701.2 Advance Theories of Food & Wine Matching

Have you noticed that depending on which kinds of food you have with wine, the taste or flavours of food can change the relative sensations of wine?

For example :

  • Salty foods (with soy, fish sauce, anchovies, salt-preserved foods) can make a wine taste less dry and less tannic.
  • Sweet foods (fruit based, sweet sour sauce, honey etc) can make a wine taste dry, less fruity and more crisp (including more tannic or bitter).
  • Sour foods (vinegar, lime, tamarind etc) can show off the wine to be fruitier than it is
  • Savoury foods (shitake, onions, etc) can make a wine taste less sweet and more acidic.

Wine and Food Pairing

We have delved into the works of various authors who have worked hard in the realm of wine and food matching. Use the theories in 501.2 to find matches. We have added ‘local’ examples wherever possible and have listed the books by the various authors so if you want to research the subject you can purchase the books.

Here are 5 approaches:

701.1 The Role of Wood in Wine

Oak barrels have been integral in winemaking for thousands of years firstly as storage vessels because of their lightweight, high strength and impermeability but lately (last 300 years) barrels have been used mainly for enhancing the flavour and stability of wines.

It all began with open wooden buckets, made by ‘coopers’, in Egypt as early as 2700 BC. During the Iron Age (800-900 BC), fully-closed barrels came into being and by the first century BC were widely in use for holding wine, beer, milk, olive oil, and water. As trade and transportation developed, shippers discovered that sealed wooden containers were vastly superior to relatively fragile clay vessels, and the craft of cooperage — barrel-making — was launched.

Background on Oak

Amongst more than ten kinds of oak that exist, there are four families of oak which are suitable for wine because of the desirable flavours that they impart – the Quercus Alba (white American), Quercus garryana (Oregon oak), Q. Robur (English red oak) and Q. Sessilis (European).

Oak trees grow very slowly. It has been said that the first generation of ‘farmers’ will sow the seeds and nurture the oak plant, the second generation grows it and it is the third generation that gets to harvest the ‘fruit’ of nature and man.

Oak is found in many parts of Europe from Spain and France to the Baltics, Slovenia and Russia. There is also American white oak with different characteristics from that of the European kind.

French vs. American

French oak (Quercus Pendunculata, Quercus sissiliflora and Quercus Robur) has always been compared to American oak. Although winemakers are more concerned as to how much oak rather than which kinds of oak, American oak has distinctive flavor compounds, reminiscent of dill and coconut compared to French which has characters such as toasted almond, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Also pores on American oak are denser and it brings about a coarser tannin structure to wine but that does not mean it is inferior.

Oak needs to be matched to the wine. The tight grain of American oak is suited for long barrel ageing – as the Spanish have found. With American oak, the wine takes up the woodiness extremely fast so time is required for the flavours and aromas to settle. French oak generally lends a wine aromatic character and is therefore a better choice with more subtly flavoured wines, and wines to be released and consumed earlier.

Read also:

601.9 Production Of Sparkling Wine

All wines are the result of a fermentation when sugar is turned into alcohol by yeast. Sparkling wines are the result of a second fermentation that endows the wine with bubbles. There are many ways of making a wine sparkle, the original and most revered being the Methode Champenoise.

Champagne and Sparkling wine made in the ‘methode champenoise’ gets its bubbles in a process where still table wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle.

  1. SECONDARY FERMENTATION – Sugar and yeast (liqueur de tirage) are added to a special bottle containing wine or la cuveé, a blend of wines. The bottle is capped with metal crown caps (like those found on beer bottles. The yeast ferments the sugar and produces Carbon Dioxide that cannot escape. The gas is thus dissolved in the wine.
  2. MATURATION – The sparkling wine is matured in cool cellars from between 1 year to 50 years with the yeasts intact. During this time the wine gains complexity from the interaction of the yeast sediment. See beneath (Maturation/Yeast Autolysis)
  3. RIDDLING – It was the widow Clicquot who invented riddling where gravity conveys the sediment to the neck of the bottle. The bottles are placed on a Reumage rack or Gyropalatte (modern rotating palatte that rotates and aids clarification and settling of sediment to the neck of the bottle; designed by Korbel the Californian sparkling winery). With the rack, the skilled remueur painstakingly tilts and turns the bottle daily till the bottles are perpendicular, achieving the same as the Gyropalette. A skilled hand-riddler may turn as many as 25,000 bottles per day.
  4. DISGORGING – The early matured wine that has been through the reumage process may be matured further for a number of years. Disgorging involves the process of removing the yeasts and sediment, and filling up the bottle before corking. This is achieved by freezing the neck of the bottle. The sediment and some wine form a frozen plug that is expelled on uncapping the bottle. In small Champagne houses it is done manually. A person can hand-disgorge about 1,500-2,000 bottles per day although mechanised disgorging units are known to disgorge in excess of 2,700 bottles per hour.

