Top winemaker Neil McGuigan shares his wine-tasting tips

BY THE time you read this I will have enjoyed a Girlies’ Night In, with yours truly  in charge of  a wine-tasting challenge.

Other entertainment was to be one Girlie playing tunes on her ukulele.

My plan: To disguise  all bottles in tin foil and to ask the Girlies questions, including guessing the grapes. I will have given tips beforehand, not least to stock  up on hangover cures.

So it feels timely to share some wine-tasting tips from award-winning Australian winemaker Neil McGuigan.

I asked him what he’d say to people who  feel a little embarrassed swirling and sniffing wine and if it really made any difference.
He explains: “I recommend that people focus on the wine as soon as it goes into the glass for 10 seconds – look at the colour, have a sniff, have a taste – this will help you to form a memory and relate it to the grape variety. Then just enjoy!”
On a red, what would be the sensory checklist?
He tells me: “Before we start on senses, something to remember – if your wine is a screwcap, then you can be pretty sure that the wine is fresh. If it is a cork closure, you just need to be aware that cork can impart a character to the wine.
”Look at the colour, make sure it is not too brown (for red wine). Smell – it should be pleasing to your senses. Taste – hopefully the wine exhibits the variety indicated on the label and it is flavoursome and enjoyable for you.”
It can be daunting if you want to discover wines.Neil McGuigan Glass (2)
I asked  how Neil would encourage  someone to step out of their comfort zones. He says: “Consumers must be confident in their own palate.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – tell people what style you like so you can get recommendations on alternatives. Look at the taste descriptors on the bottle  labels and think about what you like –  and don’t like – to give you an idea of what  to try.”
McGuigan Wines  come from  the Hunter Valley, which Neil says is “a unique grape growing area – in my opinion it makes the best wines in the world”.
But I asked him what sets  grapes grown in Australia apart from  others grown  in France say, or elsewhere in the New World.
Says Neil: “What we’re able to do in Australia is keep and show the purity of the fruit and  varietal differentiation thanks to our climate and techniques   that  help us to retain characteristics and flavour.”
Neil says he is excited  about  new things at McGuigan; embracing new varieties and making fresher whites and more voluptuous reds.
But have our wine tastes changed?
He says: “It is constantly evolving and we evolve our wines to suit this change. Chardonnay is the prince of white grape varieties. Australia lost focus on flavoursome but refreshing Chardonnay, but now we have got that  right.
“Aussie Chardonnay is a fantastic drink.”
 “Our aim is to make better wine today than we did yesterday. For us, wine is the hero.”
 In My Glass   
 Memoro Rosato Vino d’Italia NV (£9.99, Tesco). It just felt right to Memoro Rosato Vino d’Italia NVtry this wine last weekend.
We have lighter nights; it feels like summer and happy outdoor days are on the way.
This deep pink wine is a blend of four grapes from across Italy and has fruitburst aromas of squidgy ripe raspberries and cherry sauce, with juicy strawberries to taste. Yum.
This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine April 12 2014 
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