As a wine lover, your education is never complete; there is always something new to learn. One of our favorite things to do at Whitehall Lane is not to drink wine but to teach our customers and visitors about it. If you’re new to the wonderful world of wine, don’t get overwhelmed. We’re sharing 10 facts to help you understand the history, drinking techniques and production process of wine.
The tradition of clinking glasses is one we all continue to take part in. Before every meal or drinks with friends we all want to toast each other and celebrate the occasion at hand. However, did you know that this tradition started in ancient Rome to make sure no drink was poisoned? By “cheering” the glasses of wine, they would bump and spill into each other’s glasses to ensure that no one person would be poisoned.
2. Wine And The Kitchen
Storing wine can be a challenge for wine-lovers who do not have the space or means to build a wine cellar. Makeshift storage spaces can work quite well, but there is one big exception. We recommend keeping your bottles out of the kitchen due to temperature fluctuations. In the kitchen, heat rises and becomes too much for the wine to handle. This can damage the quality of the wine. The refrigerator might seem like a good idea because your wine can stay cold, but the cold can actually lessen the flavor palate of your wine. To keep your wine collection in prime condition, we recommend storing your bottles in a cool, dark space so they can lie on their side and can be stored at the constant correct temperature.
3. It’s All About The Grape
Researchers believe that grapes have existed for around 65 million years, and humans have been cultivating grapes for about 8,000 years. However, the grapes that you will find at your local supermarket have much thinner skin and far more seeds than the varieties we use to make wine. Instead, there are more than 1,300 grape varieties that are currently being used to make wine.
4. Sniff Out Corked Wine
A corked wine is one that has been contaminated with what is called “cork taint”. Corked wine happens when airborne fungi come in contact with a cork, causing it to spoil and ruin the wine. Drinkers can sniff out corked wine by looking for a musty smell similar to a moldy basement or wet dog. Corked wines will often taste flat and dull with no fruit flavors.
5. Stick Your Nose In It
Have you noticed that wine experts always smell their wine first before they take a sip? The smell of the wine can give you clues on how the wine will taste and what flavor profile you are about to sip. The smell of the wine is just as important as the taste of it, so be sure to take a big sniff before you drink.
6. Don’t Wait To Open Your Wine
A growing wine collection is a never-ending opportunity to open something new. Starting your collection is easy, but knowing when to drink a bottle and when to preserve it for later can be difficult. Many wines are meant to be drunk within the year they were released, but most will benefit from aging, as well. It’s really up to your tastes and how long you are willing to wait to open that bottle.
7. Got Oak?
Oak offers many traits to the wine. We like to barrel our wine in oak to impart oaky flavor and aroma. Oak brings out vanilla, clove and smoky traits to its wine. During the barreling process, oxygen is released which causes the wine to have a smooth taste and less acidity. This process gives the wine a rich and creamy texture that allows for easy sipping. Learn more about Whitehall Lane’s oak aging process.
8. Learn To Describe The Indescribable
Describing flavors on the tip of your tongue can be the most difficult part of wine tasting. Here are three words to help you describe your wines like an expert: Angular is when a wine’s profile is lean and sharp. This term is reserved for when you are overwhelmed with fruit flavors. The term fleshy is most commonly noted on riper wines from warm vintages and / or warm climates. Taking a bite of a nectarine is the best way to describe this type of wine. Wines with a light body and tart fruit flavors that have high acidity are referred to as elegant. These wines are bold and enjoyable.
9. Size Matters
When pouring a glass of wine, the glass size matters. Keeping the glass size to a 20 to 22-ounce glass is preferred, as it gives you enough space to swirl and allows the wine to breathe in the glass. The slight curve towards the top of the glass is important so you can smell the flavor of the wine before every sip. However, not all glasses are created equal. Red wines should typically be served in wider glassware to allow for oxidation, while white wines should be served in taller, less rounded glasses.
10. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
The best way to learn about wine is to drink with someone who knows their stuff. Don’t be afraid to ask your server, sommelier, tour guide or your uncle, a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, about wine. Here at Whitehall Lane, we love educating our guests from basic history to high-level tasting techniques. We offer three different tasting and tour options at Whitehall Lane to cater to your specific experience. During your next visit to Napa Valley, be sure to add Whitehall Lane to your list and join us in taking a hands-on approach to wine education.