  5. DOSAGE – Sugar and wine may be added before corking the Champagne. This process, called dosage achieves the sweetening, balancing of the acidity, masking astringency-bitterness and slightly modifying flavor of the Champagne – sort of putting on the final ‘stamp’ or mark of a maker’s style.

Read also:

601.8 Buying Champagne

In champagne, where there are 261 Houses, 44 Cooperatives and over 5000 growers, it can get mind-boggling just thinking about getting the right one.

  • Brut – dry, lively, crisp, great for aperitif, to accompany cold seafood from sushi to caviar
  • Demi Sec – a little less tart, good for Chinese cuisine
  • Blanc de Blancs – made only from Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noirs – made from the black grapes or Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
  • Rose – pink Champagnes
Full bodied Gossset, Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot, Gratien, Krug, Roederer, Henroit
Medium bodied Heidseick, Moet & Chandon, Nicolas Feuillatte, Pol Roger, Pommery, Laurent Perrier, Ayala, Duchene, Jacquart, Mumm, Philipponat, Pommery, Salon, Taillevent.
Light bodied Lanson, Taittinger, Perrier Jouet, Billecart Salmon, Bricout, Piper Heidseick, Ruinart.

Most champagnes are Non Vintage. They are a blend of 90% of a year’s wine with 10% of the previous year’s wine. Or they could be blends from various young vintages. Blending of old and young vintages results in a multi-faceted wine that is ready to drink.

Vintage – In exceptional years, with excellent quality fruit, the producers may declare a vintage. Vintage Champagnes require at least 10 years further maturation in your cellar to ‘come round’.

Read also:

601.7 Spanish Labels

With 50 recognised wine regions and thousands of years of experience at making wines, Spain has, as the Romans used to say, ‘variatio delectat” – which roughly means “variety, the spice of life”. Indeed, you’ll find Generoso wines or sherries, Sweet wines made from varieties called Pedro Ximenez, Fondillon (rare) and Moscatel, Sparkling wines (Cava and others) as well as the famous red wine, Rioja. There are more red and white wines to delight the palate than the number of days in the year. Lately, the Spanish have been investing in updating vineyard and oenological methods. And thanks to the ideal climate, aficionados are seeing new classic wines emerging even from lesser known regions.




The Rioja region has its own appellations where quality levels are as such:

  • Garantia de Origen is the basic appellation quality standard for Spanish wines. In Rioja, the wines have not undergone the Crianza process (read on)

  • Vino de Crianza – Wine in its third year, matured for at least one year in the oak cask.

  • Reserva – Carefully selected wines, aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is spent in the oak cask.

  • Gran Reserva – Belongs to great vintage of which wines have been aged at least two years in the oak cask and in addition, matured in the bottle for three years before release on the marketplace.


Certain Spanish winemakers have begun to produce wines ‘outside’ the appellations. Others have named their wines after the vineyards the grapes came from.

VARIETAL LABEL – ‘Merlot” from Bodegas Magaña

601.6 Terroir

Secrets of Terroir
One often hears of aficionados describing a wine as tasting of ‘terroir’ or “the taste of the soil and region from which the grapes are grown and the wine is made”. Indeed, the first scientific definition of terroir was conducted by monks in the Middle Ages – the Cistercians in Burgundy, who are said to have ‘tasted the soil’ in their efforts to understand its secrets.

