How can something we love so much be so confusing?


It can be daunting ordering wine from a wine list. The sommeliers and wine waiters become the Busta Rhymes of grape varieties, throwing out words like ‘dry’, ‘wooded’ and all terms complex to convince you to buy the more expensive bottle of wine. Too intimidated to question them, you order the suggested wine and realise too late you don’t like it.

“I smell freshly cut grass, asparagus, vanilla and it is wooded.” This is how wines tend to be described. It sounds like a fruit salad. I used to search for the fruit and wood pieces in the glass. Once you master these terms, the script flips with terms like Bordeaux, Sancerre and Chablis, to name a few. I never got this technical when I was eight years old downing Drink-o-Pop. It was either cherry-flavoured or apple. The best way to try and understand wine and all its Busta Rhymes lyricism is to appreciate the way it: looks, smells and tastes in your glass.

Palategasm; world in balance; sunshining, at night. These are some of the positive emotions brought on by wine, in the moment and in the mouth. How can what was once a grape make

 Step 1: Appearance

The colour of wine. The most basic is knowing whether it is white or red. This sounds obvious but this distinction straight away removes half the world’s grape varieties from your glass. When at the dinner table of a corporate deal, you can safely call a glass of red wine a Cabernet Sauvignon and mention some of the aromas you can detect.

Step 2: Nose

If it smells fresh, fruity and pleasant you may proceed to step three. As children we learnt how an orange smells and instinctively when we are about to consume one, we first look, smell and eat. If the orange smells like a kiwi fruit, we would pause and investigate. The same with wine…

Step 3: Palate

Would it not be great to skip steps one and two just start with the taste? This is why we have opened a bottle of wine: to consume it. Skipping all other protocol, does the wine in the glass flow down your throat pleasantly? If not, “I think my wine is…”






My name is Xolani Mancotywa. I am a Xhosa wine-lover and just keen to share food and wine moments with the world, from a South African viewpoint.

Twitter: @XolaniSomm