!
This is the general "feel" of the wine in the mouth. Some German wines often feel light whereas wines like an Australian Shiraz can feel big and robust.
This is the overall taste of fruit in your mouth. In general, the better the wine is made, the greater the level of fruit.
This strange term simply means how long the flavour lingers in your mouth after spitting (or swallowing). Usually the longer the better.
Food & Wine
Most wines are produced as an accompaniment to food and there are many established guidelines for matching food with wine successfully.
Originally wine styles evolved to complement the cuisine of a region, so this is often a good starting point for finding a good wine and food combination.
There is no single choice of wine which must be drunk with a certain dish, but some are definitely a better match than others. Often your favourite wine with your favourite dish is the most perfect match for you. To achieve the best match try to balance the basic elements in both the wine and food.
A Golden Rule of thumb is to match the weight and body of a wine with the delicacy or richness of food.
Example: A light white wine would be overpowered by a rich beef stew whereas a full bodied red like a Bordeaux or a New World Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz would work very well here.
The following are some general guide lines which may assist you in matching your food & wine:
- Generally speaking white wine matches well with chicken / fish dishes and red wine with meat dishes
- The stronger the flavours in the dish the more fruit flavours are needed in the wine. For example dishes like a fish dish try more delicate wines like Muscadet or Soave.
- For spicy foods try an aromatic wine e.g. Gewùrztraminer or Riesling.
- Sweet food is best with a wine with a similar or greater degree of sweetness
- Rich sweet wines with a good level of acidity also go well with rich foods such as pate. Sweetness can also balance saltiness e.g. Port and Stilton Cheese.
- For smoked foods try an oaky wine.
Types Of Wine
Light (still) Wine
This is the simplest and most common type of wine, made all over the world. The alcohol is between 8% and 15%. Examples of light wines are Chablis from Burgundy and Chianti from Italy.
Fortified wines are also known as Liqueur wines. These wines have had their level of alcohol increased by the addition of grape spirit (brandy). There are two method of making a fortified wine, the Port method and the Sherry method.
- Ports are made by adding the grape spirit before fermentation is complete. The addition of the high alcohol spirit kills off the yeasts that are converting the sugars into alcohol. The resulting wine contains some residual sugar and is sweet.
- In order to make sherry, the fortification (addition of grape spirit) takes place after fermentation when all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. As a result all natural Sherries are dry, however, sweetness can be added later.
Sparkling Wines are made by trapping Carbon Dioxide gas in the wine. When the bottle is opened bubbles of gas are released. There are different methods employed around the world for the production of Sparkling Wine. The most famous example of Sparkling wine is Champagne made by the Traditional Method.
Aromatised wines are flavoured with aromatic herbs and spices and are usually sweetened. Vermouth is an aromatised wine.
Styles of Wine
The above types of wine can come in a variety of styles.
Colour: Red - White - Pink
Red - The colour in red wines comes from the grapes skins. The depth of colour depends on how long the skins are left in contact with the juice. However, some grapes are naturally lighter or darker in colour and this will also affect the final colour of the wine.
White - White wine can be made from either white or black grapes. If making white wine from black grapes the winemaker must take great care to remove the skins quickly from the juice to ensure that no colour is imparted into the wine from the skins. Champagne is an example of a white wine that can be made from black grapes.
Pink - commonly know as Rosé. These wines are made using black grapes but as they are given very short skin contact with the juice the resulting wine is pink instead of red.
Sweetness: Dry, Off Dry, Medium Sweet, Sweet
Dry - the most common styles of wine in Ireland tend to be dry, meaning that there is no sugar in the wine. An example of a dry wine is Rioja or Chablis.
Off Dry - a wine that has a small amount of residual sugar left in it is known as off dry. The sweetness in a wine can be detected on the tip of your tongue. An example of an off-dry wine is a Demi Sec Champagne.
Medium Sweet - a wine that contains more sugar and is usually white or rosé. An example is Liebfraumilch from Germany.
Sweet - a wine containing a lot of sugar making the wine feel fuller, rounder and richer in the mouth. Dessert wines are sweet. An example is Tokaji from Hungary or Asti from Italy.
Other factors affecting the style of a wine
Alcohol - the level of alcohol in a wine is generally dependant on where it is from in the world. The warmer the climate, the higher the alcohol tends to be. New world wines tend to have higher alcohol levels than wines from Europe as the climates are hotter. There are of course exceptions to this, Chile has some quite cool regions as the vines are grown at altitude and New Zealand also has a cool climate. Amarone from Italy is typically 15% but this is due to the production method more than the climate. German wines can have alcohol as low as 7% and some Australian and South African wines can be 15%+.
Oak - French and American oak barrels are the most common forms of wood used for fermenting and maturing wines in. Not all wine is suited to oak aging; aromatic varieties such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are better without oak influence as it masks their distinctive characteristics. Chardonnay has a great affinity with oak; the wines gain toasty, spicy and buttery characteristics when they have had oak contact. Red wines take on spicy notes such as nutmeg, cinnamon and clove as well as coconut, cedar and vanilla characteristics.
