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What things should we consider when selecting a wine?

 

Wine, and red wine in particular, is one of the most natural beverages in the world after water. It is nothing more than letting a grape ripen until it ferments, without the need to use chemical additives or other substances. Wine was the healthiest drink in Medieval Europe, and was even used to battle typhus. In fact, it was common to add a few drops to drinking water to purify it.

 

This is why doctors and researchers correlate the natural elements of wine with certain health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, preserving cardiac health, maintaining a healthy weight and aiding in digestion.

 

The price tag on a bottle of wine is not necessarily a direct indicator of its quality. In other words, more expensive does not always mean better. The actual cost of a bottle of wine directly reflects the following concepts:

 

The cost of the different materials used, such as the cork, bottle, type of label, etc.

The geographical area

The techniques used for growing and caring for the vines (manual, natural ground cover, etc.)

Vine yield

Time and method of wine production at the winery (ageing in new barrels or second fill casks, type of wood used in the barrels, etc.)

 

This can bring us to the conclusion that a young wine is neither better nor worse than a vintage wine. It is simply different.

 

And what about flavour and aroma? As sensory factors, this is a subjective opinion, and varies from person to person.

 

So if in a white wine we find a certain degree of acidity, in addition to being fruity and crisp on the palate, for red wines we prefer a lower degree of acidity, although a higher degree helps to preserve the wine longer.

 

Whatever the case, a wine does not need to have flowery or musty aromas, and even less so if we are talking about a young wine. A fine wine will reflect an attribute of each stage of the growing and ageing process when in the glass: an indication of the vine it comes from; an aroma hinting at the type of grape; a floral and fruity impression which is unique to the specific varietal; and an aroma of the type of wood it has been aged in. This serves a sole purpose, which is to pique the desire of the gourmand and invite them to take another sip.

 

Another extremely important aspect in wine tasting, and one which often leads to differences of opinion, is the optimum temperature at which the wine should be served. Without being overly rigorous, we should bear in mind that white wines that have not been aged in wood should be served at around 10ºC, while aged whites are better enjoyed at around 12ºC. For lighter, younger reds, a temperature of 12ºC is recommended, and aged vintage reds may be reasonably served between 17º-18ºC, and not at room temperature, which is often the practice.

 

The primary difference between a red wine and a white wine is that the must used to obtain red wine includes the skins, stems and seeds of the red or black grape, which are what actually give the wine its colour and tannins. White wines, on the other hand, can be made with any colour of grape, as only the light-coloured juice is used (no stems).

 

Although many guides exist to help you choose the right wine, the best and most useful guide is your own palate.

 

Many wines, especially those produced by larger wineries, carry a counter label indicating the main characteristics of the wine. It can be very helpful to read and compare them when we are unsure of which wine to choose.

 

And finally, a few helpful tips:

 

- The way we drink the wine and hold the glass is important. The glass should be held by the foot in order to avoid altering the temperature of the wine with our hand. Before drinking, we should smell the wine while holding the glass still, and then swirl it to let the wine breathe and allow all of the aromas to emerge.

 

- Wine should be stored at a constant temperature of around 16ºC, with a relative humidity of 80%.

 

- It is not just the wine itself that is important, but the way in which we store it to preserve the quality.

 

- If we do not have a wine cellar or a separate wine storage area, we should remember that young wines should be consumed in a short term, while vintage wines improve in the bottle over a period of one to three years. A reserve can be kept for longer. And of course, wine must be stored horizontally in a dark place.

 

- The glasses we serve our wine in are also important. Use only smooth, transparent glass.

 

- How do we identify the main defects in a wine?

 

o When the wine smells of humidity or wet newspaper, it means that the wine has been corked.

 

o If the wine has bubbles in it or smells yeasty or of beer, this means that it has undergone a second fermentation in the bottle as a result of being exposed to high temperatures.

 

o If a wine is oxidised, with an amber colour and a smell of sherry, it means that the wine has been in contact with the air, either because it has been stored upright, or because there was a fault in the bottling process.

 

o Volatile acidity or the smell of vinegar means that the wine has been attacked by acetobacter aceti, a bacteria which develops when the wine has not been preserved in good condition, or in those wines that have reached the end of their life cycle in the bottle.