Wine Guide for Beginners: Understanding Wine Makes It Taste Better

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Wine Cheering - Wine Guide for Beginners

Wine is one of the oldest drinks in the world. Appreciated by many of us, wine became a stable part of our dining, going out or just chilling at a terrace. You don’t have to be an expert to be able to enjoy a glass of wine (or two). In recent research, it was scientifically approved that understanding wine makes it taste better. 

You’ve probably heard that many times from your friends that any wine you like is a good wine. That’s obviously true, but what makes a good wine to be good enough? As we, at BANG Restaurant, are award-winning wine lovers, proud of being one of a few Dublin restaurants which received Wine Spectator’s 2018 “Award of Excellence”, we decided to create this Wine Guide for you which explains basic science behind this magical drink. 

After reading this article, you will be able to understand winemaking processes, differentiate basic types of wine, describe colour and taste, and be able to recognise which wine goes best with what meal. By having read this Wine Guide, you can master your next dinner with your friends, family or date and impress them by your knowledge. 

Before you dive into this article, we recommend you to pour a glass of your favourite wine and enjoy the reading!

Red wine goes perfectly with cheese - Wine Guide for Beginners - BANG Restaurant & Bar DUBLIN
The biggest wine producers are Spain, France and the United States.

How is wine produced?

If you want to truly enjoy wine, it’s important to understand the essentials behind. Trust us, it makes it taste better. You don’t have to master all the science behind but having basic knowledge about wine production will offer a brand new kind of experience from your dining.

Grape skin and pulp

Have you ever wondered how is wine produced? There is just one ingredient: grapes (no added sugar or anything else needed).

To be more specific, there are two parts of grape used for different wine-production methods: skin and pulp. Skin gives the wine its specific colour and pulp contains the grape juice needed for the sweetness and juicy texture. What’s interesting about skin and pulp is that each part can be used for different types of wine depending on how light, sweet, bitter or juicy wine should be.

From grapes to bottle

There are a few steps to follow when it comes to the process of winemaking. Various methods, however, can differ depending on the kind of grapes, colour, a region the grapes were cultivated in, and last but not least, what kind of wine the winemaker wants to produce in the end.

Let’s have a look at 6 steps needed for the process of transforming grapes into wine:

  1.   Harvest the grapes
  2.   Crush the grapes and extract the juice
  3.   Ferment the grapes (into wine)
  4.   Wine is pressured and filtered (into a clear liquid substance)
  5.   Age the wine (in wooden barrels or carboys)
  6.   Bottle the wine

The magic behind transforming grapes into wine is called fermentation. Fermentation is a natural process when yeast consumes sugars and produces alcohol (ethanol) and carbon dioxide. That’s part when grape juice turns into an alcoholic beverage and the result of fermentation in winemaking is called wine.

Tannins and difference between colour and taste

You can surely differentiate white and red wine from just having a look at the glass. But did you know that despite red and white grapes have a different colour of skin, they are both of the same colour from inside? That’s right. The pulp of both red and white grapes is white. You may wonder, how is red wine produced if the pulp is always white?

We have already mentioned that wines have different colours because of the grape skin. The one and only ingredient responsible for the wine’s colour and its specific taste is called tannin.

Tannins are substances which naturally occur in plants and fruits (in seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins) and they are also responsible for a specific flavour in wines. Tannins’ flavour can be described as bitter, causing a dry and puckery feeling on your tongue. Depending on how long you leave the grape skin in the process of fermentation, more tannins are extracted into the juice – causing the double effect of making the wine darker (red wine) and its taste stronger.

Tannin is not proportionally present in grapes. The amount of tanning depends on the colour of the grape skin. Let’s have a look at how much tannin different wines have and how to accurately name it.

Red wine contains the highest amount of tannins in comparison with rosé or white wines. Red wine is produced by fermenting juices with skins together (so called mash), the result is usually described as “leathery”, “firm” or “bitter”.

Rosé, or in other words, “pink wine” has a low amount of tannin. It’s either made by limiting the contact of the juice with the skin for a relatively short time (so they acquire only light color), or by combining red and white wines. Rosé’s taste is “light”, “fruity” and “blush”, as you might describe it.

White wine contains a very little amount of tannin in comparison with red wine, and skins are removed before the fermentation takes place. White wines are generally backboned by acidity. If they are acid enough, you might call them “tart” or “crisp”, or “flabby” or “flat” if there’s not enough acidity present.

