What do millennials love besides cold pressed juice, craft beer and avocado toast? Wine. In fact, it’s our boozy beverage of choice, ahead of beer and liquor.
But can you tell apart a Pinot Noir from a Sauvignon Blanc? Or know which wine goes well with steak? It’s OK if you don’t – if it tastes good, it tastes good, right? But while wine is good if you like to drink it, it’s GREAT when you know about the finer points, so you can pick the wine that best suits your taste.
Want to go from a casual wine-sipper to a pseudo-sommelier? Read on.
Wine is often described by its flavour: dry or sweet. A dry wine is simply wine that isn’t sweet, leaving your mouth feeling a bit puckered due to the lack of sugar. Generally speaking, the higher the alcohol content, the dryer the wine.
There are four mains groups of wines. Red wine is made with a range of dark-coloured grapes that are fermented with the skin on, and it’s the wine with the most variety. White wine is usually made with a mix of green grapes fermented WITHOUT the skin, and tends to have a lighter taste than reds. Then there’s rosé, the pink-hued wine made by juicing red grapes and then allowing the juice to soak with the skins for a short period. Lastly, there’s fortified wine like port and sherry, which is wine with spirits added into it. They’re usually sweet and have a higher alcohol content.
Since red and white wines are the most common, here’s the low-down on the most popular types:
White Wine (Usually served chilled)
Moscato (“Mos-ka-to”): The sweetest of the lot. If you’re new to the world of wine, this is the one to start with, since it’s basically candy in a bottle.
Riesling (“Rees-ling”): Dryer than moscato, yet still pretty sweet, with a light and crisp flavour.
Pinot Grigio (“Pee-no Gree-jo”): A light, citrusy wine that’s much dryer than Moscato and Riesling, yet with a hint of sweetness.
Sauvignon Blanc (“Saw-vin-yawn Blonk”): A dry, light-bodied wine. Zesty like Pinot Grigio, but with a more herbal, green-fruit taste.
Chardonnay (“Shar-dun-nay”): A dry wine that’s one of the most full-bodied among the whites.
Red Wine (Served just below room temperature)
Pinot Noir (“Pee-no Nwar”): The lightest of the reds, with a dry, tart, fruity taste.
Merlot (“Mer-lo”): Perfect for those easing into red wine. Medium-bodied with flavours of black cherry, raspberry and plum.
Cabernet Sauvignon (“Cab-er-nay Saw-vin-yawn”): A dry, full-bodied wine full of rich flavours of red fruits.
Shiraz (“Shee-res”): Another full-bodied red with intense fruit (blueberry, plum) flavours and a slightly “beefy” quality.
Which one should you go for?
What wine you pick depends on two things. First, it’s your taste. Whether you like sweeter or dryer wines, or lighter or more full-bodied ones, is totally up to you, and nobody should tell you otherwise. There is no wine police, so trust your taste buds.
But there’s also the context. For example, if you’re pairing the wine with food, you should also consider picking a wine that complements the meal. Generally, the stronger the flavour of the food, the darker the wine should be – white wines go best with seafood, white meat and salads, while red wines go best with red meat and pasta. The temperature of the environment also matters – if you’re outdoors on a blisteringly hot day, a Pinot Grigio might hit the spot, while if you’re having a steak at a posh restaurant, you might want to go for a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Where should I go for a good bottle of wine?
Armed with the knowledge above, you could get a decent bottle that suits your palate from your local grocery store or even online. The key is to experiment with as many types of wine as you can so you can find out what you like.
But arguably the best way to get a good bottle of vino is from a place that takes its wine seriously. One of our favourite wine spots of the moment is Ma Cuisine at Duxton Hill. Located in a shophouse along Craig Road, the relatively new gastro wine bar has an extensive menu of over 600 labels from France and beyond.
“Through our personal histories and relationships with winemakers over the years, we tap into beloved French regions – notably Burgundy, Rhone, and Bordeaux,” says co-owner, Anthony Charmetant. “In addition, our ever-expanding connections with winemakers from across the globe allow us to curate a diverse, yet comprehensive collection to take guests on a voyage of discovery.”