It is almost impossible to define terroir as the French term evokes a conception beyond soils and incorporate a number of important factors that affect the growth of vines.

The notion of the effect of terroir is based on the subtle marriage of the soil and sub-soil with the climate and temperature as well as the conditions of water available to the vine. Included are the age of the vine, its size and the geological composition of the soil (including the role of micro-organisms in the soil).

Wine lovers that are aware of a vineyard siting appreciate their wines more. Some vineyards are close to the sea (cooling maritime breezes), or lie along rivers and lakes (water retains heat); others are south facing (more sun if in the Northern hemisphere) and are on a slope (with good air circulation which prevents frosts); etc.

Laville the French researcher lists the following factors that determine Terroir:

  • Climate (temperature and rainfall)
  • Sunlight (as received by the land surface)
  • Topography/Geomorphology (altitude, slope and aspect of the vineyard)
  • Geology/Pedology (the soil’ physical and chemical composition)
  • Hydrology (soil water retention, organic matter, drainage)

One may be led to pose the question: Is terroir and its effect genuine?

Read also:

Factors that influence of Terroir on Wine:


601.5 European Vintage Charts

In Northern Europe, where the weather is less predictable than in southern Europe; or in many of the New World countries whose vineyards are blessed with much sunshine and exemplary weather throughout the growing and harvesting season, the following can happen:

  • Frost can destroy quite a lot of grapes or their buds before they are even properly formed, hail can destroy grapes, breaking their skins.

  • Damp weather can further exacerbate the condition by causing fungus to grow and rot the grapes. Rain just before a harvest can also cause excess water to be taken in by the vine and thus “water down” the grapes.

These result in wines that are thin and light. This does not imply that wines are bad but simply that the wines produced in the lesser or mediocre years are meant for drinking within a few years as opposed to wines from great vintages. That is, wines for which you may have to wait ‘decades’ for the wine to ‘come round’ and be ready for consumption.

But to generalise, aficionados say that the quality of wine produced in Northern Europe is subject to weather conditions. In years of perfect weather, the Northern European regions will produce unblemished, ripe and flavoursome grapes because of the long growing season exemplified by warm days and cool nights. Exceptional and great wines are the result.

Country Outstanding / Great Best Vintages Good Years
Italy (General) 78, 82, 85, 86, 88, 90, 95-98 83, 87,89, 93, 94 91, 92
96-97, 85
97, 88
78, 82, 88, 90
82, 85, 90, 95
83, 88, 90, 95, 97
Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Sardinia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Umbria 1997 n.a. n.a.
Riesling (Rhine)
Mosel (Ruwer)
88, 90, 93, 95
88- 90, 92-96
89, 94, 97
Other vintages but avoid
84, 82, 80.
97, 95, 90
69, 81, 91, 94, 95
94, 93, 89, 88, 86
71, 79, 89, 90, 93, 96
83, 88, 92, 97
Ribera del Duero
81, 94-96
82, 85, 90, 91,
95, 96, 89-91, 86, 79-83
81-83, 85, 91, 93.
1986, 1992.
Avoid 1986
Portugal (Port) 1994 83, 85, 92, 95, 97 1980, 1991
Hungary (Tokaji) 1982, 1983, 1989-1990,
1996, 1999
1981, 1995, 1998

601.4 Ten Top secrets of wine aficionados

Want to be impress your friends with your wine collection? Here are some tricks on how you can make mediocre wine taste vintage and valuable.

