We asked Dr. Alex Russell, who completed his PhD in the School of Psychology, for 10 tips to help you become a wine expert. Bet you didn’t know adding tinned peach syrup to your next glass of chardy would help.
Here’s his advice. But the most important tip? Have fun. You know what people call anyone who takes wine too seriously.
1. Four hours to get started
During my PhD, I had novices come into the lab to smell and taste lots of wines.
In most cases, we had them in the lab for an hour and they didn’t learn much. But if they stayed just 30 minutes longer they started to show signs of improvement and after four hours, they were doing really well.
They weren’t experts by any means, but it didn’t take them years to get the hang of it, either.
2. Drink different types of wine
No expert became an expert by drinking only their favourite wine. Branch out, be willing to try new things.
Try wine by the glass at bars and restaurants rather than buying a whole bottle. Try wines made from different grapes, from different regions and countries.
3. Taste wines side-by-side
Odour memory is quite robust but, just like any other type of memory, it is prone to interference and forgetting.
Instead of relying on your memory to compare the wine you’re drinking now to the one from last week, open up a few different bottles at the same time so you can directly compare them.
4. Shut your eyes
The main skill of wine experts is consistently putting a name to an odour.
Wines that smell like blackcurrant aren’t made from or with blackcurrant and they don’t look like blackcurrant. It’s hard to identify a smell when you can’t visually associate it with the obvious source. In fact these wines contain chemicals that, when isolated, smell very much like blackcurrant.
So get a friend to go through your pantry and pick out various herbs and fruits. Smell and taste them with your eyes closed and try to identify them. Learn from feedback. It’s hard but you’ll improve over time.
5. Enrol in a Wine Business Management course
The UCT GSB Wine Business Management course is the only training programme of its kind in South Africa that focuses on the business aspects of wine. The certificated and credit-bearing short course commencing on 9th May 2016. Suitably qualified delegates can now follow the short course and, if successful, will qualify to complete the remaining modules leading to the Diploma.
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