7 wine drinking tips for beginners

By Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 19 2014 08:53 AM | Updated as of Aug 20 2014 02:48 AM

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Australian winemaker Paul Burnett. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA – Winemaker Paul Burnett was in town recently to promote the entry of the Australian wine brand Banrock Station into the Philippine market.

Banrock Station, known for its good quality, easy-drinking wines at affordable prices, now offers its four classic items – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and the crowd favorite Moscato – in selected wine shops and supermarkets in Metro Manila.

Burnett, who has traveled to wine regions in the United States and Italy to hone his skills, said wine is not as intimidating as most people think. He made the statement as some people tend to stay away from wine under the impression that it involves a lot of rules.

“It’s just about trial and error. It’s a matter of understanding your own palate and being prepared to say I do or do not like this wine,” Burnett told ABS-CBNnews.com.

“Don’t be discouraged by not being an expert. Learn new things, be adventurous. Try wines of different styles and different countries. Broaden your horizons,” he added.

In an interview with ABS-CBNnews.com, Burnett shared some tips on how beginners can kick-start their exploration of wine.

1. If you’re not sure, start with a sweet wine

Those who are used to drinking juice, soda or iced tea may want to start with a sweet wine with lower alcohol, to make the transition to wine as smooth as possible.

Burnett said non-drinkers tend to be turned off by the strong, bitter flavors or the tannins present in many wines.

“Try something a bit sweeter or low in alcohol if you’re not sure. Moscato is the perfect introductory wine,” he said of Moscato, a very light and sweet wine that tastes more like juice.

From here, beginners can try more full-bodied wines.

“Don’t worry about how you pronounce the word,” Burnett said. “The customer is always right.”

2. Try it at least five times

There are many types of wine – red, white, rose, sparkling and dessert, for starters – and each of these suits a variety of tastes.

Burnett said beginners should make an effort to sample a certain type at least five times – whether through different brands, regions or brands – as each bottle of wine has a distinct flavor profile.

“If you’ve had one Merlot and you don’t like it, that’s probably not a good indicator. You have to try around four more,” he said. “But if after that you still don’t like it, try something else.”

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A bottle of Merlot. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com 

3. Swirl, smell, drink

Burnett said it is best to enjoy wine slowly and savor its layers of flavors, although he does not mind seeing others drink it straight up.

Here’s how the winemaker does it: “Swirl the glass for a bit to pull the aromas and smell it. Look at the color and pick up the other elements of the wine, then take a sip.”

“When you taste the wine, look at what the initial taste is on your tongue and then the aftertaste or lingering flavors,” he added.

4. Drop the red wine-red meat/white wine-fish rule

Most people like their red meat with red wine, and fish dishes with white wine, but those who don’t should feel the pressure to do the same.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to wine pairings but only suggestions, Burnett said, stressing that it is all about a person’s taste and preference.

“I have some friends who have fish with red wine. It’s okay because that’s what they want,” he said. “We don’t need to be told what wines to enjoy with food. Do your own matching and be adventurous.”

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No need to feel the pressure of enjoying this steak salad with red wine, said Burnett. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

5. Drink, serve wine at room temperature

Instead of pairings, wine drinkers should be particular about temperature, said Burnett, as this can make or break a person’s experience.

Wine should not be served too cold or too hot but at room temperature, or around 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.

To those who have left their red wines in the refrigerator for too long, Burnett gave this quick tip: “Pour it into a glass, hold the glass and the temperature from your hands will heat the wine. Then give it a little swirl.”

6. On wine storage: Cold, dark, undisturbed

To those who want to drink at home, temperature also plays an important role when it comes to wine storage, said Burnett.

Here are some numbers to remember: 4 to 8 degrees Celsius for reds, 12 degrees for whites.

“If you don’t have a wine fridge, find a pantry in the middle of the house. Just look for a dark place that doesn’t have light going in constantly, and doesn’t have a lot of vibration. I believe that if it’s exposed to sunlight or light, it’ll be temperature shocked. So constant temperature is important,” Burnett explained.

He went on to remind beginners that not all wines are meant to be aged.

“Moscato is made for immediate enjoyment. You wouldn’t age that wine. It’s a low-alcohol wine so it’s not going to mature fantastically. It will be good for a year,” he said. “Some reds can be enjoyed in the first two years.”

“If you bought a wine that you want to age for four to five years, don’t constantly turn it around. Tag it so you know what it is, and leave it. Temperature is important – you don’t want it fluctuating all the time. Make sure the corks aren’t leaking so check them regularly,” he added. “I usually buy 12 wines and I taste them over a one-year period to see how it’s evolving, to see how it’s going to taste in two or three years’ time.”

7. Don’t drink too much

Wine drinking is supposed to be a fun activity, said Burnett, as he noted that some beginners tend to overdo it to “make the most out of the experience.”

“Don’t drink too much or else you won’t be able to appreciate it,” he said. “Drink in moderation. You want wine to be a fun thing, something that helps the occasion and not something that will pull you down and make you feel bad.”

Burnett also reminded beginners to drink a lot of water if they plan to have a wine tasting session. “You should always stay hydrated,” he said.