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FAQs

Here are the answers to some of our most common questions. If you have a question not asked here you can send it to our trainers for an answer; we try to keep this section up to date with new questions and answers as we get them, so check back here regularly for new info on our training

Questions

Where does the colour of red wine come from?
Red wines take their colour from the skins of the grapes which are used to produce the wine. To make red wine, the grapes are left for a period in a vat to ferment and macerate with the skins. The longer this period lasts, generally the deeper the colour of the resulting wine.
What makes a wine dry, medium or sweet?
Wine is made when the natural sugars in the grapes turn into alcohol. The greater the amount of sugar which converts into alcohol, the dryer the wine will be. If the fermentation of the grapes is stopped (either naturally or by intervention) there will be greater sugar left in the wine and so the wine will be sweeter. Many so-called dessert wines are produced by either stopping the fermentation or adding base alcohol to the wine as it ferments.
Why is rosé wine pink?
Most rosé wine is produced from red wine grapes, where the grape skins have been left in contact (i.e. maceration) with the juice of the wine for a short time during the fermentation. The longer the grape skins are left in the juice, the deeper the resulting colour will be. Some rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines are made by adding still red wine to the base white wine prior to the second fermentation; this is almost never done to produce still rosé.
Where do the spicy flavours of some wines come from?
Some grape varieties - such as Syrah - have a naturally spicy flavour to them. Other wines can be made to taste slightly spicy by maturing the wine in oak barrels. These barrels impart subtle characters to wine, one of which is a vanilla spice note.
What would a Pinot Grigio taste like when drunk with a sirloin steak?
When matching food to wine, the most important thing is to match the weight or body of the wine to similar weight and flavoured food. Strongly flavoured food such as steak demands strongly flavoured wine, or the wine's character will be swamped. So, a Pinot Grigio with its light, almost neutral character, will likely appear almost tasteless when paired with a steak.
Where do the bubbles come from in sparkling wines?
There are several ways to produce sparkling wines. The most famous - the 'traditional method' which is used to produce Champagne and many other fine sparkling wines - involves a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. Yeasts and sugar are added to the already fermented still wine and these cause carbon dioxide to be made in the bottle - which takes the form of bubbles. Another method of producing bubbles in wine is the charmat or tank method which is used for very popular wines such as Prosecco. Here the second fermentation takes place in a large stainless steel vat or tank rather than a bottle. The pressure of the resulting wine is much lower than that of Champagne.
Why do people smell wine before drinking it?
The smell of a wine is a key part of a wine's perceived character; if you try to taste food or drink with a cold for example you will notice there is much less flavour. Smelling a wine is also a quick way to check that the wine is healthy - in other words that it has no obvious faults. A wine which smells musty or unclean shouldn't be drunk.
If you ordered a bottle of £40 wine, what would you expect that wine to taste like?
This is an excellent question. Wines which cost more to produce generally will come from the finest vineyard sites and therefore have the finest quality fruit. So the first thing you should notice is really excellent fruit quality. Then they will often have been matured in expensive oak barrels which help to smooth out any rough edges in the wine and add toasty or vanilla flavours. Finally the finish of an expensive wine - the amount of time the flavours linger in the mouth after swallowing or spitting, is often much longer in an expensive wine.