Before I get into this I better clarify the difference between tasting and drinking wine. Yes that odd process you are picturing in your head is how to taste wine. Yes you swirl it. Yes you smell it with your nose right in the glass. Yes you spit it out. This is not to be confused with drinking the wine where you certainly don’t spit and your out to simply enjoy the wine. First of all let’s get one thing clear. I may partake in my share of tastings, but I will never enjoy anything more then drinking wine for pleasure the way it was meant to be consumed. But if you truly want to understand a wine and get out the flavours and intricacies out of it you should sample some. Plus as much fun as it sounds to drink 20 different glasses of wine in one night you can only properly enjoy them all and evaluate them all evenly if you are spitting the wine out. Plus if that 20th glass is a $100 bottle of Bordeaux you probably want to be able to taste it.
1) Pour yourself and ounce or two of the wine. Technically you should be using a proper ISO certified tasting glass (yes the ones they give you at the wine show). If not you want a glass with a tulip shaped rim so you an effectively smell the wine.
2) Look at the wine. Tilt the glass on an angle and look at the wine again. You want to take notice of the colour of the wine and how intense and deep the colour is. Also when the wine is tilted into the glass you want to take note of the difference in colour between the core of the wine and the wine around the rim that helps determine the depth and richness of colour. Also take note of the legs. Those are the drippings down the side of the glass after you have tilted it. Without getting too technical the intensity of the legs tells you the sugar and alcohol content of the wine.
3) Smell the wine. Don’t be afraid to put your nose right into the glass to get the aromas out. The secret is not to take a huge whiff of the wine but rather take many little whiffs. This helps you get the flavour aromas out without being overpowered by alcohol. Note the flavours. Try to decipher what it is you actually smell. You should swirl the wine around in the glass to release the aromas. This actually works its not just something people do to look like they know what’s they’re talking about.
4) Taste the wine. Take a small sip but no more than necessary to coat the inside of your mouth. Swirl the wine around your entire mouth and take in small amounts of air while you do it. This is the odd slurping sound people often make when tasting wine. Oxygen helps release the flavours of the wine so by taking air in you can taste all the flavours in the glass. The idea is simply to get a bit of air in while you have the wine in your mouth. You don’t necessarily have to make obnoxious sounds while doing it.
5) Spit the wine out. Yes the tough part but necessary to continue to properly taste.
6) Repeat. There is a lot to think about while your trying to taste wine so you can’t do it with just one sip. Repeat the tasting process two or three times more.
The final thing you should consider if you are tasting wine is making notes. Even something as simple as taking a photo of the wine label for your records. The idea of tasting is to understand a wine and to evaluate it for the purposes of buying more or to determine how long it could be cellared for. So you need to keep some sort of record of what your having so you can look back on it later. It is even a good idea to do this if you are just drinking wine for pleasure so you can record which wines you liked and didn’t. At the end of the day this will help with your overall appreciation of wine.
Whether you are drinking or tasting and evaluating… Enjoy.
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