Monday, September 13, 2010

HOW TO TASTE WINE


Wine Tasting

Wine tasting at a winery, tasting room, wine bar or tasting event is the best way to explore grape varieties and wine types with which you are not familiar.  In this way, you can expand your palate and create a broad knowledge base about different kinds of wine. 

It's not uncommon in wine country to see a limo pull up to a tasting room and deposit a group of happy drunks at the front door.  They go inside and proceed to blaze through the tasting flight as if it were last call.  This is not "wine tasting."  This is "wine drinking" - not that there's anything wrong with that, in its place.  Lots of people drink wine in order to get blasted.  For the purpose of this article, I am assuming you want to learn more about wine and are tasting for that reason.

If you are new to the tasting game, here are some simple steps which will make you look like a pro on your visit to wine country.  If you are in a crowded tasting room - maybe one with several limos docked outside - you may feel some pressure to hurry your flight along and get out of the way.  Don't.  Take all the time you need to evaluate and enjoy the wines put before you.  That space at the tasting bar is yours until you relinquish it.

See
Hold the glass up to a white napkin or paper.  Observe the color and clarity.  Does the color change from the center to the edge of glass?  Red wines will tend to turn lighter in color and brown a bit around the edges with age.  White wines will probably grow darker with age.

SwirlDo this to allow more of the wine's surface to be exposed to the air.  Exposing the wine to the air in this way helps bring the aromas forward.

SniffDon't be bashful.  Put your nose right into the glass.  Get a big whiff of the smells that will affect how the wine tastes to you.

Sip
Swish it around in your mouth.  Allow it to cover all of your tongue, and note the flavors you detect.  Get a feel for what kind of body the wine has.  Is it light and airy, or heavy and full?

Spit or Swallow
Depending on your situation, you may want to make use of the spit bucket provided at most tasting rooms and events.  Especially if you plan to taste a lot of wines.  Just a one-ounce pour over 30 or so tastes is a half-gallon of wine.

SavorAllow some time to enjoy the wine's finish.  How long does the taste remain?  Do the tastes change after the wine is gone from your mouth?

Scribble
Make notes on your thoughts about the wines you taste.  Many people take notebooks with them on tasting trips.  Record your impressions on taste, tannins, alcohol and acidity. 

The taste is the flavors you experience, like cherry, plum, spice, etc.  The level of tannins determine the astringent quality in red wine.  The more tannins there are, the dryer the wine.  The alcohol level determines how much "heat" you feel when tasting it.  Acids make the wine feel refreshing, or mouth-watering.