At least twice a week, a customer walks into one of the tasting rooms I work at and asks:
“Can you show me the right way to taste a wine??”
Today, my goal is to help demystify wine tasting. Because honestly, tasting wine is the easiest and most enjoyable part of wine appreciation! So grab a glass of your favorite (or soon to be favorite wine) and give this method a try.
Tasting wine essentially comes down to using your senses.
Follow these steps to evaluate a wine...
1. SEE - What does the wine look like?
Hold your wine glass up to the light against a white or neutral background. What color is the wine? How would you describe the color using fun adjectives? For example: A chardonnay can be described as being straw colored, or pale yellow or anything else that speaks to you.
2. SMELL - What does the wine smell like?
Our sense of smell is most clearly linked to your own experiences. And honestly, there are few wrong answers. Give your wine glass a gentle swirl (preferably with the base of the glass on a bar, table, or other surface as swirling in the air looks fancy but often leads to spilling and sticky counters). This swirling will allow the molecules that create tasty smells to move around and react with air--allowing you to better experience them. Since there are few wrong answers-- what does this smell remind you of specifically? Maybe a certain type of fruit or flower, maybe it is some type of spice or mineral. Describe this as specifically as you can. Some wines have huge beautiful bouquets of aromas just waiting to be enjoyed!
3. SIP - What does the wine taste like?
This is the fun part! Sip some of the wine and allow it to move around in your mouth. What fruits (or vegetables) are the flavors similar to? Again, this will largely vary based on the foods you have eaten and enjoyed throughout the years. I once went to a wine course that had homework every night to eat specific foods such as lychee fruit, real caramel, and meyer lemon so that we could have those tastes and smells in our arsenal. Honestly, the only way to expand your vocab is to eat and smell more food. Tough life. No wrong answers here--it is based on your own preferences and palette.
4. SAVOR - How long does the flavor of the wine linger on your palette?
After sipping, do the flavors fade quickly, or change and develop into something else? More importantly: Do you like the wine? That is most important when considering the overall experience of drinking a glass of any wine. It truly is up to you, and only you! Sure, it is fun to know that a wine got 93 points from Wine Spectator, but I have also had wines that I absolutely adored that cost under 15 dollars.
Now go out and drink and conquer! Let us know what wines are rocking your world right now--maybe we can drink them together next time.