Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thick in the glass

Wine is intimidating. Because of this fact, most people adhere to simple, silly misconceptions, miscontrued as rules. These misconceptions are easy to understand and easy to remember, but that's all they are - misconceptions.

The thing I hear the most, and which gets me hankered the most is the idea that you should check your wine glass for legs. Meaning, you swirl the wine in the glass, and notice how it drips down the side. I'm not pointing any fingers, but you know who you are. I've heard this come from so many people that I'm putting my feet down and putting a stop to this nonsense.

People, all the legs tell you is that there is alcohol in the wine. What the f*ck could you possibly ascertain from that? What other kind of information can you tell, other than what you're drinking is alcoholic? It's ridiculous that you can determine whether a wine is full-bodied or not from its viscosity. Texture is determined on the palate, not by the eyes.

So, what you should be doing is this: appreciating a wine's appearance is the first thing you do, but what you should be focussing on is the colour. Colour gives you a wide variety of information, which is then followed by aroma, and finally, palate.

Colour gives you clues about a wine's age, varietal, as well as viticulture techniques.

First - age.

Wine changes colour as it ages. Red wines become lighter as it ages, and white wines become darker. Look at the shade first. Light, dark, transparent? Tip the glass, so that it's almost flat. How does the colour change from the centre of the glass to the rim? Does it get considerably lighter, or is there no change in saturation? The tell-tale sign of a mature red is a brown/amber/orange tint at the rim, while a white wine becomes almost transparent.

Second - varietal.

Varietals have common characteristics in terms of colour. Cabernet sauvignon will always be darker than pinot noir. Chardonnay will nearly always be deeper and more golden than riesling.

Third - viticulture.

This one is important, to me at least. As the trend is for red wines to be darker and darker, and white wines to be nearly deep gold, you have to recognize when a wine has been doctored in the cellar. Pinot noir is naturally quite light red in colour, so when you open a bottle of pinot that looks inky, there should be alarms going off about possible manipulation. Things like excessive oak, designer yeasts, and micro-oxygenation can all contribute to an altering of a wine's natural colour.

So, next time you open a bottle, please look closely at it before you taste. Look closely at the colour, because it will give you a number of clues about the wine, before you even drink. Just never, ever, mention the legs. My corkscrew has a knife attached to it. The next person who mentions legs in my presence is getting their right ear sliced off. You've been warned.


  1. can we discuss about the legs on that hot brunette i saw the other day?

  2. oh, we can talk about those legs all day long. All DAY LONG.