That said, the ability to acquire the ‘knowledge’ of what to look for when tasting wines does not happen naturally. Whether you’re novice or are already on your way to becoming an aspiring wine expert, there are a few simple tips you need to know that come in handy while wine tasting:
1. Types of wine
Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or champagne? Sweet, dry, red or white? Aged or recently picked? The wine you choose will have a direct bearing on your tasting experience. Take time to read the label and search online for more details on the wine and the region it’s from to fully understand the nature of the wine and the complexities of flavor to look out for when going on a tasting.
2. Time of Day
Our body clocks certainly know when we are ready for alcohol. Unfortunately, it doesn’t correspond with the nature of drinking a wine over a lunch, dinner or at a winery. Our palates are more alkaline in the earlier part of the day so best to do the wine tasting before a lunch at least and to visit a winery early.
Fill the glass just about one-third full and hold it up to the light to take in the full beauty of the wine, its color, and complexity. Take in its clarity and density to see the complex range of grapes, the type of wine, and age. If the appearance is yellowish-brown the chances are it is too old and well past its peak.
Place the glass on the surface and swirl it around. If there’s any wine trickles down the side of the glass it indicates it’s a good strong wine with plenty of alcohol.
Gently breathe in the aromas to take in the full varieties of the wine. There’s no need to take a deep breath, a few short sniffs will do. You can even your eyes and have a few moments of meditation to focus on the scents that make up the wine and detect whether they are floral or fruit. Focus on the range of grapes and fruit, and perhaps even try to identify the type of climate they will have been grown in. You will soon learn to detect the often subtle differences of floral, herbal and more earthy aromas.
Gently sip the wine and let it swish around your mouth – not to the back of the throat – and let the flavors immerse themselves within you as they combine with your previous ‘sniff’ test. Similarly look out for the variety of flavors of fruit, flower, and herbs. Focus your mind and palate on the complexities or otherwise of the wine and the balance between sweet or sour and if it has a tad of a bitter note.
Wine and food are synonymous with each other so it’s only right to enjoy both together. If you wish to develop your wine tasting skills, it’s good to give some thought to the type of cuisine or dish that will be accompanying your wine. Whether it’s meat, fish, fatty, sweet or spicy the overriding characteristics will affect your pallet and your appreciation of the wine. Wine pairing is all about finding the ‘right’ combination of food and wine that will perfectly complement each other.
For example, if you’re planning to enjoy a meal that consists of seafood, risotto, salads, as well as chicken dishes, wine white like Sauvignon Blanc would be an excellent choice.
Check any notes you have made or available if at a winery as you taste the wine. Discuss with others as you sip – that’s one of the joys of wine appreciation – and ask questions at the cellar door if at a winery. No one else knows their wine better than the actual wine makers so feel free to inquire all about the wine’s production process down to its packaging.
Though there’s an immense amount of material online, a book is a handy reference guide to ‘bone up’ on your wine knowledge before and during any tastings. The World Atlas of Wine is regarded as one of the ultimate wine ‘bibles’ compiled by renowned wine experts Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robertson. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge and making the most of your wine tasting experiences!
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