  1. Serve insipid white wines cold
    Over-chill your white wines to make them taste refreshing. You can leave a bottle in the freezer for half an hour before serving and your guests will enjoy the refreshing sensation and will not realise the wine’s lack of taste.
  2. Accompany cheap red wines with salty hard cheeses such as Parmesan
    Any red wine will taste wonderful after nibbling on an aged salty hard or crumbly cheese such as Parmesan or Vintage Cheddar. Youthful red wines can be ‘aged’ when they are served warmer than usual. This makes the youthful tannins taste less aggressive.
  3. Pair creamy cheeses and foods with an acidic white wine
    If all you have available is acidic white wines meant to be served with seafood, you can still serve them as an aperitif (ice-cold) or after the meal if you serve creamy cheeses. The wines are an excellent accompaniment because the acidity ‘cuts’ the creaminess and oily texture of the cheese or food.
  4. Presentation helps, Perception is important
    Decant or pour cheap wines into an expensive decanter. The elegant service of a mediocre wine will ‘influence’ your guests into thinking the wine tastes better than it actually is. Serve meat (chewy) with high tannin wines and in relative terms the youthful wines will taste less aggressive.
  5. Aerate youthful wines to prematurely ‘age’ them.
    Expose the wine to air by unceremoniously pouring the wine into a water jug, making sure the wine froths up a bit. Then funnel the wine back into the bottle. This process will aerate the wine allowing the aromas to further develop, thus making the youthful wine taste better. Conversely, a wine that is too old should be served slightly cooler to accentuate tannins and acidity. This also enhances its bouquet.
  6. Plan the order of service when faced with serving wines of various quality and vintages.
    During the dinner service, the rule of thumb should be to serve the second best wine with the first course. The diners will expect the next wine to be better. Do not disappoint them. Serve generous portions of your best wine here. After which, your guests should be slightly inebriated and less discerning. You can if you wish serve the lesser quality and younger wines for the subsequent courses.
  7. Use special glasses
    The PhD thesis of Hänig in 1901 documents the human tongue’s sensitivity to the four basic taste sensations of bitterness, saltiness, acidity and sweetness at different parts of the tongue. Turning from that to imagine how liquids flow out of containers of various shapes, one would note that with a squat, wide rimmed glass, the liquid out flow shape is rounder than when it is poured out from a tall glass with a narrow rim.Many specialist glass producers have designed glasses that can influence the way wine tastes in the mouth. See 501.4 on Special Tasting Glasses.
  8. Use wine as a mix
    Use wine as a key ingredient in your alcoholic beverages. Here are some common mixes.Kir – Dry white wine with a splash of Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant syrup-alcohol)

    Kir Royale – substitute Champagne for the dry wine in Kir

    Sangria – mix 1 bottle of red wine + 1 bottle of white wine + 1 lemon + 1 cup sugar, and as much of Gin, Grand Marnier or Brandy as you like to taste. Fill punch bowl with sliced peaches, cherries, strawberries, mango or other fruit but do not leave out sliced oranges. Pour mixture over.

    Mulled wine – This aprés ski drink is best enjoyed in cold weather. Bring to boil red wine with some ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, a peeled orange and a peeled lemon. Add water and spirits (you choose) and bring to simmer. Serve hot.

  9. Be Boldly Creative
    If you are on a tight budget and can only afford pseudo-Champagne (carbonated wine), do not despair. In front of your guests, confidently lift up a Champagne flute glass and fill it with your carbonated wine, adroitly drop in a strawberry and with great élan, serve it as a house drink. You will find your guests asking for more of the same all evening. You can do this with any cheap sparkling wine.French 75 is a Champagne cocktail invented and named after the French 75mm gun used in WW1. It is made with a bottle of brut Champagne, mixed with 150mls Cointreau or Triple Sec (orange liqueur) and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Versions include using cheap sparkling wine but adding gin or Calvados to raise alcohol levels to intoxicating levels.
  10. There are no Rules
    Going against convention can yield surprising success. Heavy reds usually contain a high percentage of alcohol and tannin – when the wine is young, the tannins are a little harsh, giving the sensation of strong tea on the lining of the cheeks of the mouth. Tannins accentuate spicy flavours and alcohol gives a hot sensation in the mouth. My old French language teacher and I found a delightful experience in matching a heavy red wine to northern Indian cuisine – a white wine, on the other hand might have been overwhelmed by the spicy food.Always experiment, there are no rules. For example, traditionally, champagne and caviar go together but sushi with sparkling wine can achieve the same effect.

601.3 Wine Words

Common Wine terms and Vocabulary to Describe Wines

Acetic – Used to describe wines that have turned to vinegar. Unlike acidity, vinegary wines taste sharp and sour.

Acidity – The tart, lively, crisp, refreshing sensation in wine much like in citrus fruits. In wine, the acidity is balanced with other components. For example, acidity in sweet wines prevent them from being too cloying. See Balance.

