A Wine Professional’s Notes





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Wine is not just a beverage. It is a combination of exquisite fruit, herbs, and other tastes and flavours determined by the grape variety, the wine-making method, terroir, and maturity of the wine. "Wine can of their wits the wise beguile; Make the sage frolic; and the serious smile".

Bottom Line

The appreciation of wine is an acquired taste. It takes no special skill to drink a wine and know that you like it, even if you are not always able to tell why. Liking or not liking a particular wine or a particular varietal, is subjective, as not everyone has the same palate.

Posted September 29, 2014 by

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A Wine Professional’s Notes – It is easy to become a wine professional with a bit of study.

By: Reno Spiteri, BBA., CCTP., ACWP., Dip.Marketing


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It is not the first time, that I happen to be entertaining guests at a restaurant, or giving advice to someone about wine selections for a private occasion, and even sometimes when one happens to strike a conversation with a restaurateur, or even overhears someone ordering a wine, that as far as they know wine falls just under two categories. It’s either Red or White (or in more incongruous and daft situations, someone might also add another category – Rose D’Anjou – yes that’s correct not just Rose’, but you read well, Rose D’Anjou!). One has to sympathize with such a mentality or lack of knowledge, because the subject of wine is a vast and intricate one, but also one that has its rewards in the enjoyment of this exquisite beverage, especially if one knows what he is on about, what he is selecting and what pairs well with certain foods, the important varietals, and of course what quality one will be paying for.


The appreciation of wine is an acquired taste. It takes no special skill to drink a wine and know that you like it, even if you are not always able to tell why. Liking or not liking a particular wine or a particular varietal, is subjective, as not everyone has the same palate.
To understand wine, one should read and study about it, think about it and above all –  drink it.

Three beautiful wine samples: Red, White and Rose'

Three beautiful wine samples: Red, White and Rose’


One of the best ways of acquiring an understanding of wine is to taste it blind, without knowing what is in the glass. Tasting wine blind forces discipline and concentration of our senses, that we otherwise take for granted. Not knowing what is in the glass causes us to become more sensitive to what it might be.

In judging or evaluating wines, there are three main, distinct, but also inter-related evaluation keys that allow us to distinguish one wine from another. These are: Colour; Smell (often referred to as bouquet or aroma) and the most important Taste.




So how would one distinguish between one wine and another?

Well let’s take White Wine to start with. White wine can be produced from numerous grape varieties, the most notable of which are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, which although these grape varieties originated in France, Burgundy and the Upper Loire Valley respectively to be exact, these two varieties are grown, cultivated and harvested in numerous “New World” wine producing countries from American rootstock and selected varietal clones.


Chardonnay cluster

Chardonnay cluster


Sauvignon blanc New ZealandChardonnay is the grape used to produce the famous Blanc de Blanc Champagne; the exquisite Chablis and Pouilly-Fuisse; whereas Sauvignon Blanc is the grape variety of the fabulous Sancerre and the Pouilly-Fume’ of France as well as the Fume Blanc of California. Of note is the fact that the very best Sauvignon Blanc varietal wines come from New Zealand.

Then we have other famous grape varieties such as Riesling; Chenin Blanc; Gewurztraminer; Muscat; Semilon; Viogner;  Marsanne and Rousanne both of which are blended to produce the unique Hermitage;  Muscadet; Pinot Blanc; Pinot Gris; Pinot Grigio; Cortese for Gavi di Gavi; Malvasia and Trebiano for Frascati; and Trebiano alone for the Orvieto; Garganega and again Trebiano for the Soave; Verdicchio; Vermentino; Fiano di Avellino; Greco di Tufo; Vernacchia; Falanghina; and maybe the lesser known Grillo and Catarretto from Sicily. Airen and Macabeo varietals from Spain.

 So as wine consumers, do we really have to remember the varietal characteristics of all these varieties in way of colour, smell and taste, before we can decide what each of us like in as far as white wine is concerned? No, I would not venture to say yes. One has to keep in mind that a varietal wine from one country can vary immensely from the same varietal wine produced from grapes harvested in another country. Even wine from the same country, but from different regions, show recognisable differences as well as from one wine-maker to the next, even from the same geographical locations would show differences.  The winemaking method have a tendency to change some of the varietal characteristic, as well as the yeast used in fermentation, fermentation in oak; fermentation in stainless steel vats; aging in oak; etc, etc.

Smell and Taste of white wine:

Let’s take Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines as the classic examples.

Chardonnay’s bouquet can have aromas, smells of:  citrus; hazelnuts; apples; green apples; lemons; tropical fruit and vanilla. The smell can be oaky, buttery and toasty. Whereas the palate, that is the taste in the mouth, may be: rich; dry; medium or light bodied; with citric hints of lemon and grapefruit; green apples; with a good, refreshing acidity, sometimes spicy with a crisp aftertaste.

Sauvignon Blanc aromas range from having hints of: asparagus; gun-flint; herbs; cut-grass; lemon; thyme; melon and even figs. On the palate, Sauvignon Blanc wine may have a taste and flavours of: spice; it might feel medium or light-bodied; with hints of liquorice and vanilla. It could be harbaceous with a crisp and tangy, dry aftertaste of lemons. Very refreshing acidity when served at the correct temperature.

Colour of white wine vary from pale gold, straw yellow colour, golden yellow, greenish tinged, pale (whitish), even sometimes to light amber (which would indicate some age). For normal white wine, I would suggest that such wines are to be drunk young up to a maximum of three years from the vintage date for a good wine, two years for most others. Of course there are exceptions, if we are considering expensive, specially produced white wines of an excellent vintage. Easy drinking, everyday, quaffing white wines should be consumed within the first year from the vintage (harvest) date.

