If you’ve thought it might be fun to go wine tasting, but have avoided it because of a lack of knowledge about wine, fear not. With a few basic pointers, you’ll have a new appreciation for wine and a firm sense of confidence in yourself as an adequate judge.
First, the layout. You’ll be given approximately 1 oz tastes and a stemmed wine glass. You may also be served bottle water. This is to cleanse your palate (fancy for rinse your mouth) between each different wine you taste. It’s considered appropriate to handle the glass by the stem as this will prevent your hand from heating up the wine in the glass. Often there will be some sort of cracker or other snack, again to cleanse the palate.
You can tell a lot about a wine – whether a white or red – by the color. You’ll never see wine tastings done with any other color glasses than clear for this reason. So whether you’re tasting a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chenin Blanc, Riesling or any other variety, take time to examine the color and appreciate it’s tone and richness.
If you’ve ever wondered why wine tasters jiggle the glass so the wine swirls around prior to sipping it, there are a few reasons you should know. First, and this relates more to red wines, they examine the how the traces of wine from the swirl stream back down the side of the inside of the glass. If it streams in visible sheets, it is said that “the wine has legs”. The other reason for doing the swirl is to help bring out the flavor. Remember, it’s been cooped up in a bottle for quite a while. Giving it some oxygen will enhance the flavors.
So you receive your glass by the stem, examine the color, slosh it around a little and then you taste it, right? Almost, but not yet. First, you “take in the bouquet” (fancy for smell it). Quite a process, huh? Since wine is meant to be a sensory experience, you’ll basically do everything but dip your toes in it to get the full effect. For some people smelling the wine can be even better than drinking it. Don’t be afraid to get your nose right in the glass. And take your time, that’s how it’s done.
And, finally, you get to taste it. But don’t just take a sip. Swish it around in your mouth for a few seconds to get the full flavor. Some people even take a very small sip, hold it in the front of their mouth and gently pull in a little air through their mouth as well. This aerates the wine and adds to the flavor as well. What might be considered impolite at a dinner table is perfect for tasting wine. By the way, it’s perfectly fine to either swallow the wine or spit it out if there is a bucket provided for that purpose, which there usually is.
It never hurts to brush up on your basic knowledge of wine before going to a wine event or tasting. It will help you get more out of it. But whether you do or not, following the wine tasting tips outlined above will have you fit in just fine and get more out of it than you might have otherwise. And the more you do it, the more you will probably get into it.