Don’t serve red wine cold

All wine should be stored at the same temperature, however, there are different rules when it comes to serving wine. For example, it’s not recommended to serve red wine cold. The high amount of tannin present in red wine (responsible for the bitter taste) gets even more bitter once exposed to cold temperatures. In opposite, white wine and rose taste better when they are chilled before consuming. In the end, everything is about preferences and individual taste.

Sparkling wines and Champagne

If you would be ever doubting whether to choose a sparkling wine or champagne in a restaurant, you should know the difference between them. Surprisingly, there’s absolutely nothing different except the region of origin of grapes! There is an international trademarked sparkling wine product which origins in the French region named Champagne. Only wines produced in this region can be called Champagne (and labelled accordingly) which, in international wine market translation, means sparkling wine.

Sparkling wine is made either by directly carbonating the wine or by doing a second fermentation. Yeast is producing carbon dioxide (which is allowed to escape during the production of ordinary wine), which dissolves into the wine and is released only once you open the bottle.

Wine served with meal - BANG Restaurant Dublin
We serve the best selection of Award-Winning wines at BANG Restaurant Dublin

How to describe the taste of wine?

Once you already know the main difference between various wines, let’s have a look at the main factors when it comes to describing the taste. You don’t have to learn French to know how to describe wines. Sweetness, acidity, body, tannin and flavour are 5 key descriptors of a taste of wine.

Sweetness is the level of sugary taste in wine. Wine can be either sweet or dry (opposites), medium-dry or off-dry (if it contains just a hint of sweetness, to be precise).

Acidity is typical mainly for white wines, as we mentioned before. White wines can be either too acidic (“crisp”) or not acidic enough (“flat”). 

Body is basically the texture of the wine. It refers to the viscosity of wine which can be either full-bodied or light-bodied. A medium-bodied wine is somewhere in-between.

Tannin is the big deal in wines – you already know that. Lower tannin wines (white wine and rose) are smooth and soft, and higher tannin wines are bitter, inky or intense.

Flavour is the most subjective descriptor when it comes to wines. As each of us has a different range of sensitivity of tongue receptors, one wine tasted by three different people will be described in three different ways. However, the most relatable flavours like fruity, earthy, flowery,  spicy, or smoky, can be used.

Use these words to describe wine so that you can shine:

  • “leathery”, “firm” or “bitter” or “inky” for red wines
  • “fruity”, “flowery”, “citrusy” or “crunchy” for rose wines
  • “tart” or “crisp”, or “flabby” or “flat” for white wines

Wines from different countries and regions

Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc – if these names sound familiar to you, you might know that these are a few of the most popular wines (wine varietals) in the world. However, these names are not invented by wine-factories. These and many more are named after regions where specific grapes were cultivated.

If you are wondering why the majority of wine varietals are in French or Italian, we have a simple explanation. Italy and France are the biggest producers of wine in the world. The top three biggest wine producers are European countries – France, Italy and Spain, followed by the USA and Latin American countries.

We have selected the most popular wine varietals of each type of wine:

  • Red wine varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Barbera, Pinot Noir
  • Rosé wine varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Zinfandel
  • White wine varietals: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sémillon, Moscato (Muscat), Gewürztraminer

The biggest and most recognised wine producers are Spain, France and the United States. We created the table below for you to see which type of wine is produced in which country. You can find the following wines in our Award-Winning Wine List as well.

Country Grapes
France Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah, Viognier, Chardonnay
Italy Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Moscato, Pinot, Grigio
United States Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel 
Argentina Malbec, Bonarda
Chile Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc
Australia Shiraz, Chardonnay
Germany Riesling, Gewurztraminer, 
Spain Tempranillo, Albarino, Garnacha, Palomino
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
South Africa Pinotage, Chenin Blanc

If you fancy to try any of the wines mentioned in this article, visit our restaurant and we will help you to choose the right one for your meal. You can also enjoy wine pairing – our Wine List was awarded by Spectator Award of Excellence 2018 and our team of professionals will advise the best wines to go with every course so that your experience from dining in BANG Restaurant will be unforgettable. We are based near Dublin City Centre and offer an excellent Michelin-nominated dining experience in a cozy and modern interior. 

Enjoy private dining, corporate dining or celebrations in the BANG Restaurant

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