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Change in colour of white wine due to age. The lighter coloured wine is the younger. White wine becomes amber or golden in colour as shown due to age in the bottle.



Most other white wine varietals fall somewhere in between these two main varietals in both taste and smell, but then again, the “taster’s” own imagination, expertise, and taste buds come into play and which can make the final results very subjective and individualistic.

The Red Wine Varieties:

The red wine varieties fall under a vastly different category in all aspects of smell, taste and of course colour, body, texture and complexity. The production of red wine (that is, the way red wine is made), is also very different from that of white wine.

Red wine colour chart according to age and vintage of the wine

Red wine colour chart according to age and vintage of the wine

The international red grape varieties can be categorised mainly as those originating from France, namely: Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; Syrah/Shiraz; Pinot Noir; Cabernet Franc; Petit Verdot which are grown also in nearly all of the “New World” wine producing countries.

Then we have the Italian red grape vareties which seem to grow best in their own indigenous region in Italy viz: Nebbiolo of Piedmont; Sangiovese of Tuscany; Corvina of Veneto/Verona; Rondinella, Molinara and Corvina which three varieties form the blend basis of the famous Amarone and Valpolicella; Aglianico from Campania; Primitivo of Apuglia; Nero D’Avola and Insolia of Sicily. There is also the unique Sagrantino di Montefalco and the Monica grape varietal from Sardegna.  Dolcetto, Barbera, etc.

 From Spain we have the Tempranillo from the Rioja region;

and from South Africa we have the Pinotage;

Malbec of Argentina;

and Carmenere from Chile.

(Although both these latter two grape varieties are indigenous to Bordeaux, where the Malbec is know as Cot, and were at one time also used in the famous Bordeaux blend).

These grape varieties are produced into wines which may bear the name of the actual grape variety, together with the winemaker’s name and vintage date, or they can be produced under such prestigious product names that are protected by law in the country of origin;

Examples of these are the following:

Wine Name……………………………..Grape Variety/Country.

Barolo…………………………………..  Nebbiolo……..Italy.
Barbaresco……………………………. Nebbiolo.
Brunello Di Montalcino…………….Brunello strain of Sangiovese.
Vino Nobile de Montepulciano…..Prugnolio strain of Sangiovese.
Amarone/Valpolicella………………Rondinella, Molinara and Corvina.

Bardolino ………………………………………..Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara (with less Corvina than in Valpolicella)

Cote Rotie……………………………..  Syrah…………France.
Burgundy……………………………….Pinot Noir.
Graves……………………………………Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc blend.
Medoc……………………………………Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend.
St. Emilion……………………………..Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend.

Rioja Riserva…………………………..Tempranillo……….Spain.


Quality red wines can be medium to full-bodied, with smooth, strong or astringent tannins. Colours vary from red to ruby red to purple to very dark ruby to brown for aged wines.

 Aromas vary for the top red wines from a combination of black fruits black currants, cassis, strawberries, raspberries, liquorice, with flavours of rich fruits, chocolate, black cherries, maraschino cherries, black currants, tropical fruits, etc. Red fruits, rhubarb, cinnamon, nutmeg, plum and blackberries. Together or in combinations of.

This list is not exhaustive, as there are hundreds of different wine grape varieties grown all over the world, which are used to produce wines as single varietals on their own or in blends. The subject of wine is vast and requires constant study and reading to keep up-to-date. Vintage quality may vary from year to year, region to region and country to country. Vintage quality is greatly affected by terroir, climatic conditions apartaining for any particular year i.e. rainfall, droughts, frost, winds, etc.; by the expertise of the viticulturist responsible for the vineyards;  as well as by the handling and winemaking techniques of every individual oenologist (winemaker). All this happens well before the wine is finally bottled and released for consumption.

Great winesmerlot-grapesWine selections Meridiana The full collection.Newer 003tignanello_super_tuscan_wine_bottles






So what about a chilled glass of Rose’ wine?

There are various, good quality Rose’ wines on the market produced  either by local winemakers as well as imported selections. Rose’ wines are perhaps the most  versatile fruit friendly wines around, and most offer good value for money. Rose wines can be produced from any red grape variety, the most popular being: Syrah; Grenache; Gamay; blends of  Mourvedre’, Grenache and Counoise; Zinfandel (mainly from California);  I have even tasted a 100% Malbec derived  rose’ from Argentina which was delicious.

A top class rose’ wine offers an alluring nose with rich, red berries, citrus and even a bit of herbal tang. Dynamic fruit – wild strawberries, sweet cherry and ripe raspberry engage the palate with well balanced acidity could make this very versatile summertime wine a delight. But alas, having said this, there are many cheap rose’s on the market so consumers have to be wary of quality rather than just price.

Once we have read this feature, I would assume that we would have come a long way from the reasoning made in the first paragraph, in that wine is not just red or white (forget the Rose D’Anjou please), but a vast selection of quality categories, made from vastly different grapes, with vastly different smells, tastes, colours and flavours, created by winemakers for us to enjoy.

So now we all know that there are wines beyond just Red or White or a Rose’. So how do we go about choosing the correct wine to pair with that exclusive dinner in a good restaurant, or in the enjoyment of a sumptuous lunch or dinner with family and friends at home? This shall certainly be the subject of a future feature in this series.

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Red, White and Rose' 1.sassicaia_super_tuscan_wine_bottleswine-glass-cheers







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