Wine Tasting 101

Vineyard viewWinery in Fall.  Image via Style Me Pretty

Full disclosure, I don’t actually drink alcohol because of a chronic illness.  But I do have an excellent sense of smell.  That’s an understatement, I have a crazy, creepily powerful sense of smell and a well developed palette. So wine tasting has always appealed to me and I suppose I could even partake given that you don’t generally drink the stuff during tastings.  Plus I’m totally sucked in by the romance of wineries.

BarrelsImage via Conneticut Food and Wine of wine Barrels at Gouveia Vineyard of Wallingford via Pinterest

Are you new to wine tasting, but daunted by the pretention that often accompanies such sophistication?  Here are some basics that will help you appreciate that glass and ask the right sort of questions at the restaurant.

Finding a Perfect Glass to Go with Your Meal

Set of glasses for wine tastingThe “O” Tasting  Set via the MoMA Store

According to Wine Doctor, Chris Kissack, you really should go with your personal preference when it comes to wines, don’t let pesky rules overrule what tastes good to you. But he also outlines these basics might help guide you when menu planning for that dinner party or at that posh resto:

  • Red wines go well with red meats; while white wines pair well with white meats.
  • Your cheese platter or fish dish is best paired with a white because the acidity of white wines help cut through the richness of these foods. The Wine Doctor says it’s the tannin content of reds that may give you that awful metallic taste when paired with fish.  Crazy science, huh?
  • And when it comes to dessert, opt for a sweet dessert wine.  The taste of dry wines are totally corrupted by your sugared palette.  Thanks dessert.

The Basics of Tasting

rEvolution glassMartin Jacobson’s rEvolution glass.  Image via Yanko Design

Colour and Clarity: Wine tasting begins with your eyes, because as Winnie the Pooh says, the only thing better than eating honey is the moment right before.  You want to note the colour (and doing so against a white background, like a white napkin helps).  Tilt the glass and look beyond red or white.  Orange rims on reds denote older age as do darker hues to whites.  After swirling the wine by pushing the glass in small circles, examine the wine’s opacity: a good red can be cloudy, opaque or clear, but a good white should be at least clear (and at best brilliant).

Aroma: Swirl your wine a good 10 times.  While this looks like a fancy-pants affectation, it actually mixes some air into the wine vaporizing some of the alcohol and ‘releasing’ its aromatic components.  This is the part that excites me, teasing out the oak, the strawberry and currents, the chocolate and coffee, the flowers.  Stick your nose deep into the glass and inhale.  The scent of a wine is called its nose by the way.  And its nose consists of both the aroma and bouquet, the former originating from the grapes themselves, the latter describing that mingled complexity that comes with a wine’s age.

Taste: The best part! Take a small sip and swish it around your mouth.  Does the taste match its scent?  The principal tastes of wine are sweet, sour and bitter. This is the time to make all your flavour notes.  If you’re at a formal wine tasting, it’s perfectly acceptable to spit the wine out into your dump bucket.  But you can just drink it too.

wine cellarAmazing wine cellar via Dying of Cute

bar cabinetGreentea Design’s Lattice Wine Rack

interesting wine rackWine Rack by Pottery Barn

Here are a few more in-depth articles on wine tasting:

Now it’s time to go out to a wine tasting or host your own boozy tasting party.  Who knows maybe someday you’ll become so expert you’ll need yourself a cellar!  Or at least a fancy wine rack.  Happy Tasting!

Posted in Food

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