In case you’re sceptical about the “voyage of discovery” bit, get this: guests can request to start their visit with a tour of the climate-controlled wine cellar, where Anthony himself (who’s also the head sommelier who hand-picked every single wine at Ma Cuisine) will regale you with stories of winemakers and answer any vino-related questions you might have.
When you’re seated, you’re presented with the drinks and food menu. If you’re overwhelmed by the selection of wines, don’t worry – tell the waitstaff your preferences (remember: red or white, dry or sweet, light or more full-bodied) and they’ll recommend a bottle, along with a dish or two that perfectly complements it. Wine by the bottle starts from $65++.
The Wine Cellar
If it’s your first time at Ma Cuisine, request for a tour of the premises. The first stop is the wine cellar, which stocks non-traditional wines from a diverse range of wine-producing regions in France and beyond.
The Port Cellar
The next stop is the port cellar, which houses one of the largest collections of vintage ports in Southeast Asia.
The Dining Area
Where you drink your wine is just as important as what you drink, and Ma Cuisine’s cosy interior (a raw, industrial space that marries vintage French style and contemporary sensibilities) is the perfect setting to indulge a bottle.
While the wine is the main attraction, the tightly-curated menu of classic French cuisine is equally impressive. Simple yet generous with flavour, highlights include La Pissaladière and Le Jambon Persillé, which are described below.
Recommended pairings? A bottle of Côtes du Rhône “Khayyam” 2015 Domaine Mas de Libian paired with La Pissaladière, a savoury onion tart with anchovy and olives that brings out the ripe blend of red fruit and spice of the wine. Another match made in heaven: the Meursault “Les Casse Tetes” 2015 Domaine Tessier and the Le Jambon Persillé. The freshness and acidity of this white wine adds a delicate complexity to the terrine of braised pork shoulder with garlic and parsley.
Take the cosy and unpretentious setting, the super knowledgeable staff, the simple yet sumptuous French cuisine and amazing wine list, and you get one of the best spots in town to enjoy a bottle of wine – or three.
Ma Cuisine is at 38 Craig Road. Opens Mondays to Saturday from 5pm to midnight.
Bonus: Anthony’s Fave Wines
Co-owner and sommelier Anthony Charmetant shares some of his favourite bottles from Ma Cuisine.
SANCERRE Grande Côte Domaine François Cotat 2016
“Francois Cotat is the king of Sauvignon Blancs and rightly so. He produces wines that are atypical yet arresting in complexity, offering much more than the classic piquant texture and exotic aromas found in Sauvignon Blancs. It is a complete manifestation of the unique soils or ‘terres blanches’, standing out with its unexpected mineral finesse and suppleness.”
CHAMPAGNE 1er Cru Les Vignes de Vrigny Domaine Egly Ouriet NV
“There was a time when consumers only recognised the name brands and labels. Nobody knew the small producers behind them. Egly was among the first to produce from the same estate that owns the vineyards the grapes are grown on and has since achieved cult status for their wines. Revered for its exceptional quality and a top competitor among fine wines, this champagne is made with 100 percent red grapes.”
“This wine is fermented and aged in the ancient style of clay amphoras – clay jars dug in the earth. The clay amphoras don’t impart any characteristic flavours to the wine, delivering a distinct character and a pure, clean expression of the character of Etna soils.”
MACON VILLAGE Cuvee Botrytis Domaine de la Bongran 2001
“You’re incredibly lucky if you can get your hands on this extremely rare bottle. A truly outstanding sweet dessert wine produced with Chardonnay, it is completely [unique]. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this at Ma Cuisine.”
PORT TAWNY Single Harvest Graham’s 1972
“The limited release of 1972 Single Harvest Port, all individually numbered, are made from the very oldest vines of over 80 years old from a distinguished [wine region]. Only selecting nine of the best casks for bottling, many of the casks used to mature the port are over 100 years old and only produce 712 bottles each.”
Images: Pierre Plassart, 123RF.com.