Being a wine connoisseur is not simply a matter of drinking and enjoying the taste of fine wines. There is much more to discerning the flavors and characteristics of wine than meets the eye. A true wine connoisseur will have a deep understanding on the subject of wine. A connoisseur’s knowledge of wine goes beyond tasting and being able to order the appropriate wine for dining in a fine restaurant. His knowledge is in the detailed methods of winemaking and the science behind it. For example, he will be able to identify the aging process in a young wine, and that knowledge goes far beyond being able to enjoy the gastronomic aspects of wine.
Most wine connoisseurs will obtain a certification as a sommelier. This education includes the history of wines, the laws regarding wine, geography, the various varieties of wine, and where they are grown. These people are found in high end restaurants, and are wine stewards, not waiters. Their job is to pair and suggest wines that will complement any food item on the menu using their intimate knowledge of the taste of the wine, the region it is from, and the characteristics of the wine in question. They must work within the taste preferences and within the budget parameters of the patrons. Since they are in direct contact with the patrons of the restaurant, they must comport themselves professionally and confidently. There are three levels of sommeliers: Sommelier, Master Sommelier, and Master of Wine being the highest level.
Wine grapes are not the same kind that you purchase in a grocery store. The grapes for making wine are smaller, but sweet, have seeds, and thick outer skins. There are over a thousand kinds of wine grapes, but there are basically four types of wine: white, red, sparkling, and rose’. The most popular white wine in the world is Chardonnay, but some people do not like the woody flavor of the oaked Chardonnay. Another white wine is Sauvignon Blanc; originating in France, it is considered a summer wine. Pinot Grigio has flavors of lime, lemon, and green apple and is a very dry wine. Riesling is sweet, but is also a dry wine. White wines pair deliciously with fish, chicken, shrimp, milder cheeses, and even salads. “As a rule of thumb, the lighter the food, the lighter the wine,” states Brenda Lai in her recent article entitled “5 Best Foods to Eat with White Wine.”
Red wines include: Pinot Noir, known for its acidity; Syrah/Shiraz, spicy, darkest red and full-bodied; Zifandel, high content of alcohol; and Cabernet Sauvignon, high in tannins and dry. Pair Cabernet Sauvignon with any meat, but drink Zifandel with pork or ribs. You can drink Pinot Noir with salmon or sushi. It is permissible to drink this red wine with fish!
Sparkling wine is actually champagne and contains carbon dioxide which makes it bubbly. However, the name “champagne” is actually reserved, under law, for the sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. Lastly, the beautiful rose’ wine from Provence now has competition from California, Sicily, and Bordeaux. This pink wine is an American favorite.
However, whether you are a wine connoisseur, or just an average person who occasionally enjoys the rich, robust taste of “du vin,” it is important to remember that there are many different flavors of wines, and each has a unique quality that makes them a favorite of both Americans and Europeans, alike. So, the next time you are in a restaurant, order whatever agrees with your own personal taste in wine. Enjoy!
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