One of my favorite things to do is to participate in a wine tasting! Wine tasting is an opportunity to taste a number of wines, for a relatively small fee. This gives you the ability to “try it before you buy it,” and who doesn’t like that? I try to attend wine tastings whenever and wherever I can, because I’m always looking for a new favorite.
Wine tasting doesn’t have to be intimidating or complicated. Typically, at a wine tasting, you will receive about a one-ounce pour. Hopefully, it will be in a high-quality wine glass (Reidel are my favorites) and the type appropriate for the varietal.
If you follow a couple of simple steps, you’ll be tasting wine like a pro in no time. Here’s the process I use:
- Hold the wine glass by the stem and swirl the glass rapidly. Swirling the wine does several things: it moves more of the wine’s surface along the side of the glass, which aerates the wine and helps to release the aromatic chemicals of the wine into the air.
- Stop swirling, insert your nose into the glass and inhale by taking a quick, full sniff. You will learn more about the wine from smelling it than you will from tasting it. Your mouth can detect four tastes – sweet, sour, bitter and salty – but your nose can detect thousands of scents!
- Take a second sniff and analyze the aroma further. Can you identify any scents of fruit or flowers? Do you detect any presence of spice, such as pepper, cinnamon or vanilla? Many wines also contain other aromas, such as oak, moist earth, chocolate, tobacco, toast, smoke, mushrooms or grass. Did you find any of those?
- Once you are finished evaluating the wine’s aromas, it’s time to taste the wine. Take a small sip and move it around your entire mouth with vigor, like mouthwash. This gets the wine into all areas of your mouth. Swallow it, or, if you feel comfortable, go ahead and spit it out in the dump bucket. (The dump bucket is a container on the counter for you to spit into, or dump wine out of your glass.)
- Take your 2nd sip and move it across your mouth and over your tongue so that all your taste buds come in contact with it. Keep the wine in your mouth for 3-5 seconds before swallowing it. This allows the wine to warm up slightly, which releases more aromas.
When tasting the wine, here are a couple of things for you to think about:
- Sweetness— Did the wine have any sweetness? If so, there is residual sugar in the wine. If not, the sugar has been fermented completely and the wine is considered “dry”.
- Tannin— This is a bit more complicated, because you “feel” tannin, you don’t taste it. Tannin is a sensation that develops on your tongue and then dries out your mouth. Tannins are generally associated with red wine.
- Acidity— Did you experience any acid in the wine? Acidity usually presents itself on the sides of your tongue, the back of your mouth or inside your cheek areas. If you feel that your mouth is salivating after swallowing the wine, that’s acid! Wines with acidity typically pair nicely with food as the acidity helps to cleanse your mouth.
- Length— How long did the aftertaste linger in your mouth? A sign of a high quality wine is a long (1-3 minute) aftertaste.
So, now you have the basic skills to taste wine like a pro. Only you can answer the big question: is the wine “good” or not? If you like the aroma and taste of the wine, it’s good for you! If not, there are thousands more to try. Get cracking!