Wine Tasting Made Easy
There’s no great mystery to wine tasting - it simply is what it says.
Wine tasting is all about experiencing the flavors in the grape and learning to appreciate the individuality of the different varieties on offer.
If you’ve never done it before then try it at home, perhaps with a few friends. First take three of four different varieties of wine (red, white, rose - or a mixture of all three). It should be a light-hearted occasion with perhaps everyone contributing a bottle. Make a note of each bottle’s name, its manufacturer and year produced and arm yourself with a glass for each bottle and a notepad for your findings.
Open the bottle with a good opener being sure not to leave any cork behind in the bottle, as this can affect the taste and opacity of the wine.
Now pour a little wine into the glass (a fifth of a glass is adequate for tasting purposes). Notice the color of the wine as it enters the glass and hold it up to the light so that you take a better look at its tone and opacity. Make a note of its shade; if it’s a red wine, is it a light cherry shade, a rich damson red, or does it have an even deeper burgundy tone? If it’s a white wine, is it a gold or amber-toned white, or does it have a fresher citrus tone? If it’s rose, is it a warm rose-petal pink, or does it have cooler violet tones? Whatever your findings - note them down next to the name of the wine.
The color is an indicator of the flavors and fullness of the wine. Now give the wine a good swirl in the glass and, again, hold it up to the light. You may notice ‘legs’ trailing down the glass as the flavors of the wine all meld together. Again make a note of this.
Now bring the glass up to your nose and inhale deeply. Close your eyes and try to ‘see’ the ingredients that make up the wine you are smelling. For example, you might get a strong aroma of strawberries, plums or cherries, or pick up elements of lemony zest, or even spicy cinnamon or chocolate notes. Again, write your findings down.
Now inhale the wine again but this time bring it up to your lips with the flavors you have ‘pictured’ clearly in your mind. Close your eyes again and take a good sip of the wine. What are your initial thoughts at it hits your mouth? It might be immediately fresh and vibrant, it might be soft and melony, it might be rich and jammy.
Swirl the wine around in your mouth letting it coat every part and, as you do so, purse your lips as if you are about to whistle and then breathe in just a little air to fully release the flavors of the wine. Don’t breathe in too much or you may find yourself coughing - practice makes perfect!
Now hold the wine in your mouth for a few moments more before letting it slide seductively down your throat (professional wine tasters wouldn’t swallow of course but this is a more personal and fun experiment). Make a note of all the flavors that you have tasted and of the ones that linger on in your mouth after you have swallowed. Wines that continue to linger are said to have a long finish. If you find this to be the case, then again, make a note of it.
Don’t forget to provide a good sized jug of water and additional glasses, so that all of your guests can thoroughly cleanse their palates between tastings.
You may consider reading the wine labels, with their description of the grapes and flavors before tasting, but I would suggest leaving this until the end of the tasting and then testing your abilities to see whether you picked up on those listed. It all adds to the experience and can boost your confidence if you’re new to the experience.
One last thing; if possible, take either a photocopy of each wine label or, better still, the labels themselves and attach them to your notes so that you can, over time, build up a collection of your favorite varieties.