Did you know that by following a series of steps before and during your wine tasting your overall experience will be greatly enhanced? By using a wide array of your senses, the smell and flavours will be heightened and therefore you will be able to enjoy your wine on a whole new level. Test out these steps the next time you are at a tasting or bring a new bottle home with you and see how your experience is enriched!
1. Examine Colour
Ensure you are holding the glass at the stem so you do not warm the wine with your hand. With the wine freshly poured in your glass, look at the colour of the wine and the clarity. Tilting the class can make it a bit easier to see the way the colour changes from the centre to the edges. Look beyond red or white. If it’s a red wine, is the colour maroon, ruby, purple, or cherry? If it’s a white wine, is the colour clear, straw-like, light green, golden, amber, or pale yellow in appearance? Now move on to the wine’s opacity. Is the wine watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant, cloudy or clear?
An older red wine will often have more of an orange tinge than a younger red wine. An older white wine will be darker than a younger white wine.
To get the best impression of your wine’s aroma, swirl your glass for a solid 10 seconds. The swirling will help vaporize some of the wine’s alcohol and release more of its natural aromas and viscosity.
3. Note viscosity
Now that you’ve swirled your wine, notice how the wine flows (viscosity) and observe the density of the “wine legs” on your glass. Wine legs are the droplets of wine that form on the inside of a wine glass. A higher density of droplets can indicate either high alcohol content and/or high sugar content.
Using our sense of smell is key in order to properly analyze a glass of wine. With your glass freshly swirled, take a quick whiff a couple inches from your nose. Then, stick your nose down into the glass and inhale deep through your nose. Keep the glass swirling and let the aromas mix and mingle. What do you smell? Do you smell berries, flowers, vanilla, citrus, or oak? The wine’s particular aroma is a great indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.
It’s time to taste! Wine should be sipped, not gulped. Take a sip and first roll the wine around in your mouth exposing it to all of your taste buds, enabling you to detect sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. You can also pay attention to the texture and body. The wine’s “finish” is how long the flavour lasts after it is swallowed. Was it light-bodied (like the weight of water), medium-bodied (like the weight of milk) or full-bodied (like the consistency of cream)? Do you want another sip? Here are some commonly found tastes for each of the most common varieties:
Cabernet – black currant, cherry other, black fruits, green spices
Merlot – plum, red and black fruits, green spices, floral
Zinfandel – black fruits, black spices
Shiraz – black fruits, black spices
Pinot Noir – red fruits, floral, herbs
Chardonnay – tropical fruit, citrus fruit, or melon
Sauvignon Blanc – Grapefruit, white gooseberry, lime, melon
Wine wants to be talked about. It wants to hear what you think about it. Did you like the wine overall? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you? Was it sweet, sour, or bitter? How was the wine’s acidity? Did it taste balanced?
Try pairing wines with certain foods and note the how it enhances or diminishes the flavours of the wine. With red wines try different cheeses, good quality chocolate and berries. With white wines you can try apples, pears and citrus fruits. Finding the perfect pairing is truly a very enjoyable experience. Even though it’s a little cliché, my absolute favourite pairing would have to be dark chocolate and a glass of full-bodied red wine! Time to cozy up and enjoy a glass of wine you personally selected!