Swirl the wine, smell it, and taste it! That’s what all sommeliers do. So what’s the big fuss, right? Well, not exactly. There is a bit more than just that. Luckily you got us to help you learn how to taste wine the right way.
That doesn’t mean you will become a master wine taster overnight. But you will be able to build a solid foundation on which you can later build and refine your newly acquired taste for wine.
And the first step is…
The first step is understanding! Wine drinking, wine tasting, and wine evaluating, that’s all related, but not the same. Tasting wine is like listening to music – some notes are loud, while others are low. Each wine is unique, and each contains a different set of information.
The idea is to decipher your preferences and tastes. Build your wine vocabulary so that you can have a better understanding of wines and be able to interpret that. Like most things in life, the more you practice, the better you will become. That includes all of your senses – eyesight, sense of smell, and taste.
Buy some decent wine glasses. If you plan to taste both red and white wines, you will need at least two pairs of clear wine glasses. The wine glasses need to be completely clear, with no patterns or colors engraved on them. That way, you can study wine’s color.
For red wine, glasses are typically taller and feature a wider mouth and bowl. That allows the smell and flavor to reveal themselves easily as you slowly swirl the glass. If it is a white wine, then the glass should have a smaller mouth and be narrower. That way, the air intake in the glass is minimized.
Before you taste your first wine…
Make sure your palate is clean. Don’t eat a big full meal or smoke a bunch of cigars. Have some water before you start tasting wines and drink water in between wines. Also, you might want to have some crackers, bread, or mild fruits, to keep your palate clean.
Also, always remember when tasting wine, there isn’t such a thing as good or bad wine. What’s bad for you might be perfect for someone else. It all comes down to personal preferences and taste. After all, the goal of wine tasting is to develop a certain taste. That way, you can compare other wines with your taste and preferences.
And here we go…
First of all, comes the visual part. Place the glass with wine against a white backdrop under natural light. Take note of wine’s clarity, hue, and color. This is why you need a clear glass. To have a better look, tilt the glass a bit. That way, you can have a better look at the color from the rim of the glass to its center.
Next comes the swirl
If you are a beginner, swirl the glass gently, but keep its stem on the table. Swirl for just a few seconds, and don’t overdo it. After all, it’s wine, not a cocktail. The idea is to aerate it so that it releases more of its aromas. Besides, you can get a better sense of its viscosity or “legs”. Keep an eye on the streaks of wine that come down the glass after you swirl the glass. Typically, wines featuring more sugar or/and alcohol have bigger “legs”. This will give you an indication of the sweetness of the wine.
Now, put your nose to work
The human brain can recognize 10,000 smells. Feel free to get your nose in the glass, so it captures as many aromas as possible. Make sure you write down the first thing you smell and the next, and so on. Everything you sense, put it on paper. You can even use cheat shit for wine descriptors. But don’t rely strictly on it. Typically, the nose needs about half a minute to reset and recover between smelling sessions.
Finally, the best part
Here, you need to taste the wine. But before you take a small sip, make another short smell. After you take a small sip, don’t swallow it immediately. Swirl it a bit in your mouth until it touches every part of your tongue.
Too much tannin and the wine will have a bitter taste. If the wine lacks acidity, it will taste “flabby”. Sweetness is a familiar taste and something that is associated with wine’s dryness. If you plan to taste more than one bottle of wine, make sure that you write down the impressions of the current one before you move on to the next one.
Wine tasting is pretty much a subjective kind of thing. But at the same time, it can be helpful and fun if you do it with friends or in a group. That way, you can compare notes, talk about their perspectives, and maybe pick up some useful stuff along the road.