Acidity - this is the mouth watering sensation you feel at the sides of you mouth when you taste the wine. It is essential to have the right level of acidity to balance out a wine and to give the wine a refreshing quality. When a wine is sweet a higher level of acidity is desirable so that the wine does not leave a sticky cloying feeling in the mouth. Acidity can also give certain wines longevity.
Other common wine queries
What are sulphites?
Sulphites are naturally occurring preservatives found in many foods including almost all wines. Extra sulphites have been added to wine for centuries to allow the wine to age and to prevent spoilage and oxidation.
How do I know if a bottle of wine is corked?
Before serving wine you should check to make sure that it is not faulty. Pour a small amount into a glass, swirl it around to let the aromas release and then sniff the wine. A mouldy or musty smell indicates that a wine has cork taint (more commonly known as 'corked'). The cause of this is the presence of a substance called TCA. A corked wine has reduced aromas and, although it is not harmful, a very tainted wine is quite unpleasant. If you get a 'corked' wine, you should return it to the store from which it was purchased or ask for a replacement bottle in a restaurant. Only a very small percentage of wines are corked. A wine with small pieces of cork in it is not corked.
Screw Caps v Corks
This is a really hot topic at the moment in the wine world. The main argument is over the issue of aging. The cork has a wonderful ability to let the wine breathe which is important for the wine to age. No one knows how screw caps will react to long periods of aging. The cork offers tradition and a proven track record. One advantage of a Screw cap (or Stelvin closure) is that the wine will not be affected by cork taint (see above). The majority of wine bought in this country is drunk within a few hours of its purchase so aging the wine isn't much of an issue in this case. It seems that the Stelvin closure is the best alternative to cork currently available. However, there are numerous other projects under way in an attempt to find a better solution that may be successful.
What type of wine glasses should I use when tasting wine?
Any glass can be used but some glasses are better than others. In all the wine courses run by the Wine Board we use ISO wine tasting glasses. These glasses are specifically designed to be used across a wide spectrum of wine styles - allowing you to sample all wines using just the one glass. The clear bowl allows you to see the true colour, the long stems prevent your hand warming the wine and the tapered tops help concentrate the aromas. Any glass matching these characteristics would be fine and will make tasting easier and more enjoyable.
Is it important to decant a wine?
It is useful to decant a wine to allow the air into it and to let the wine breathe. This helps the aromas to release and enhances the flavours, increasing the enjoyment of the wine. If a wine is very old it is more important to decant it as not only will it need to breathe but it may also contain a lot of sediment in the bottle. Decanting a wine allows you to separate the clear wine and leave the sediment in the bottle. The process is usually used with vintage ports or older red wines, but all reds can benefit from an hour of breathing.
How long does a wine keep for once it is opened?
Wine begins to oxidize when opened, breaking down the flavours and eventually spoiling the taste. White, rose and red wine can be re-corked and placed in the fridge for several days (bring it up to temperature before reserving). It takes a week or so for wine to really start going bad. Letting a bottle sit out for a few days will not ruin it. However, after a few days a wine will lose much of its flavour. To keep Champagne after it has been opened you can use a Champagne bottle stopper. This will keep the pressure in the Champagne.
What is wine?
The EU Definition of Wine Wine is the product obtained from the total or partial alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes, whether or not crushed, or of grape must.
Where is wine produced?
Nearly two thirds of the world's wine is produced in Europe. In the remaining parts of the world the leading producers are Argentina, Australia, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and USA.
How much is produced?
Nearly 36 billion bottles of wine are produced annually world wide.
What temperature should wine be served at?
It is very much your personal choice and there are always exceptions to the rules. Some light red wines, such as Beaujolais Nouveau or New Zealand Pinot Noir, are delicious chilled. It is important to chill Sparkling wine as this reduced the pressure in the bottle and makes it easier and safer to open.
The general rules are:
How should wine be stored?
Wine should be kept at a constant temperature ideally between 10° and 13° C and stored in a dark place as too much light is bad for wine. Wine should be stored on its side keeping the liquid in contact with the cork to prevent the cork drying out. Also wine should not be stored next to products with strong odours e.g. paint, fuel or vegetables.
Almost all of the wine bought by consumers is made from the fruit of vitis vinifera vines. There are over 3,000 grape varieties suitable for making wine. A number of varieties have established a reputation for making outstanding wine in certain regions
Examples of such grapes and their traditional areas are:
- Riesling: Rheingau in Germany and Alsace in France
- Chardonnay: Burgundy in France
- Sauvignon Blanc: Sancerre in the Loire Valley and Marlborough in New Zealand
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Bordeaux in France
- Pinot Noir: Burgundy in France
- Sangiovese: Chianti in Italy
Certain grapes varieties exhibit distinctive aroma and flavour characteristics. Here are some of the frequently used words to describe the specific varieties.
Gooseberries, Nettles, Green Peppers and Passion Fruit
Melons & Pineapples, also Toast if the wine had been oaked
Tropical Fruits such as Mango and Apricot, Toast and Honey as it ages
Apples, Lime and believe it or not Petrol as it ages!
Blackcurrants, Cedar Merlot Dark Fruits and Fruit Cake Syrah/Shiraz Blackberries, leather and chocolate as it ages
Strawberries & Raspberries, turning leathery and vegetal as it ages