Aftertaste – see Finish

Ageworthy – Wines that a capable or worthy for cellaring. These are usually wines that are high in acidity and /or tannins but have enough fruit and other components to age gracefully. Unbalanced wines may be tannic but lack fruit flavours and with age, the tannins may break down but the wine will be devoid of any other flavours.

Alcoholic – Wines that are unbalanced may leave a less than desirable warm feeling in the mouth.

Appellation – A defined geographic growing area or vineyard where certain grapes, growing methods and wine styles are specified. Originated in Portugal to classify various styles and quality of wine. Used extensively in European countries and now, in the newer wine regions. For example, Sonoma, Coonawarra and the Maipo are now considered appellations.

Aroma – The odours or ‘flavours’ in the wine which are perceived on smelling it. Also referred to as the ‘Nose’ of a wine. Usually refers to the fruit or floral aromas found in youthful wines. The wine’s smell before the wine has had time to age in the bottle. See Bouquet.

Aromatic – Synonymous to ‘perfumed’ although aromatic usually implies stronger sensations of sweet floral aromas from wines made from grapes such as Gewurtztraminer and Muscat.

Astringency – The sensation of tannins in wine causing a mouth drying/puckering effect. Imagine the effect of chewing on walnut skins or gargling with very strong tea. Can be smooth, chunky or rough.

Austere – Bone dry wines that are also low in fruit flavours and firm (and even hard) in texture.

Backbone – Refers to the tannin or acid levels that ‘hold-up’ or ‘support’ the wine. Usually full-bodied and strong flavoured wines have backbones whilst not may soft or light bodied wines are ascribed the term.

Balance – The equilibrium or pleasant sensation of the sharpness of the acid, the warmth of the alcohol, the bitterness of the tannins and the sweetness found in the wine. Sometimes used to describe the woody or oak flavours and whether they overpower the fruit aromas.

Barrel Fermentation – The aging and ferment of wine in oak barrels as opposed to steel or other non wood vats imparts on the wine more body and other flavours such as that of wood, vanilla, toast, caramel, cloves and coffee.

Barrique – The French word for barrels of 225 litres that should yield about 300 bottles of wine.

Big and Heavy Bodied – The strong sensation of alcohol in the wine, including the strong flavours in the wine. Full-bodied wines are those that often contain a higher concentration of sugar, oak flavours, alcohol and grape aromas.

Blend – Blending is a winemaking technique to combine two or more varieties, wines from different vintages, wines or juices of different characteristics etc. in order to obtain a style require by the winemaker. Most European producers will produce blends of different grapes from a single region whilst New World producers may produce blends of the same grapes but of lots sourced from different climatic areas.

Body – The impression of weight or fullness in the mouth. This is a combination of the alcohol, sugar, glycerin and other components in the wine. Light bodied wines often come across as soft or delicate whilst full bodied wines are often brawny and mouth filling.

Botrytis – Wines affected by ‘noble rot’. Botrytis Cinerea affected grapes are often made into sweet dessert wines. Grape varieties used are usually Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc. See 701.9 Production of Dessert Wine.

Bouquet – Aromas of wines with complexity as a result of aging in the barrel or bottle. Normally used to describe mature wines. See Aroma and 301.1.

Brawny – Chewy, massive, muscular and masculine wines. Burly is another term. Often found in young red wines with high tannins, acidity and alcohol.

Breathing – Refers to aerating the wine by pouring it into another container such as a decanter. By doing so, the wine mixes with oxygen and oxidises slightly, often intensifying the aromas of wine. As for old wines, breathing might ‘blow off’ some musty aromas or ‘open up’ the wines aromas. Swirling the glass of wine also achieves the act of ‘breathing’ the wine.

Bright fruit – Wines that are lively, especially younger white wines, giving the sensation of freshness and fruitiness.

Brut – Used to connote dry sparkling wine and Champagne.

Carbonic Maceration – The process of anaerobic fermentation used in the process of wine making in Beaujolais. Resulting wines taste less acidic and are fruity and light (strawberries and cherries are often aromas that are detected).

