Varietal Vagaries

So there I was - standing in front of rows of wine bottles (happened to pass by on my way to other things in the shops), and it strikes me. I have absolutely no clue how to decipher from the many varieties what tastes good and what doesn't!

Thing is this - I've never been a wine person. Although I live smack-bang in the middle of an awesome wine region, the last time I tasted wine was when our class went to go see how it was made back in Tech days (I've always loved the smell of a winery in grape picking/squashing season). And I certainly didn't like wine then. OK, except for Delheim Pinotage Rose, but can't quite remember why.

Hmmm - correction. Previous statement is perhaps not entirely true - I had a miniscule sip of a few types recently and didn't like most of them. And a mouthful of dry red (or so) which I also didn't like that much but could swallow if required (provided it came with dark chocolate).

But then I did find one or two I could live with - white wines more sweet than dry, one with a wonderfully distinct apricot aftertaste (which even an uneducated palate such as myself could appreciate), and another that was labelled "naturally sweet light" (ie had been watered down with grape juice and had minimal alcohol). When it comes to champagne I prefer the sweet JC le Roux to the expensive dry stuff.

So there I was - standing in front of the wine section, looking at labels. And thought I'd throw it out to the general public. I know it's a case of each to his own, some like it so dry your gills curl up, others prefer Gewurztraminer (like me - see I know one!!! :-) ) and things that don't dehydrate your mouth.

But what makes a good wine? What's the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage, and those just labelled Red or White? What's up with Merlot and Bordeaux, Port and Chardonnay? I realize ageing in oak can give a certain taste, and many of the bottles have descriptions that include fruits, herbs or what would normally be scents. Some are drink-right-away, others are leave-for-a-bit. Then you get the stuff in boxes (which I understand is not a good thing). But again, I have a totally uneducated palate. That said, I may not know much, but I DO know South Africa produces some of the best.

Consider this a virtual wine-tasting session! Spill it - enlighten me. And if there's not enough room in comments, feel free to drop me an email extolling the virtues of this or that. Heck - if you're in the area, go show me! :-)