Here are some simple guidelines to help you enjoy wine AND look really cool.
As one of my FB friends said (I wish I could remember who!), “Hold your glass up to the light for maximum pomposity.” Actually, you can hold it against something white like a sheet of paper or napkin and you’ll be able to see the color of the wine more clearly. Is it reddish, reddish brown or more purple in color? Is the wine dark or light in color – can you see through the wine? Depth of color is a general indicator of whether a wine is a fuller bodied or lighter bodied wine. Is the wine cloudy and/or brownish – usually not a good sign – the wine could be oxidized. Epic wine fail. In a nutshell, too much air, for too long has come in contact with the wine causing a color, aroma and taste change. Blech.
A 'Corked' wine is a wine that has been bottled with a cork that is contaminated with TCA. It comes across as 'musty' aromas and flavors.
2. Swirl & Sniff
Your senses of smell and taste are closely intertwined, so take the time to sniff a glass of wine. Swirling the wine in your glass opens up the wine (that’s wine speak for letting in air) and helps you take in the aromas. Place your glass on a flat surface and swirl the wine. Then quick - put your nose inside the glass and give it a good sniff. What is the first aroma that comes to mind? Is it a fruity or woody scent? Wines that are oak aged sometimes smell more like spices and wood than fruits; so don’t limit your thinking to raspberries or blackberries. You could also smell cinnamon, cloves or vanilla due to the oak aging. Some wines even have vegetal scents like grass or green peppers.
Grapes, like other fruits, have unique characteristics depending on the type (varietal). Think of apples – there are hundreds of different apple varieties, each with a unique flavor and aroma. Grapes are no different – some are sweeter or fruitier; while others are more tart or vegetal by nature.
I don't think the commonly held notion that the bigger your nose the better you sniff is true. What do you think?
3. Sip (the best part)
Most people tense up when they get to this part. Relax, there are no wrong answers. Think about it, when you are talking about flavors in the foods you eat, do you get nervous and tense? Of course not…so start sipping.
Try taking a small sip, hold it in your mouth for a moment, and before you swallow or spit, take in some air through your mouth. This enhances the aroma and the flavors. How does the wine “feel” in your mouth? Think of milk…when you drink skim milk – it feels “light” in your mouth. Now, think of whole milk. It feels heavy in your mouth – right?
Now, you can move onto what you actually taste. Remember most of what you taste in wine (or food, for that matter) comes from your sense of smell. So expect to taste similar flavors as the aromas you sniffed earlier. However, most people can pick out more nuances in the taste of wine than in the aroma. For instance, you may smell more fruit aromas, but you will taste more of the woody or spicy flavors in wine.
4. Spit or Swallow?
Be a rebel! While it may not be pretty, spitting helps keep your palate fresh if you’re tasting a lot of wines. It also prevents you from getting so inebriated that any glass of wine tastes great!
Let me know if you liked or learned anything from my Tasting Wine crash course.
Cheers, Rebel Red