Listen, we get it - the world of wine appreciation can seem like a tough nut to crack when you are just starting to develop a taste for the fruit of the vine. From the outside in, it can feel as though there are a whole bunch of fancy rules you need to follow in order to become a part of the very grown-up oenophile* club.
Fortunately, the Hazendal team is happy to share a nifty guide of wine tasting notes for beginners. This is everything you need to know when you join us for a tasting of our latest vintages at Hazendal Wine Lounge, as shared by our lovely winemaker and viticulturist Clarise Sciocatti-Langeveld.
Do a little palate prep before your tasting
To ensure that your palate is nice and neutral for a tasting, Clarise recommends avoiding eating strong foods, drinking coffee or brushing your teeth for about 30 minutes prior. "When in doubt, water biscuits are always a go-to palate cleanser," she suggests.
Book a wine tasting slot when you can
Although most wine farms around Stellenbosh, including Hazendal, are happy to receive guests on the fly, it’s always a good idea to book a time slot if there are more than 6 people in your group. This gives the tasting team a head’s up and some time to prepare for your arrival so you can enjoy their full attention.
“Our tasting room is more of a slow lounge and we focus on a personalised experience at all times,” says Clarise. In short, give yourself plenty of time to taste, indulge and unwind.
Hold the glass by the stem to keep the wine temperature stable
When you go for a wine tasting, odds are it will be served in stemmed glasses rather than the stemless tumblers that are currently popular.
“Holding a stemmed glass by the stem or bottom is probably the most socially acceptable way, but honestly whatever you are most comfortable with goes. If you hold the glass by the bowl instead of the stem, just be aware that the wine will warm up faster because of your body temperature,” Clarise recommends.
Use all your senses to experience the wine
When you taste a wine, it's all about concentrating on what you are seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling in your mouth.
Start by looking.
First, take a look at what is in your glass. What colour is it? Is it clear or hazy? Are there any deposits? All of these signs give you clues to the age of the wine and the style (e.g. whether it was fined or if it was prepared as a natural wine, for instance).
The more you practice the easier it will be to identify certain characteristics. Just remember wine tasting is a personal thing so what you smell and taste might not be the same as others.
Now, move on to smelling.
“Then smell your wine, and swirl the glass in between to aerate the liquid. Aerating the wine releases the flavours. Note how it evolves. Start by smelling a little further away from the glass - this should give you an indication of how pronounced the wine is. The more pronounced the flavours are further from the glass you will start identifying flavours,” explains Clarise.
There are different types of flavours that will become apparent. This includes:
- Primary (flavours derived from the grapes): E.g certain types of fruit/savoury scents/herbs etc., which will give you hints on the cultivar and its terroir.
- Secondary (flavours derived from the winemaking process): E.g. butter/ dough/yeast/oak, which is also an identifier of wine style.
- Tertiary flavours (flavours derived from the maturation process): Almonds/ caramel/ honey/leather.
Don't worry - the wine tasting team will always guide you in the process of identifying the flavours. It might not be all that apparent at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed at what you can pick up on the nose of a wine.
Next, you taste.
Upon tasting you should be able to identify most of the flavours you picked up with your nose. Often, there will be other tastes that come to the fore as well. Take some time to swirl it around in your mouth gently to give the flavours time to develop.
Then, start exploring the weight and length of the wine on your palate. Are there any tannins? How do they feel? Are they textured, dry, harsh or creamy? Does the wine have good length (how long do the flavours last on the palate?).
“The more you practice the easier it will be to identify certain characteristics. Just remember wine tasting is a personal thing so what you smell and taste might not be the same as others,” encourages Clarise.
TOP TIP: The more aware you are of your daily routine and how things around you smell, the more you will be able to identify certain aromas in wine. It’s a matter of matching aromas in the glass to aromas in your daily routine.
Ins and outs about wine tasting at Hazendal
What time? Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 till 17:00 (last tasting at 16:30)
How long? Approximately an hour
Reservations? Not required, we offer tastings on a first-come, first-seated basis.
Price: There are three different pricing tiers:
- A selection of any 3 wines = R65
- 3 Christoffel Hazenwinkel and 3 Estate wines = R95
- A selection of any 6 wines = R130
*There are also delicious cheese and charcuterie boards available (R95- R175).
“I would encourage newbies to try the last option. This way they can experience six different wines across the whole style range that Hazendal has to offer - easy drinking, barrel matured, as well as some festive Cap Classique,” says Clarise.
If you’d prefer to take an even deeper dive into the wonderful world of Hazendal wines, we highly recommend that you book a Sensory Experience. This in-depth tasting experience is paired with a remarkable food offering and cellar tour.
The pairing encounter is available from Tuesday to Sunday at 12:30 - bookings must be made 24h in advance. The complete experience, including welcome drink, guided tour, wine tasting and pairing portions, is priced at R680 per person.
READ MORE: 5 Reasons why Hazendal’s 2-hour food and wine pairing experience is truly unforgettable
How to handle wine for best results
If you decide to buy some wine to take home, there are a few things to bear in mind if you want to ensure that it travels and stores well.
“Wine generally doesn’t like to be moved and it needs a stable and cool environment. Make sure not to leave it in the vehicle for any extended period of time. Once home, move it to the coolest spot in your house, away from direct sunlight and damp.
“If it has a cork, turn the bottles on their side or stack the box upside down. You need to keep the cork wet. If it dries out, it will shrink, oxygen will enter the bottle and the wine will likely oxidise,” advises Clarise.
There you have it - wine tasting notes for beginners, in a nutshell. See? Not so scary after all! We hope to welcome you for a tasting at the farm soon. Alternatively, you can also order our wines online, and host your own tasting right at home.
*Oenophile = a lover or connoisseur of wine. Work that one into a conversation for a bit of added wine-tasting clout ;)