Ask The Swig


An enigma wrapped in a mystery and of unknown lineage, The Swig has led a peripatetic life pottering around the word’s vineyards collecting anecdotes and building a vast repertoire of facts, figures and fiction. Some say he drinks Port for breakfast and Madeira for tea. We say there is nothing more boring than a wine bore and if his approach to wine sometimes sacrifices fact for fun then bring it on.

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Planet Pearls – The only thing you can really get wrong about wine is the colour – unless you are blind, of course. So ask away and don’t be shy!

Why do people swirl wine in their glasses?

Firstly, It looks pretty swish. Secondly it releases the aromas in a wine so you can enjoy it and ‘taste’ it more.

Are the rivulets of wine you get down the side of the glass when you swirl it a sign of quality?

These are called ‘tears’ or ‘legs’. They are actually just an indicator of the alcoholic strength of the wine. The more alcohol a wine has, the more glycerin and therefore the more viscous the ‘legs’.

Is a rosé wine a blend of red and white wine?

Generally not. Rosé is a short pressing of red grapes or the first run juice taken off when making a red wine. The colour of a red wine comes from the skin contact so if it’s short the result is a rosé colour. But Rosé Champagne is made by adding red wine to the base white wine.

Does drinking wine make me look better?

No, but the trouble is that it makes other people look better. Moderation to be advised always, of course!!

I know nothing about wine so I’m embarrassed to choose in case I get it wrong?

The only thing you can get wrong about wine is the colour – unless you are blind. Only you know whether you like it or not and that is the ultimate and only real question as a wine drinker. Do I like it?

I’m on a diet but don’t want to give up wine altogether. Which wine has the least calories?

Champagne is a gals/guys best friend – our favourite sparkling has less calories than red or white wine.

I often read on labels that the wine tastes of chocolate or coffee. Is this an additive?

Generally, any tastes in a wine along the lines of vanilla, spice, chocolate, coconut and coffee will come from the barrels they are aged in. Different grape varieties have their own taste characteristics and these tend to be floral or fruity. Ageing will add smokey, mushroom and earthy notes to the mixture.

Should I decant red wines before serving? If so, why, apart from the flashy factor?

Old wines are decanted to separate the sediment which accumulates over time in a bottle. Actually, really old wines are best not decanted unless with exceptional care as you risk destroying whatever fruit and flavour is left. Best to stand an old wine upright 24 hours before drinking and leave an inch in the bottom when serving to avoid sediment. Top tip – If you decant young wines, red and white, it will release the flavours and improve the taste of the wine.

How do I know what temperature to serve my wine at? ‘Room temperature’ is a bit vague.

If you serve a white wine too chilled you destroy the flavours and if you serve a red wine too warm often the alcohol will dominate and diminish the fruitiness. ‘Room temperature’ dates back to an era when there was no central heating so today often this will be too warm for serving. Try taking your white out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving and putting your red in the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Does the shape and weight of a bottle indicate quality

Certain regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy use specific bottle shapes traditionally. In general, the better the juice in the bottle the heavier the glass will be simply as a protective measure. Some producers use extremely heavy bottles in an attempt to convey superior quality but beware. Size does’t always matter!