5 Questions You Always Wanted To Ask A Wine Sommelier

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Sommeliers steer the world of wine by transforming a simple meal into a mood by pairing a wine that goes well with what you are eating or a moment you are savouring. During the wine tasting expo hosted by Viva Global, I was fascinated by the knowledge that was shared by Wine educator Wanjiru Mureithi (Wine Njiru) and that is why I compiled this list of facts you always wanted to know from an expert or sommelier.

  1. Why do people tilt a wine glass before drinking?

When it comes to edibles and drinks in most cases we tend to use our eyes for taste. That is why you don’t have to taste that brown water from a tap to know that it will most likely taste like dirt as opposed to clear water. It is the same case when you see flies swarming from a bowl of soup. That must’ve been the concept behind that viral advertisement where meat with flies was said to better than the neat kind. The irony.

Anyway, when it comes to wine, the sense of sight can help you determine a lot about wine. Tilting the glass which you should do at 45 degrees and over a white surface, helps you evaluate the colour, health, the level of concentration and overall appearance of wine.

The colour gives you an idea of the health of the wine and illuminates on how the wine should look, correct for its grape varietal age and growing season. Deeper colours could indicate concentrated wine while less colour for the same type of wine could signal age – young and acidity which is usually high.

  1. Why does it matter how I hold the wine glass?

According to WSET certified wine educator Wine Njiru, you should hold your wine glass from the stem and not the bowl, for the following reasons.

Wine glasses are polished to the gods and this is a skill sommeliers learn and have to implement for good service. Therefore, holding a glass from the bowl would not only waste their efforts (whenever you smudge the wine glass making it dirty) but it will also heat up your wine.

Temperatures are essential with wine as they contribute to the overall tasting experience of the wine. For instance, red wine served chilled will have a refreshing quality, freshness and leave you with a lively experience. Warm red wine, on the other hand, will taste bland and lacking as it becomes flabby.

  1. Why do people swirl their wine?

Wine Njiru says that good wine tasters exploit their senses. After sight comes the sense of smell. Swirling is important as it helps bring out the scent of the wine before you can sniff it. As you may know, some wines such as Wolf Blass Chardonnay have a light smell, unlike Cloudy Bay Pinot noir which has a pronounced smell. Sniffing, therefore, helps in evaluating the condition and the aromatic characteristics of a variety of wine, before you can taste it.

Normally wine should smell of fruits, flowers, spices, vegetables, oak or wood aromas. Hence, if the wine smells like vinegar, mould or old stuff then the wine might have gone bad.

  1. How can you describe the taste of wine?

Getting the right taste of wine takes experience and a lot of practice. However, as you get acquainted with different varieties of wine and their aromatic profile, you can begin to understand the complexities of the taste. So smell more, taste more varieties and share what comes to mind. There is no better way to becoming a good taster. You can also enrol for wine classes offered by Hospitality Competence Centre East Africa here in Nairobi.

  1. What tips should one know when ordering or drinking wine?

Wine Njiru emphasizes on wine etiquette and says it is important especially if you are at a public place. Here are Wine tips for beginners.

Always give a preference of what you would like before asking for a recommendation from the sommelier. Everything boils down to what you are seeking as a guest. Love the wines you drink and drink the wines you love. You can always ask the sommelier to recommend a bottle that would pair best with the food or snack you are having.

If you are buying from the supermarket look at the bottles first. Fancily decorated bottles scream sparkling wines or champagnes. They are created so to enhance the beauty and shape of the bottle while releasing the pressure caused by effervescence (bubbling) in champagne

Large wine bottles are well suited for longer ageing and hence will have more complexities in taste than smaller wine bottles.

The typical alcohol content of wine is 8-15% although fortified wine like Sherry and Port would have a higher alcohol content range of over 15-22%. 10 health benefits of red wine.

White wines are best young while red wines are best three years older or more. However, chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc can age well for years.  For young wines decant to help open up the aromas and flavours. Wine sommelier Geoffrey Kariuki says life’s too short for bad wine.

Featured image via Aeshaonline

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I am a writer with interest in hair, beauty and fashion. I also like telling stories, but most of all I enjoy listening and reading them. If I'm not doing any of the above, I will be trying to crack a game of chess or monopoly. My biggest fear is being ordinary.