A Basic Guide to Wine Tasting
Swirl, smell, sip. Those three words are more than enough to make someone uncomfortable about drinking wine. First thoughts generally are as to why does it have to be complicated? It doesn’t – wine like any other beverage is also about enjoying.
Wine will always taste fruity, being made from fruits, it is a core attribute. At this point you have to answer the most basic question, do you like it? Everything else is secondary. Tasting wine is similar to the concept of word association, except this time it is an association with smell and taste. This is also the point where you will have to pay attention. Smelling a wine helps you identify some of the flavors the wine may hold within. Fruits, wood, spices are some examples. After those initial bitter/acidic bits, focus on what the tastes remind you of, spices, fruits, flowers, mineral, etc. How long the sip stays with you after you’ve swallowed? Does it envelope your mouth? Does it end too fast?
If you want to take up drinking wine and wish to do it the way pros do, these steps will get you started:
See: Always in a clear glass on a white background in a well lit area. It allows you to see even the finest differences in colors. Not that it affects the taste of the wine but it can give away the age of the wine depending on the varietal. In white wines the color can vary from hay to pale gold and in reds from ruby red to dark purple.
Swirl: This allows aeration of the wine. Aromas or the nose of the wine becomes easier to judge when the liquid and oxygen have had a good interaction. For someone who is new to this, place the glass on the table, hold the glass at the base and make circular movements on the table – as if you are drawing small circles with the glass.
Smell: Now smell the wine, apart from the whiff of alcohol that hits you, smell what else is there. This step determines the ‘nose’ of the wine. This lays down the base as to what the wine might taste like. Experienced wine tasters and professionals can judge by the smell what sort of land or terroir the grapes were grown.
Sip: This is what you’ve been waiting for! Take in a reasonable mouthful of the wine and swirl it all around in your mouth.
If you’ve met any sommeliers, you would’ve noticed that they make a slurp-like noise when they sip on wine. It may seem uncouth but in the wine trade no one looks down upon you for that, what they are doing is taking in some air to further aerate the wine on the palate and open up more flavors.
Savor: Keep in mind the nose of the wine and see if it reflects in the taste, also keep a lookout for any additional notes that come across which earlier did not when you smelled the wine. How does your tongue react to the wine? This is the final factor for you to decide whether you like the wine or not.
Spit or Swallow: This is completely up to you. But beware, while it doesn’t make sense wasting good wines, if you are tasting as many as 10 wines at a time it is best to spit.
If wine tasting is something you are serious about, it is a good idea to build a database of the wines you have tasted and their tasting notes. Keep a diary and take notes, they will help you to not just build your memory regarding wines but in retrospect show how your palate has evolved.