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Basics of Wine

Luca arrigo

Malta’s ultimate all-in-one wine guide

For a mediterranean island with the love for wine deeply embedded in our culture, there is a real lack of resources to educate yourself on wine in Malta.

This is why I am creating this blog, starting with a wine all-in-one article where I will be covering the basics.

By the end of this article you will have a solid understanding of the basics of wine, from how it is made to how to enjoy it with a meal correctly.

You will be able to visit your local wine bar in Malta and show your friends how it is done.

To get the ball rolling, let’s talk about how wine is made.


How Maltese Wine is Made

All wine starts as grape juice, which is then mixed with yeast (if not already present) which allows fermentation to take place.

Fermentation is necessary in the production of wine as it produces the alcohol and carbon dioxide that is present in the wine. Due to a simple formula, fermentation takes place. This is the yeast eating the sugar found in the grape juice, which as a by product produces the alcohol and carbon dioxide.


What causes wine to be red or white?

When initially created, all wine starts clear. What gives red wine its colour is that during fermentation, they use the skin of the grapes. This is what causes the wine to go red.


Dimensions of Wine Flavour

The flavour of wine can be broken down into six different dimensions, which are the following:

Acidity – this is one of the reasons why we drink wine with our food as the acidity is what gives it a refreshing aspect. It also cuts the fat in food and readies our palette for the next bite of food.

Sweetness – or the lack of sweetness, which we call as dry wines. The sweetness of a wine is determined by the balance between the sugar, alcohol, tannin and acidity. Sugar and alcohol enhance the sweetness while tannin and acidity brings it down.

Tannin – is a woody component found in the skins of grapes and normally is only noticeable in red wine. It is the reason why red wines can age as it a natural preservative.

Fruitiness – is the most straight forward dimension of wine, it is simple how intensive the fruit flavour is present in the wine. This is usually down to the ripeness of the fruit used when producing the wine.

Non-fruit flavours – apologies for the abstract term. This is a generic dimension which refers to all the aspects that affect the flavour of wine which don’t involve fruit such as oak and mushrooms.

Alcohol – The obvious factor is the effect of alcohol of wine on the human body but serves other purposes as well. It serves to lift the aromatics of the wine into your nostrils and allows you to enjoy the smell of win.


Why does one wine taste different to another?

One of the beauties of wine is the diversity of taste that is available for consumers to taste.

There are 4 different contributing factors to why one wine’s taste differs from the next, these are the following:

Character of the grape – what type of grape is being used and what quality of this grape was available.

Character of the place it is grown – the characteristics of the environment that the grape had experienced when growing.

Weather – What was the weather like in the year the wine was produced.

Winemaker’s style – This relies on the technical choices which the winemaker makes along the way of producing the wine. An example of this would be the raw materials that the winemaker has available to his disposal.


How to taste wine

When we start tasting wine and want to learn more about the subject, the first step is to really start paying attention to your first sip of wine.

The first step that you need to do to improve your wine tasting skills, to develop a routine checklist of aspects to look for when tasting the wine.

Here are a few things you want to do when trying a new wine:

Look at the colour of the wine – use a napkin and place it behind your glass for a white background to ensure there is no interference.

Swirl the wine – coat the wine glass with a layer of the wine by swirling the glass. This increases the evaporation rate of the wine and enhances the aromas which creates a stronger smell.

Take a large sip – the size of the first sip should be larger compared to the one you would have socially.

Once you have taken the sip, swirl the wine around your mouth and make sure it hits all areas. This is to activate all taste buds and ensure no flavours of the wine is being missed out on.

Although wine is a drink, you use more than just taste to admire the quality of the wine. In fact, you use four of your senses to enjoy wine. These are visual, smell, taste and touch.


How to choose wine with your food

As all wine lovers know, choosing the right wine takes your meal experience to the next level. Therefore, knowing how to choose your wine is a must. Here is a list of 8 rules to follow for your next wine choice:

Meals with earthy flavours such as mushrooms or truffles, go for a pinot noir or a dolcetto. These wines are light bodied but are full of savoury depth.

Wine for fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce – go for a Chardonnay. My personal favourites are from Chile, Australia or California.

Salty meals – have champagne/sparkling wine. The refreshing aspect of sparkling wine compliments salty meals very well, as salt dehydrates the mouth.

For juicy steak lovers, try Cabernet Sauvignon. Personally prefer the Bordeaux-style blends which refreshes your palate with every bite of meat.

For tangy food such scallops, go for a Sauvignon Blanc. Most wines would be overwhelmed by things such as tartar, so it’s best to go for a zippy wine.

For cheese lovers, have your meal with a dry rose. Rose has a nice balance of the acidity of red wine and the fruitiness of white, which compliments rich cheeses.

For your family BBQ – make sure to have a Malbec – this wine goes very well with spicy food and won’t be overshadowed by strong barbeques sauces.

Old school home meal such as pasta bolognese, have an old school red wine such as Chianti. Home cooking and tuscan wines are a match made in heaven.


Maltese wine

Although for many years Malta was not known for producing great wine, in recent years we have begun taking on the likes of Italy due to our native grapes and launches of new local wines.

We have been producing for over 2000 years, so the love for wine is deeply ingrained in our DNA. We also independently produce our own wine makes it an incredibly intriguing for consumers to experiment with.

This combined with rise of quality of wine produce due to mediterranean climate, rich soil and the work of our local wineries has resulted in Malta becoming one of Europe’s most promising emerging countries for wine.

We have two unique grape varieties which are the Girgentina for white wine production and the Gellewza for red wine and rosés.  Malta’s quality wines are boutique wines, which are produced scarcely and are not well-known at all.


Final Words

I hope after reading this blog post, that you have a better overall understanding of the basics of wine.  At Wineboxinc, we are on a mission of providing our island with great wine experiences, starting from this article.

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  • Michael Borg on

    Interesting read. Keep it up

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