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Your Ultimate Guide to South African Wine Shows

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As the weather starts to cool in South Africa, the wine shows begin to tour the country. So if you’re excited to give it a go, we’ve got all the tips and tricks you’ll need right here!

Dress 

We believe in adding craftsmanship to the way we dress, whether that’s in dressing for the job you want, or dressing up for the wine show. 

  • First things first – shoes! With all the walking you’ll be doing between wine stalls, you’ll need comfortable shoes that can fit in with the smart casual theme of the evening. We recommend a classic boat shoe with a twist or a boat moccasin for the gentlemen, and a leather slip-on loafer or lace-less formal shoe for the ladies.
  • To hide any potential wine stains, opt for darker clothes to pair this with. Bear in mind that it may get hot if there are a lot of people, too.
  • For the most part, you will be holding your glass with one hand, leaving you with only one spare hand – so a sling bag for your phone, wallet and keys would be useful.

If you usually complete your look with a signature fragrance, just this once, don’t. Your sense of smell plays a tremendous role in wine tasting. Adding unwanted layers of aromas will affect the taste of the wine for you and for those around you. So for this night, let your shoes do the talking instead of your scent.

Eat

Even though the tasting amounts are tiny when compared to a full glass of wine, they build up swiftly, getting you too tipsy too quickly. 

To ensure that you can enjoy the whole evening and all of the wines you taste, eat before the event and, if there is food available at the wine show, take a break to eat there as well. Water in between wines will also help greatly in keeping you hydrated and lucid throughout the night.

If you want to be extra careful, make use of the spittoons at the stalls – be that to spit the wine into or to pour excess or leftover wine in. That is, after all, what they are there for.

Interacting 

Since you’re dressed to a T, let your confidence shine through and get chatting with the stall owners. Ask them questions about their wines or the vineyard and find out their story. As long as you don’t keep them so occupied that they can’t serve wine to anyone else, this can be one of the most enriching parts of the evening.

The Actual Tasting

How to hold a wine glass:

The correct way to hold a wine glass is by the stem, as you won’t be altering the wine’s temperature with the heat from your hands.

Order of tasting wines: 

The optimal order to follow when tasting multiple wines is:

  • Dry before sweet
  • Light-bodied before full-bodied
  • Young before old
  • Semi-sweet before red and dessert wines after red

Smell: 

Since you left your perfume/cologne behind, make the most of your olfactory senses by smelling the tasters wholeheartedly before taking a sip. Since you will be tasting so many wines, you will be able to distinguish them better by experiencing each wine fully this way.

Descriptors:

The two major factors to consider when analysing or explaining what you’re tasting are the flavours and the structure.

  • Flavours

This is usually comparable to other foods and fruits
Usually, a lighter red wine will be reminiscent of strawberries, raspberries or cherries
Usually, a darker red wine will be reminiscent of coffee, chocolate, blackberries or blackcurrants

  • Structure

Tannins: a wine that is tannic or high in tannins will have your mouth puckering up or drying up (especially at the back of your mouth)
Acidity: this will help balance the sweetness of a wine to keep it crisp and fresh
Alcohol: you will feel the level of alcohol in the amount of heat at the back of your throat after swallowing the wine
Sweetness: you will taste sweetness in wines with residual sugar, as opposed to a dry wine, which has no residual sugar, and therefore, less sweetness

Take Notes 

With so many wines to taste, it is easy to get confused about which ones you enjoyed and which ones you didn’t. In order to remember which ones to look out for days or weeks later, either keep a notepad with you to jot down your favourites, or use a nifty wine app like Vivino which allows you to scan and save labels on bottles and keep track of what you like and dislike.

Don’t drive home

A little at a time adds up and before you know it, you’ll be way over the limit to drive. Plan ahead to have someone drop you off and fetch you, or make use of a taxi app or chauffeur service, with options aplenty!

You’ve dressed the part, so act the part, too, in being responsible – both for yourself and for everyone else on the road.

If you’re still hesitant to give it a try, remember that there is no right or wrong when choosing or liking a wine – it’s completely subjective. As long as you find something that matches your personal taste, you’re on the right track.

So put your best foot forward and go forth to take on your nearest wine show!