Wine Tasting 101

April 25th, 2009

The best way to truly enhance your pallet is to taste as many wines as possible. There is no standard taste in wine. There is generally no right or wrong answer either. However, there are typicities to each variety that make them unique and easier to recognize. Here are the five basic steps to wine tasting that will assist you in developing a better understanding of wine.

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The first thing you should notice about wine is the color. The best way to get a real good look at the color is to have a white background and to tilt the glass at an angle in front of it. Color plays a major roll in recognizing if you are about to drink a young wine or an old wine. White wines become darker with age and red wines lose their color with age. White wine may also be different in color because of oak aging and because of difference in variety.

Swirling is the next part of wine tasting. We swirl wine because we love it, but the main reason is to aerate the wine and release vapors from the sides of the glass. As the wine mingles with the oxygen we enjoy its bouquet. Simply put…swirling releases more aromas in the wine.

Next is smelling the wine. This is the most important part of wine tasting and most people do not spend enough time on it. The average person can actually identify over 2000 different scents, and wine has hundreds on its own. Believe it or not, smelling the wine in your glass more than once will give you a much better perception of what your smelling too. Try it! Sniff once, twice then three times. The third smell will give you much more insight to the wine then the first or the second.

Determining the nose of the wine really helps in identifying the wine’s characteristics. I think that most people are still so intimidated by the notion of right and wrong answers that they /we often look to others opinions. I try so hard not to be subjective, so making comparisons to style is more helpful for people, then there are others who just have to know what I smell. It all takes practice.

Now we taste. You can only actually perceive four tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. When you taste wine you should leave it in your mouth for three to picture-1five seconds to really let your taste buds work. Be aware of where sensations occur on your tongue while its rolling around in your mouth. Remember there are only four tastes, but there is no salt in wine. That makes it easier right?

Sweet is detected on the tip of the tongue, so it will be recognized right away! Acidity is found on the outer part of your tongue as well as on your cheeks. Typically white wines have a higher and more noticeable acidity content than red wines. Bitterness is tasted on the back of the tongue and not so desirable in wine.

So what is tannin and how do we taste it? Tannin is not a taste but an actual sensation. The sensation of tannin begins in the middle of your tongue and if there is a lot of tannin in the wine it can actually coat your whole mouth and block out the fruit. Other times when a red wine is consumed to young or if it has been aged in oak the tannin will dry your mouth much more.

There is my take on the simplicities of wine tasting. Now, we savor! Enjoy your wine! Maybe take a minute to reflect on what you’ve experienced. What style of wine is it? Was there any sugar  in the wine or how acidic was it? Which characteristic really stood out and did you like it or not? The key to great wine is balance and, if you like it or not. Discovering what it is that you dislike is the challenge.