Saturday, February 15, 2014

How-to: Wine Tasting

There’s a little more to tasting wine than swirling your glass around with a raised pinkie finger. Here’s how to get the most out of your wines and simultaneously look like a real wine connoisseur. 

Prepare: Having the proper conditions for tasting a wine can make all the difference. First, you’ll want to select the proper glasses for the wine you’ll be tasting. Red wine glasses are usually a bit larger, rounder and domed. Here are some examples from Riedel: 

Secondly, ensure that the wine is chilled to the proper temperature. Lighter wines should be chilled for longer. Although many people drink their reds at room temperature, chilling them slightly can result in a better tasting. Here is another helpful chart with recommended serving temperatures: 

Look: It’s tempting to start sipping right away, but first stop and take a good look at the wine. What’s the colour like? Aged wines tend to be darker in colour. Young reds tend to be more vibrant in colour, with mature reds taking on brown hues. Young whites are usually lighter while older whites can be golden. If you tilt the glass, you can also take note of the wine’s legs. Does the wine leave thick, lingering streaks inside the glass, or does it run back down quickly? This will help you determine the body or density of the wine. Finally, a good wine should have clarity and should not be cloudy or dull. Having a white background (e.g. a napkin) can be helpful when judging a wine’s appearance. 

Sniff: Sorry to disappoint you, but we’re still not ready to taste yet. Swirl your glass vigorously to help release the wine’s aromas. If you take a whiff before and after swirling, you will definitely notice a difference. What fruit aromas can you smell? Are there oak, spice, or floral notes? Are there a combination of aromas that result in a complex nose? Most importantly, does it smell pleasing? This is also a good way to tell if a wine has gone off before tasting it: a sour or vinegar-like aroma is never a good sign. 

Taste: Here’s the fun part. Take a sip and let the wine coat your mouth. Let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds before swallowing. What flavours are most prominent? Is it sweet, dry, or somewhere in between? Does it feel light, heavy, “chewy” (this means the wine is high in tannins), or smooth in your mouth? It’s also important to remember not to judge a wine by the first sip: give it a fair chance! On the second sip, you can breathe in through your mouth or “slurp” the wine to add air which releases more of the wine’s flavours. Take note of the finish as well. Is it short, lingering, complex? 

The fun part about wine tasting is that even with these guidelines, taste is an incredibly subjective matter. Try tasting wines with a group: do you pick up on different aromas and flavours? You'll probably have different opinions on the wines too: even if it received a 95 from a wine critic, you might think it tastes awful. So next time you try a new wine, keep these tips in mind!

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