I adore wine. I love the sound the cork makes when it is released from the bottle, I love watching the crimson (or golden/blush) liquid splash into the glass, I love taking that first sip – like a tentative first kiss – and curling up in the evening with a good book and a good glass of red.
I’m fortunate enough to come from a country that is known for its wines – and for around 3 years now, I’ve been sampling what wines South Africa has to offer by going for tastings at local wine farms and trying different wines when out to dinner.
Travelling has opened up a whole new world of wines, and I hope to review many of them in the coming months.
So, to begin, here are some tips for fellow wandering wine lovers to help you prepare for wine tasting abroad:
1. Buy a wine journal!
I have an A5 Moleskine wine journal, and I absolutely love it. There are sections for different types of wine, and spaces to fill in important information about each wine – vintage, type of grapes, producer and country, ideal parings, etc. The journal also comes with a set of stickers that you can use to mark special wines, and spaces to paste pictures.
If I’m tasting wine at home, I often sit with my journal next to me for the first few sips. That way, I can write down my thoughts without getting distracted. You obviously can’t always do this, so make notes (either scribbled down on a piece of paper or on your phone) to help you fill in the details later.
So many times I’ve tasted a wine, adored it, and then later forgotten what it was called. Now, I try to document great wines (both special and everyday) so I can hunt them down later. Once your journal is full, you’ll have a great souvenir of your wine tastings and discoveries made while travelling!
2. Ask as many questions as possible
If you’re doing an organized tasting, don’t be shy to ask questions about the vines, harvesting, history, etc. I find half the fun in tasting is learning about the wines, and how they differ from those back home. For example, when tasting wine in Sankt Goar (Rhine Valley, Germany) I was amazed to learn that eiswein (“ice wine”) is made from Riesling grapes that are harvested before dawn when covered in frost – hence, “ice” wine.
If you find a wine you like, ask if there are reduced rates for buying in bulk. Often you can buy a crate of wine for much cheaper directly from the farm (shipping is another issue though).
3. Collect wine souvenirs
Bringing wine bottles home can be tricky, so I tend to collect wine corks. If you’ve bought a bottle of wine and you can take it with you from the restaurant, try taking the label off to keep in your wine journal. You can use the kettle in your hotel room (if you have one) to steam the label off. Once the label is off, let it dry a bit and then press it in-between two pages of a book.
4. Track your wine adventures on Pinterest
Create a wine-appreciation board on Pinterest and check the box that says “add map” to pin your favourite wine farms. This way, you can share your discoveries with other wine lovers. You can take a look at my Pinterest board Wine Lover for inspiration.
5. Above all, enjoy!
Don’t stress if you forget your wine journal or forget to take notes. Wine should be enjoyed as a way to relax and reconnect with oneself. It’s actually recommended to detach yourself from social media every now and again, to reconnect with the current moment. So leave the pictures and notes for later, and indulge in a great glass of wine simply for the sheer pleasure of it.
Today’s wine recommendation:
Red blend: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Petit Verdot
Deep crimson with hints of ruby
Smooth and velvety, rich, aged in oak barrels for 18 months
“Fine, elegant, and smooth”
Flavours of blackberry, hints of oak and dark chocolate, as well as vanilla
Great aging potential
*One of my all-time favourites!