The Beginner’s Guide to Tasting Wine
We’ve all seen those people in the fancy restaurants sniffing their glasses of wine while the server waits to see if the diner likes it, and they swirl it around then take a sip, and then nods in approval.
This may look like an act of snobbery but in reality, that person knows their wine and is ensuring they will really enjoy that bottle they’re about to spend money on. There is a very intricate system to tasting wine, although you don’t have to be a master to know a good bottle of vino.
Step 1: The Look.
Wine tasting is all about using your senses and just like anything else in the world, it starts with your eyes. After your glass is poured, really look its contents. What color is it, and can you pinpoint the exact shade? Does it have more of an opaque visibility or a little more translucent? If it’s murky or cloudy, it may have some fermentation issues and might not be properly filtered.
Look from the top and then look from the side. Swirl it around a bit and then see what the drips look like coming down the side of the glass- those are called legs. A line with good legs insinuates boldness and ripeness in flavor.
Step 2: The Smell.
When you’re smelling the wine, you don’t want to stick your face all the way in the glass or your olfactory senses will get overwhelmed the aromas. Try putting the glass a couple inches below your nose and wafting up- make sure to give it a good swirl before sniffing.
See what flavors you detect on the first whiff. Something might stand out to you right off the bat like a tobacco or chocolate flavor, or it will be a little more subtle and may just seem fruity. On the second sniff, see if you can decipher it more completely and actually pick out the fruits, spices, or other aromas that may be in there. Wines can have thousands of scents and aromas so just look for five at first.
Step 3: The Taste.
Obviously, the most important step because we all want to actually drink the wine, right? Now here’s the crucial part about that first sip: take it slow, and breathe in while you do it. Okay, that sounds a little crazy but wine reacts positively with oxygen, so you want to get air in there on that first little sip to really exaggerate the flavors.
We’re all guilty of gulping down the glass without really tasting it but if you want to learn how to evaluate wine, this is incredibly important. Take a baby sip and pretend you’re drinking through a straw so you get a little air, and then let the wine float over your tongue. You want it to hit all of your taste buds and all of the flavor areas of your tongue so you can get the full effects.
See if you can detect the same flavors that your nose picked up, or if there is now another layer of tastes and aromas. Although every wine will taste different, there should be a sense of balance and harmony throughout each sip all the way to the end of the bottle.
Wine tasting can be a very personal experience as each person will taste different things in every bottle, and personal preferences can differ as will the reactions. If you really want a good lesson, go to an upscale winery and they’ll show you the ropes, but at least this way you can walk in with a basic understanding.