Introduction to WineSense

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“There is simply nothing else that so perfectly encapsulates physical sensation, social well-being, and aesthetic exploration at the same time.” —Hugh Johnson, Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion

Life has many things to offer us, but for sheer enjoyment, few compare to the pleasure of drinking wine. Over the millennia, writers have verged on poetic as they tried to explain the virtues of this fermented juice. In this book, I offer my perspective on the subject — a perspective that will cut through the complexities that wine can present to all but the expert tasters. My goal is to create a clear path toward truly understanding wine and at the same time enable you to unabashedly enjoy it. I hope this book will also serve as an homage to wine; as I note throughout the book, appreciation of wine offers many rewards.

This book provides a map for discovering and grasping some of the mysteries of this wonderful beverage. It is wine simplified. You’ll be able to experience this gift of nature in a deeper and more profound way. No longer will you be fearful of trying a new wine or talking about your favourite wine with more-experienced drinkers.

What is it about wine? What is the magical attraction that wine holds for so many people? Well, let’s start with its appearance. At the very first glance, you see a liquid with many subtle colours and hues. Next, hold a glass of wine under your nose, and the aromas tempt you to raise it to your lips. Now allow the more tangible pleasures to unfold. The first taste is usually the fruity remnants of the grape itself. Then varying tastes and sensations come into play as wine’s complexities reveal themselves. Finally, after you swallow, there is a lingering aftertaste. Perhaps a warm glow engulfs your whole body. After you take a few sips, conversations become more animated, and your better passions are released. All this from a single serving of a drink, which was conceived and nurtured in a vineyard! Wine is a muse for poets and ordinary folks alike, a great seducer and lifelong friend to many, and it’s integral to some of the finest cultures on earth.

But as simple and lovely as wine may be, it can be intimidating for the novice. The names on the labels and the packaging are confusing. This situation is made worse by so-called “experts” who perpetuate an elitist approach to wine. I’ve attended many organized tastings led by this sort of folk. Their presentations are often so jargon-laden that I wonder what they’re really trying to say. Each wine is accompanied by comments full of details and data relating to the chemical composition of the wine being tasted. They talk about “specific gravity,” “brix,” “phenolics,” “glycerin,” “tannins,” “volatile acidity,” “residual sugar,” “malolactic fermentation,” “mercaptan,” and on and on. These people seem to squeeze out all the enjoyable aspects of wine. The wine itself — and all the pleasure it brings — gets lost in the analysis. It makes me want to run from the room!

In this book, I take a different approach.

The ultimate purpose of this book is to teach you how to find good and consistent styles of wine that suit your palate. Finding the right wine for the right time and the right occasion will be easy. With a virtual ocean of wine available for consumers in North America, this ability presents a huge relief when you’re buying wine. You’ll be equipped to sort through the vast quantity of wine and find the one you like . . . and then find others similar to your favourites.

WineSense offers you the following Three Keys to unlock the world of wine:

1.     The Basics: This key includes fundamental knowledge about winemaking, styles and types of wine, the history of the development of wine, and some tasting guidelines. This introduction to the basics will give you a framework for understanding the rest of the book.

2.     The Grapes: This key includes exploring the most prominent grapes used around the world as well as stories about their beginnings and their use in winemaking.

3.     The Approach: This key explores the two main decisions a winery must make regarding its grape-blending philosophy and quality goals in creating the final product.

Mastering the Three Keys will enhance your overall enjoyment of this magical beverage and arm you with a lasting understanding of wine. You will gain WineSense, helping you continue (or embark) on an enjoyable, life-long trek exploring this elixir of fermented grapes. You’ll also be able to find local wines that compare to your favourite foreign selections and receive many other rewards.

WineSenseJoanna Pleta