Cepage – The French term for grapevine variety.

Chewy – The texture of wine due to the tannins, and to an extent, the ‘fatty’ sensation from alcohol and sugar interacting with the tannins. As opposed to light bodied wines.

Citrus – Wines need not necessarily have high acid but flavours are grapefruit like. Often found in Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings grown in cooler climates.

Colour and Sight – The description of the wine on viewing it. Young red wines are dark red and become progressively lighter coloured (with brick and brown edges); Youthful white wines turn from a light colour to golden on maturation. A good wine should not be cloudy.

Complexity – Where wines offer nuanced multiple aromas and flavours, all of which are well integrated. As opposed to simple wines.

Clean – Fresh, without defects, used often to describe youthful wines.

Clone – By taking cuttings or making grafts, vignerons can ‘clone’ or asexually reproduce the genetic characteristics of a parent vine.

Closed – Wines that have character but seem to need more cellaring before the taster can enjoy its full potential.

Cloying – In sweet wines, when the sugars dominate the flavours and the acid in the wine, the wine is cloying and unbalanced.

Cooper – The maker of barrels

Corked – Almost 5% of wines can be afflicted by the bacteria present in the bark of tree. The bacteria, present in the cork will taint the wine, making it smell musty and dank. Aromas such as wet dog hair, old socks and damp newspapers are typical of corked wines.

Complex – Desirable quality used to describe wines with many aroma and flavour elements and wines that have developed bouquet.

Cuvée – French term meaning vat or tank used for blending or fermenting. Also refers to a blend.

Crisp – The positive sensation of acidity and tartness in wine.

Depth – Similar to complexity. A wine with depth has an intensity of flavours, is complex and demands attention.

Disgorge – Sparkling wines or Champagnes are disgorged after the primary ferment that takes place in the bottle, so that the sediment can be removed and the wine is topped up after before it is recorked.

Dry – Wine that is not sweet. Off-dry wines are slightly sweet.

Elegant – Fine wines that are complex, ‘harmonious’ or ‘balanced’ yet are not heavy and serious. Sometimes synonymous to ‘feminine’ natured wines. Alternatively, the wines have grace, balance and beauty.

Extract – Wines that are highly extracted are wines with lots of concentrated flavours, aromas and character. Often wines of a good harvest or made from grapes of old vines or late harvests have good extract. However winemakers can also make wines with lots of extract by various techniques including saigneé (bleeding the juice/wine) and long macerations. See 501.9

Fat – Used to describe wines lacking in elegance. Fat wines will be almost always medium to full bodied and slightly low on acid. If wines have sufficient acidity, they are not ‘fat’ but are fleshy. The exception – aged Rieslings that have a ‘fat, oily’ sensation are prized.

Filtered – Filtering a wine removes suspended particles and also yeast and bacteria. Over-filtration can strip a wine of its flavour.

Fined – Fining a wine is achieved by adding something to the wine to clarify it much like adding egg whites to a soup to clarify it.

Finish – The after taste on swallowing the wine or duration and characteristics of the flavour, sensations of wine. The finest wines will have a long clean finish that can last from 6 seconds to 2 minutes!

Firm – See vigorous, and acidity.

Flat – Champagne or sparkling wines that have lost their bubbles. Also wines that suffer from too low acidity and come across a little lifeless in the mouth.

Floral – Often white wines will have delicate aromas reminiscent of a variety of flowers.

Fortified – Wines that are fermenting are fortified by adding brandy or neutral spirits. The alcohol stops the ferment, leaving the wine sweet and alcoholic. Sherry and Port are fortified wines.

Fruity – The flavours of fruit (from citrus to melon; from cherry to plum) detectable in wines.

Grassy – Wines that have aromas of fresh mown lawns. Found usually in Sauvignon Blanc. Considered a negative trait in red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Grip – The forceful tannins and assertive personality in red wines.

Hard – Tannins that are more than chewy in sensation and are not appreciated.

Heady – Unbalanced with excessively high alcohol

Late Harvest – Ripe grapes with higher sugar resulting in wines with potentially higher alcohol and/or sweetness.

