Author: Ágnes Herczeg
How to choose a wine?
We are in a lucky position here, since our 6 wine regions and 22 wine districts offer a very wide variety of different styles of wine to choose from. However, such a large range of options also makes choosing harder. The internet and social media are generally very helpful if you’d like to learn more about a certain wine but there is not usually enough time to read all this before buying a bottle of wine..
If you are only just starting to learn about the world of wines now, it’s worth visiting some wineries and wine bars, where you can order a tasting sample and compare different varieties and styles. This will help you develop your own tastes and discover new wines and styles, helping you choose the right bottle to buy.
You can find a relatively good selection of everyday wines, even in convenience stores and supermarkets. Since these shops purchase their wines centrally and in large quantities, their prices are generally lower as well. If they have a seasonal or discounted wine selection, it’s a good idea to try these, since these are usually new in store and are quickly sold out. In lower price categories, always look for the most recent vintages, as these wines are not made for long ageing, so are better when young. If a bottle is very dusty, it’s better to avoid it, especially if it has been stored upright on the shelf. It is not advisable to choose bottles stored near lights, radiators or sunny windows either. If a wine’s label has been faded by the sun or you can see some wine has seeped out around the capsule, it should be avoided completely.
Wine shops and wine merchants are of course also great places to buy wines. In this case, you can benefit from the fact that the salespeople are probably very familiar with the bottles on the shelves. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. If you have a favourite wine, the staff should be able to recommend something similar, or if you are looking for a bottle for a special occasion, they will also be able to help. It’s worth having a good look around in this kind of shop as you can learn a lot just from reading the labels..
The correct serving and consumption of wine is one of the most important elements of wine culture and cultured wine drinking. If you consider just a few minor details, you will have a much better wine experience.
Make sure you pay attention to the temperature of the wine. There are various optimal temperatures for bringing out the flavours and aromas of different types of wine. In the case of traditional method sparkling wine, this is 6-8°C, while the optimal temperature for white and rosé wines lies between 8 and 10-12°C, and for red wines 16-18°C, which is almost room temperature. In Hungary, the most common practice is simply to put the sparkling, white or rosé wine in the fridge. It’s best to take oaked white wines out of the fridge half an hour before consumption so that they can reach their optimal temperature. Sparkling and light, aromatic white wines can be served straight from the fridge. If you store red wine at room temperature, half an hour or so in the fridge before consumption will be enough.
It’s a good idea to aerate older red wine in the glass a little once it has been poured and only drink it after about 10-20 minutes. In the case of really old and full-bodied wines, decanting, a way of aerating the wine, might come in handy too. This means that the wine is poured from the bottle into a large glass vessel, such as a decanter, with a wide body and a thin neck, enabling a larger surface area of wine to be aerated at once. When pouring the wine, make sure you do not allow any sediment to go into the decanter. Most households do not have a decanter, but there is a way round this. Pour one glass of wine from the bottle and leave the remaining wine in the bottle to air for about an hour. Thanks to the glass you poured, more wine will come into direct contact with the air, aiding the release of aromas and flavours.
Finally, you need to consider the kind of glass you use. The ideal wine glass has a tulip-shaped bowl, as this tulip shape helps to release the wine’s aromas. The slightly smaller top of the glass concentrates the aromas released and guides the wine to the most appropriate parts of your tongue. The stem helps keep the bowl totally clean and prevents you from warming up the wine with your hands. There is a wide range of different wine glasses available - you can even choose different glasses for different grape varieties; however, for everyday use, one set of glasses meeting the above description should be enough. When you pour the wine, always make sure that you don’t overfill the glass. The most practical and most elegant way is to fill the glass to one-third full. This is usually the height where the bowl is at its widest.
How much wine should you have when expecting guests?
One important question is always how much wine you should buy to ensure there is enough. The following amounts should serve as a guide:
One bottle (classic 0.75l) of wine if..
…you are organising a wine-tasting event, in which case this should be enough for 14 people (50ml/person)
…you are organising a traditional dinner, in which case this should be enough for 6 people (125ml/person)
…you are drinking from really large glasses, in which case this should be enough for 4 people (175 ml/person).
