What do I need to know about wine tasting? Here are some general tips for getting the most out of tasting your wine.

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Know your wines

In South Africa, wines carry a Wine of Origin Seal which certifies that the wine derives 100% from a particular area of origin, the name of which will be on the body label, together with the words “Wine of Origin”/W.O. The identification number, placed vertically on the Wine of Origin Seal

guarantees the following:

• Accuracy of claims in respect of origin, vintage and cultivar/variety. • Compliance with legal requirements, e.g. maximum SO2 content, sugar levels, etc.

• Approval of the wine’s quality and varietal typicality by a tasting panel of the Wine and Spirit Board.

What do I need to know about wine tasting?

Here are some general tips for getting the most out of tasting your wine. Wine should be consumed purely for enjoyment, but when tasting wine in order to assess it, here are some important aspects to bear in mind: Appearance

By tilting the glass at a 45 degree angle and looking at the wine against a white background, you can learn a great deal about the age and quality of the wine. For example, a red wine with a garnet/brick-red appearance is well matured whereas one with a purple tinge is very young and

immature. The normal colour for dry, off-dry and semi-sweet white wine is straw-coloured with a hint of green. Straw or lemon coloured wine with a green tinge normally indicates a very young white wine, yellow-gold normally indicates a bottle-aged or older dry white, but a very old or oxidised white wine will be yellow-brown or old-gold in colour.

Clarity is important - the wine should be clear, bright and appealing without any cloudiness.


Also known as the wine’s bouquet, the nose is crucial as our sense of smell makes up about 75% of taste perception.

Swirl the wine in the bowl of the glass and concentrate on the initial impression of the first, quick sniff. Then swirl again and give a number of


short sniffs. You’re looking out for a clean smell without any off-odours and for flavours that the smell reminds you of. The classic noble wines, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. produce their own individual aromas which can only be memorised by tasting and re-tasting good examples.

You should be able to pick up cleanliness, characteristic grape aroma and flavours from the nose.


Many of the features of wine can be detected on the palate by drawing a small quantity of wine into the mouth, accompanied by air, circulating it and spitting it out. In this way you should be able to detect the following: Body

The weight of the wine in the mouth, which can range from thin and delicate to medium or full


Normally found in red wines only, an essential element of any young red wine to prolong its active life


The vital spark without which the wine would taste flat - if too acidic it would be tart


Are all the components in harmony, or is one dominant? Flavour

This can be simple, straightforward or complex and is an important element with regard to quality


A clean, crisp finish is the mark of a good white wine. The longer the aftertaste the better the quality.

Hints & Tips for Storing Your Wine

Here are some guidelines to help you maintain the optimum conditions for your wine collection.



Ideally wine should be stored in an underground cellar. If you don't have access to a cellar, your wine can still be stored successfully in a built-in cupboard fitted with shelves or the unused space below the floorboards. For serious collectors, a room above ground can be turned into a wine cellar by sealing and insulating the windows and roof. The room should be kept dark, cool (14 – 16ºC) and have good air circulation. The room

should be slightly humid to prevent drying out of corks and not be subjected to vibrations from electrical appliances or other machines. How?

Bottles should lie on their sides in racks to ensure corks remain moist to prevent damage by oxidation. Your wines should be stored with labels uppermost so that they can be read without unnecessary disturbance. How long?

Traditionally South African red wines needed between 7 and 12 years of laying down in order to reach their optimum maturation. However, these days many wines are ready for drinking sooner and it is suggested that you taste wines from your collection regularly in order to assess when they are at their best to enjoy.

White wines

White wines are usually ready for drinking within a few weeks of bottling. Only those whites with good acidity, low pH's and enough fruit can be laid down.

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhine Riesling often benefit from 2 – 3 years in the bottle, especially those which have been wood-matured. The sweeter dessert wines with their high sugar content can be matured even longer.

Red wines

Full-bodied, complex reds (especially those with a high Cabernet content) can be stored for more than fifteen years.


ones with good tannin, acid and fruitiness.

A general guide for the time to mature wine: Cabernet - 10 years or longer

Pinotage - 8 years or longer

Blended reds - 8 - 18 years or longer

Frequently asked questions about serving wine In which order do I serve my wines?

According to Cassagnac “The order of wines is in the inverse of the guests: the most respectable come last”. His quote notwithstanding, the general rules are outlined below:

Serve dry wine before sweet, otherwise the dry wine will taste acidic. Serve light wine before full-bodied. This prevents the light wine from appearing thin in relation with the full wine.

Serve young wine before aged wine, else even good quality young wine will taste sharp and coarse.

Late harvest style wines which are sweet should be served after red wine. At which temperature do I serve my wines?

Helpful hint: If you’ve forgotten to chill a wine in time, place the bottle in a container with a mixture of ice and cold water with a small handful of salt.

White wine – well chilled

Sparkling wines – chilled in an ice bucket Dry sherries – chilled when weather is warm Red wines – room temperature 18°C

Red Nouveaus – very cool

Sweet wines – chilled (the sweeter the cooler) Which glasses should I use for different wines?

Your personal preference plays a large role in your choice of vessel.

Generally speaking, wine glasses are tulip-shaped, have a stem and are of clear, uncoloured glass. Wines glasses should never be filled more than two thirds full. Large glasses can be filled half full.





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