Layers – Very good wines and complex wines will have many layers of fruit, aromas and sensations

Lean – As opposed to full body; often used to describe acidic wines though not derogatory

Lees – The dead yeast after the end of fermentation. Some wines are left longer in contact with lees (sur lies) to accentuate toasty flavours. Lees contact for Champagnes also add richness and creaminess in the wines.

Lively – see Crisp

Lush – Soft sensation in wines, but ‘full on’ or rich with sugar or in flavours

Maceration – Steeping, soaking or contact of the grapes skins, seeds and even stems with the juice and wine (where alcohol works as a solvent) to extract colour, tannins and flavours.

Malolactic fermentation – The bacteria leuconostoc oenos (naturally occurring or added) converts the malic acid in wine (found in many fruits) into lactic acid (found in milk). You can imagine the resulting wines taste softer and seem buttery in texture.

Microclimate – Often used synonymously with the term ‘Terroir’ to mean the combination of soil, water drainage aspects of the land, angle of slope of the vineyard, its altitude and orientation to the sun all interacting together to endow wines with their unique character. Thus a Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes grown on the California coast tastes different from another made from grapes grown inland, even if the winemaking technique was identical.

Mousse – The bubbly froth of Champagne much like the ‘head’ of beer.

Oaky – Wines that have been aged in wooden barrels may exhibit strong ‘woody’ aromas, flavours of vanilla and smoke (from the toasted barrels). Oaky is used to describe wines that have an overly strong wood flavours.

Phylloxera – The louse (tiny aphid) that attacks the roots of the vitis vinifera vine family and kills the grapve vine.

Residual Sugar – Unfermented sugar in wine after the finish of fermentation.

Rich – See Full Bodied. Also refers to sweet or ‘dessert’ wines.

Round – Smooth textured and ‘fat’ perception in wines that are slightly low in acid and tannin. Also to describe the mingling of flavours that are complete.

Structure – The description of the tannins in the mouth, also the layers of flavours and how they come across singly as well as together; essential for fine wines.

Sediment – Aged wines usually ‘throw up’ a deposit which settles at the bottom of the bottle. Such wines are decanted into a decanter, leaving the sediment in the bottle.

Soft – Lower acidity and low tannin wines are soft rather than hard. Lower alcohol wines accentuate softness.

Supple – Good youthful wines that will mature well are those that are supple, with tannins that are not hard. Preferable to soft wines.

Tannin – The phenolic compounds from grape skins, seeds, stems and oak barrels. See Astringency. Essential for ‘preserving’ red wines meant for maturation in the cellars.

Tart – see Acidity

Thin – Wines lacking in body and depth. Not only are the wines devoid of fruit, they are not sweet and are not even tart. They taste watery.

Toasty – see Oaky

Vinous – Wines with no detectable flavour (fruit, flowers, spices, minerals etc.) but smell of ‘wine’. Wines lacking in character but are still good enough to enjoy are vinous.

Varietal – Various grape varieties used to make wine. In New World wine producing countries (Australia, US, South America, South Africa etc.) most wines are identified by their variety. For example; Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. In the Old World (most European countries) wine styles are recognised by the names of villages or regions the wines come from. For example; Mersault, Bordeaux and Tuscany. Some wines are the result of blends of two or more varieties. Wines can exhibit varietal characteristics. For example Gewurtztraminers are often spicy, Cabernet Sauvignon wines will exhibit black currant flavours and Chardonnays are often fruity with vanilla flavours from oak.

Vigorous – Youthful, lively wine.

Vintage – The year of harvest. In years of inclement weather, frost/hail/pests can affect the quality and quantity of crop. For this reason, the same wine from various years are slightly different in quality. Wines with no vintage indicated are generic and generally less expensive lower quality wines.

Weighty – See Heavy Bodied

Yeasty – The toastiness and flavours of fresh baked bread, often a positive factor in Champagnes.

Other Wine Descriptors – These are used to describe the aromas, bouquet, flavours and other odours found in wine. They can be herbaceous (cut grass, mint, green peppers, olive, tea, tobbacco), nutty, fruity (various tropical fruits, dried fruits, citrus fruits, stone fruits), floral (various flowers), spicy (various), woody (from vanilla and coffee to toast), earthy (mushrooms) caramel (from honey to soy) and chemical and pungent.

