Do you dread that moment in a restaurant when the server asks you if you want to taste the wine? In your head you’re screaming no, but you dutifully pick up the glass give it a sniff and a swirl without really knowing what you’re doing.
Wine tasting doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to go on an expensive course (unless you really want to). It’s also hugely subjective but if you can get to grips with the basics and know what to look out for, you’ll be well on your way to knowing what you like and what you don’t like. Every palate is different.
So what do you need to get started?
- Your brain
- A glass of wine
- And if you’re feeling very professional, perhaps a notebook
Here’s our guide to looking like an expert:
1. Look at the wine in your glass
Take a moment to observe your wine – this is when you can give it a swirl. Clue – most of the answers you’re looking for will be on the bottle. People might tell you to look at the ‘legs’ of the wine, this simply means the tears that drip down the side of the glass when you swirl it. What do they tell you? Not much, they are just a representation of how much alcohol is in a wine and the alcohol percentage is already printed on the wine label.
2. Smell your wine to identify aromas
In the beginning it pays to think big and obvious. You’re not going to catch a whiff of freshly cut grass or rose petals when you’re just starting out. Can you pick out citrus, tropical fruits or apple flavours when tasting white wine? If tasting red wine think about different types of berries and spices.
When smelling wine a good technique is to alternate between small, short sniffs and slow, long sniffs. It sounds a bit mad but it helps get past the ‘wine’ smell.
3. Taste - now it’s time to sip and savor
You taste wine for three key reasons (other than pure enjoyment of course). Our tongues can detect salty, sour, sweet, or bitter. Take a sip and see if you detect any of the following (depending on whether it’s red or white) acidic overtones, citrus, berry, or herbal overtones. You can’t smell sweetness, so this is something you will only be able to detect when tasting.
Texture and length are also important. Texture is mostly derived from the alcohol content. A dry and heavy red wine will have a different texture than a sweet and light white wine. Length is how long the taste lasts from the moment it touches your palate to after it has been swallowed.
4. Think and take note
Now you need to reflect on what you’ve discovered! Ask yourself – did you like it? If yes…why? If you didn’t like it…why not? If you find a wine you really like it’s well worth writing it down so you don’t forget it.
They say practice makes perfect. So to get more comfortable tasting wines and picking out the different elements why not organise some informal wine tasting sessions with friends. Get together a different selection of wines and taste them side-by-side. Go forth and enjoy.
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