There is a kind of ritual associated with wine tasting, which helps you experience and enjoy all the beauties and details of the wine in question. This may appear overly scientific at first, but with a little practice, you can soon become an experienced wine taster and will be able to discover many new aromas, flavours, experiences and enjoyment in wine. 1. Pour the wine into a suitable, tulip-shaped glass. Always pour just enough to reach the widest part of the glass (usually one-third of the way up the glass). 2. Look at its colour and appearance. Lift the glass to eye level. You can even tilt it a bit. Take a look at its hue from above, the depth of colour and its clarity. Is it clear? What colour is it around the edges? Does it move in an “oily” fashion? Does it have a more dilute consistency? Good wine is usually clear with a vibrant colour. The colour and its depth depend more on the grape variety and production process than on quality. 3. After you have observed its clarity, swirl the wine around in the glass a bit, making sure not to spill it! Try to draw elegant O-shapes in the air with your glass. This is useful for releasing the wines aromas and flavours, which the glass’s tulip shape helps to concentrate.
Then sniff the wine. Observe whether you notice more fruity or spicy notes in the wine? How clear is the nose, do you notice anything unpleasant or annoying? How “warm” are the aromas? Are they more mature, do they remind you of fruit jams or fresh vibrant aromas smells? Is the nose complex or simple? One of the typical characteristics of high-quality wine is a pleasant nose. 4. Now to the actual tasting. Take a large sip so that the wine can reach all parts of your mouth and all your taste buds. Pay attention to the harmony of the wine. Harmony means the balance of acidity, fruit character, alcohol, sweetness and tannin. A wine’s harmony can be created in many ways. These are referred to as various styles or structures. 5. After you have analysed the components, swallow the wine and consider its aftertaste and how long this “finish” lasts. The finish of a good wine is pleasant and persistent. 6. It is very important to always taste and consume wine in moderation and make sure you occasionally take a sip of water too.
Wine and food pairing is interpreted much more freely today than 10-20 years ago. Since taste preferences differ, instead of trying to achieve perfection, we now emphasise the harmony of structures and textures, since there are normally a number of people sitting at a table together. Fortunately, our instincts help as well, as we almost automatically reach for lighter wines when eating lighter dishes and we intuitively prefer a full-bodied red wine to go with a hearty beef roast. Moreover, wines should be treated just like spices: if you wish, you can use them to highlight certain flavours but if you wish, you can also make the wine more dominant in the pairing. A thin slice of ham is just as delicious on bread and butter as with a sweet slice of melon. The following guidelines will help you find your own way and create your own wine and food pairings.
Dense, sweet wines with pronounced acidity pair well with fatty dishes. A classic example of this is the Tokaj Aszú with goose liver pairing.
A cellar with good ventilation and nearly constant temperature and humidity provides the perfect storage conditions for wine; the bottles should be stored sideways. Such wine cellars are usually a luxury that only people living in the countryside can enjoy; however, if you take a few things into account, you can create somewhere suitable for storing wine anywhere.
The simplest and most professional, although not very cheap and rather space-intensive solution is to buy a wine fridge. Nowadays, most fridge manufacturers have wine fridges in their ranges. The most professional ones have various temperature zones, allowing you to keep both sparkling wine and full-bodied red wine at their optimal temperature. When designing wine fridges, the manufacturers also aim to avoid the slight vibrations resulting from the operation of the device, ensuring stiller, more suitable conditions for storing wines.
Fortunately, even if you don’t have a cellar or wine fridge, there are plenty of possibilities, so it’s actually easier to be aware of what to avoid, i.e. the things you should NEVER do with wine:
One of the lower shelves of a kitchen cabinet or a corner in the pantry can provide ideal places for storing wine, as long as they are nowhere near the oven. The important thing is that the bottles are stored sideways, the temperature is relatively constant, the wine is not exposed to direct sunlight and they are not moved too often. If you have bottles of white wine or rosé, you can even store them in the fridge, so they are ready to open and consume at any time.
Hungary is a wine-drinking nation. Wine is part of our culture, and thus our everyday life and our holidays. However, drinking wine is a responsibility as well, due to the fact it contains alcohol. In order to appreciate the true value of wine, it’s important to consider a few things and follow the five basic rules of wine consumption in moderation.