How important is it really these days to know how to taste wine? Of course literally tasting wine is not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the cultural ritual of tasting wine. It always seemed pretty snooty to me. Especially during my younger years when booze was booze and whatever kind you could afford was just right. I never thought back then that I would ever have considered knowing how to taste wine the “right way.”
I’ve quickly learned that, “Guess what?! As we get older, things change!” Now, I’m curious about this wine tasting thing. I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing out there. The dorkiest part about it is that I actually have some interest in the fragrant and delicate process of wine tasting (like I said, things change as we get older).
As a kid, I had a grand appreciation for the golden rococo decor, the precise social skills and talents Gigi’s aunt teaches her in preparation for becoming a mistress of high society. There’s a bountiful amount of comedic scenes during the many lessons.
Gigi breaks cigars trying to judge their qualities. She accidentally gets drunk on the champagne her aunt gives her to practice sipping. She plops down on beautiful satin sofas instead of sitting. She stomps and hops instead of sashaying. She spills a cup of tea or two etc. Inevitably the visits to her aunt pay off.
So, it’s not the turn of the century, and I don’t live in Paris, but still, it seems I should know how to taste wine. Apparently, the complexities of the art are infinite, as every glass and every grape is entirely unique like a snowflake. However, the basics of wine tasting are not too complicated. With time and experience, the details of the skill unveil for themselves.I’ve broken down the process of wine tasting to its bare bones. I’ve made us a quick review to look over before your next nice dinner out. Wine tasting, as out of place as it may seem in our beer ponging and shot taking society, has its place not only to impress but also to unravel bouquets of flavor, tradition and invention to you.
The Very Basics of Wine Tasting
1. Have about a third of a glass of wine full to taste. There needs to be enough room in the glass to swirl the wine without spilling.
2. Before you swirl it, take a good look at the wine. Hold red wine in front of a white surface like a table cloth under light and check it out. What are the hues? How clear is it? Is there any non-liquid material present?
3. Swirl the wine, as though you are making a little whirlpool in the glass. The movement in the swirl loosens the variety of scents present in the wine, improving the experience of detecting aroma/s.
4. Bring the glass close to your nose. Tilt the glass about 45 degrees. Sniff the wine for a few seconds the same way you would smell a new perfume or blossom. It may take some scents longer to present themselves, so allowing yourself a few seconds to smell is important. You may find yourself picking up hints of vanilla or cinnamon? Perhaps the smell of lavender might trickle in…or melon…or herbs…
5. Take a sip of the wine. Allow the wine to touch the different parts of your tongue. Each part of your tongue sort of specializes in different areas of taste like sweetness or sourness. Take in a small amount of air too so that the nasal passages as well as the mouth experience the taste.
6. Think while you taste. What do you taste? Actively investigate the many nuances of the drink. Most of the time you can simply swallow the sip. However, at an official wine tasting, you may have to spit the sip out. Do so confidently to avoid risk of dribbling or spraying (I know, so awkward). Typically though the process of wine tasting will be in a restaurant with your dinner mate/s, so you can casually enjoy the drink as part of the tasting experience.
A Breakdown of Potential Flavors:
Tannin (Present in the skins of grapes, tannins give wine a fuzzy dryness which tends to lessen as the wine ages)
Most importantly, when it comes to wine tasting, remember that it is a very personal and intimate experience which involves your tastes, preferences, reactions, observations and the wine itself. There is no need to be intimidated because technically there is no right or wrong. What you like is what you like 🙂 Developing your own taste in wines is what evolves into expertise. Cheers!
Got any more sweet tips? Any encounters with wine tasting?
Walton, Stuart. The Encyclopedia of Wine. London. Hermes House. 2007. Print.
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