Ever tasted a wine and have no idea if it’s the fanciest Chateaux Margaux or the dregs of a home brew? Not to worry, here’s some easy advice on how to taste wine and have fun while doing it!
There are three basic senses that are used in tasting wine.
That’s right, it’s not just the guzzle, guzzle that you use to figure out if a wine is a five star!
First, you are supposed to look at the wine. Check out the Colour and Clarity (so similar to diamonds…no wonder girls love wine!)
Pour a glass of wine into a wine glass and have a good look at it. Tilt the glass away from you and check out the colour of the wine from the rim edges to the middle of the glass (it’s helpful to have a white background like a white napkin or tablecloth). Look beyond red, white or blush. If it’s a red wine is the color maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red, brick or even brownish? If it’s a white wine is it clear, pale yellow, straw-like, light green, golden, amber or brown?
Next look at 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 orange tinges on the edges of color than younger red wines. Older white wines are darker than younger white wines when comparing the same grape at different ages.
Next it’s time to smell the wine – seriously, this is like a wine seduction…so take your time! To get a good impression of your wine’s aroma, swirl your glass for about 10-12 seconds. Some people say it matters which way you swirl your wine, so if you want to look super sophisticated hold you wine between your index and middle finger of your right hand, and swirl your glass counter clockwise. Swirling helps vaporize some of the wine’s alcohol and release more of its natural aromas so it’s important not to skip this step.
Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through your nose – this may sounds silly, but it’s interesting to see what you smell when you really get in there! Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics. Swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and sniff again. Entertain whatever comes to mind. There’s even a smell referred to as “barnyard” so don’t be shy trying to figure out what’s in your glass!
Finally, take a taste – you’ve been so patient thus far now you finally get to try it! Start with a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. There are three stages of taste:
1. the Attack phase
2. the Evolution phase
3. the Finish
The Attack Phase is the initial impression that the wine makes and does not display a specific flavour. Instead the flavours meld together to offer impressions in intensity and complexity – is it soft or firm, light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or dry?
The Evolution Phase is the wine’s actual taste on the palate. In this phase you are looking to discern the flavour profile of the wine. For red wine you may notice fruit, like berry, plum, prune or fig or spice like pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavour like oak, cedar, or hickory (smokey). For white wines you might notice apple, pear, tropical or citrus fruits, or florals like honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.
The Finish is the final phase. The wine’s finish is how long the flavour lasts after it is swallowed. Did it last several seconds? Was it light-bodied (like the weight of water), medium-bodied (similar in weight to milk) or full-bodied (like the consistency of cream)? Did you like the taste and want to drink more, or was it bitter and you want to rid your mouth of the taste?
All of these things combined create a “proper” wine tasting. So next time you’re opening a bottle of wine make sure you look, smell and taste the wine. And have fun with it – invite your friends over, make some score cards and have a tasting party. Who said wine tasting needs to be serious and stuffy?