601.2 Wine and Cheese


Wine and cheese are inseparable. A good cheese accompanied by an appropriate wine, achieves a ‘marriage made in heaven’, at least in terms of gustatory pleasure. Cheeses can be bland, buttery, rich, creamy, pungent, sharp, salty, delicate, chewy, hard and flaky or soft and runny. Cheeses made from pasteurised milk allows you to go dating after eating the cheese, without any ramifications. Other cheeses can be so rank and overpowering, that people will stay far away from you, as if you’d been gorging yourself on durians all day.

All about Cheese
The Story – Legend has it that cheese was ‘discovered’ by an Arab nomad who journeyed across the desert on horseback. He filled a saddlebag with milk to sustain him but discovered that the milk had separated into a watery liquid with solid white lumps. The saddlebag, which was made from the stomach of a young animal, contained a coagulating enzyme known as rennin which separated the milk into curds and whey thanks to the hot sun and the galloping motions of the horse.

The Process – The basic principle is to coagulate or curdle the milk (Sheep, Goat, Cow, Buffalo, Llama, Yak) so that it forms into curds (milky white lumps) and whey (a thin liquid). Starter culture and rennet are added to warmed milk and it coagulates into a single huge curd. The whey is drained, the cheese is pressed, salted and dried. If you have left milk un-refrigerated for a day or two, you will find sour milk and lumps (curd). You will have ‘made’ cheese although it may not be as tasty as the ones you find in the shops.

Cheese Today – France is the largest producer although there are exciting and tasty cheeses from many other countries – Spain, Germany, Italy, Australia etc. Cheeses can be made from pasteurised (resulting in milder tasting cheese) milk or fresh milk (stronger tasting cheese).

Cheeses become more aromatic and tasty with time and the process begins in the cheese factory. Cheese is ripened:

  • via the original bacteria in the cheese (e.g. Parmesan, Cheddar, Gouda, Swiss)
  • via microbes that are injected to the inside of the cheese (e.g. Penicillium roquefortii in blue cheeses)
  • microbes that grow on the outside of the cheese (e.g. Penicillium camemberti on Camembert and Brie cheeses).

Unripened Cheeses – Cottage Cheese as an example, is made by warming the milk and letting it stand, treating it with a lactic starter to help the acid development and then cutting and draining the whey from the cheese. The cheese is then packed and marketed without further ripening.

Variations on the cheese – making process like in wine-making all influence the final taste of cheese – milk may be taken from a morning or an evening milking, or from a combination of both. A colouring agent may be added to milk (e.g. vegetable dye that produces an amber orange-yellow colour). The milk may be skimmed of its cream content or cream is added to it. The quality of the milk, its richness, its acid content, the degree to which it is heated, even the breed of cow that is used, the grass she feeds on, the soil and the climate are factors that influence the final cheese.

The amount of rennet used, the way the cheese is pressed, the heating of the curds, the degree of salting, the number of times the cheese is turned from one side to another while it is maturing, how the cheese is brushed, scraped or washed.

Various ingredients are used to treat the cheese. Some are steeped in white wine and spices (Swiss Apenzell), others are bathed with beer (French Maroilles); Greek Feta is matured in brine.

Ripening – It can vary from two weeks to seven years with the temperatures playing a crucial role. It is during this period that the micro-organisms play their part.

  • Internal Ripened – Blue veined cheeses are inoculated with a Penicillium spore; thus the unique aroma, flavour and bluish or greenish veining. Blue cheeses ripen from the inside out.
  • Surface Ripened – Camembert and Brie have their surfaces treated with a different type of Penicillium spore that creates a downy white mould (bloomy or flowery rind).

Washing – Rinds may be brushed, washed, oiled, treated with a covering of paraffin wax, cotton bandage (Cheddar) or simply left au natural. Traditional Cheddars are wrapped around with a cotton bandage. The rind protects the cheese and allows it to ripen harmoniously.

Salting. – Heavily salted cheeses develop a thick, tough outer rind (e.g. Swiss cheeses).

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