Monday, January 17, 2011

Wine Tasting 101



Practice, Practice, Practice.

Wine is very personal. You don't have to be an expert, but you do need to trust your own palate. Each time you try a new wine, your awareness of the character and subtle differences will be expanded. Tasting wine is like a sport: the more you practice, the better you become at it. Only with wine tasting you won't be dragging you feet to do it.

Sip Tip: The best place to perfect your tasting technique is in a winery tasting room.  It is recommended you try and go during off-hours when the tasting room host isn't too busy and the host can take you through the paces and discuss each wine with you. Pay attention, there is much to learn in the Tasting Room from the host, which around Spokane if it’s not the winemaker themselves, they are often close by.
 
LOOK
The first step is to hold the glass by the stem and look through the wine against a white background to appreciate the true color. The wine should be bright and clear, not hazy or cloudy. White wines range in color from nearly clear to a golden yellow. Red wines range in color from dark, intense red to a light, pale red. Some of the intense colors have you thinking about bringing in a glass of wine to have the paint store match the color for a sensational syrah colored powder room.
 
SWIRL
To get the full aroma of the wine, fill a large wine glass a third of the way full, and swirl the wine around in the glass. Come ‘on really give it a swirl. This releases the aromatics. Try step #3 SNIFF - before and after you swirl. You'll notice there's a huge difference.
 
SNIFF
Inhale deeply through your nose and try to identify what you smell. Do you smell fruits or spices? You might find hints of familiar smells including wood, tobacco, citrus, apple, chocolate, plums, pineapple, flowers or berries. When you smell, lean over and put your nose completely in the glass. Come on, no one is looking.
 
TASTE
After taking a sip, roll the wine around in your mouth to reach all of your taste buds. Then, breathe air through your lips to release the aromas. If the wine makes you pucker, it may be a little tart (high in acids) or tannic (dry like banana skins and tea leaves). If it feels hot and burns a little, it may have high alcohol content. If none of these elements overwhelm you, the wine is likely well-balanced. Notice how it feels in your mouth: this is called the texture. Try and detect what flavors you taste before comparing that to the winemakers notes on what you “should” taste. Sometimes you’ll decide they are the same and other times not even close. Keep in mind food changes the taste dramatically.
  
SPIT
It’s HIP to SPIT. It may make you slightly uncomfortable initially, but if you’re tasting a lot of wine it is essential to spit. Spitting enables you to experience wines without the danger of imbibing too much alcohol. If you are just trying a few, go ahead and drink up. By the way, wine that lingers in your mouth and throat after you have spit is a sign of good length and body.

Sip Tip: Remember, once again, this is personal. Keep on tasting to find what YOU like and why. Ask questions, take notes so you can recall your preferences and pretty soon you'll figure out your wine style. Keep in mind, it all changes the more you taste. So darn-it-anyway, you’ll need to keep at it, as not only wines change but your taste preferences may as well.
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