Some professions suffer from image problems, and so too do some activities. A highly appreciative drinking of wine, more often just called “wine tasting”, falls into that group. The strange vocabulary, the smelling, the gestures: all could be the hallmarks of a snobby group. However, each action in the tasting sequence is important. Learning the process of tasting wine appropriately will help you come to appreciate any wine, and not just at a formal tasting.
The first of the steps has nothing at all to do with tasting itself, yet everything to do with the wine. The color and opacity of the wine reflect a great deal on age of the wine and the climate in which the grape was grown. Before even the first bit of the wine hits your mouth, you can form a bit of an opinion as to its age: many white wines darken as they age, while many reds fade to a brown shade.
Remember the last occasion when, as a child, you sat down to a plate of something that was “good for you” but tasted vile? Did you pinch your nose to get it down? The less of something you smell, the less you can taste; thus, when your nose is stuffed up by a cold, nothing has any taste. The same principle is at work.
To bring as many of those odors into the air, the infamous swirl comes into play. It is a strange sight if misunderstood: a large glass, deliberately filled only halfway so that the wine can be swirled around like mad. That swishing is quite important, as it intensifies the wine’s contact with the air and vaporizes more of its alcohol. The end result is the release of compounds into the air for your olfactory pleasure.
Ah, the process finally comes to the step for which it has all been named: tasting. All the prior steps are necessary to understand what will occur in this one single moment. As you first taste the wine, merely sip it. The aromas which have been woken in the prior step come into play, now, as these are the source of all those flavors which are cited in wines. Flowers, herbs, nuts, fruits, smoke, etc., any and all of these are the undertones which are perceived by the interaction of taste and smell. After all, when it is strictly boiled down to its bare essentials, wine is derived from both a simple source and a simple process. A long, slow tasting allows the tongue and nose to begin to perceive all these individual flavors.
At the same time as you are enjoying the flavors in the wine, take a moment to notice the wine’s body. This is the description of how the wine sits in your mouth, whether it lingers and coats or flows away rapidly. This is another key aspect of learning what wine to pair with what food and is, naturally, a great way to stump your less-informed friends at a dinner party.
Alas, this is the important final step in a true wine tasting. The operative word is tasting. The aim of a wine tasting is not to drink wine or become inebriated, but rather to become familiar with various wines. This is critical if you are tasting a wide variety. More so, if you become a bit tipsy, you will be unable to taste any wines which follow. So, despite the instincts, be certain to spit.
Tasting wine is, like many things, merely a skill. Once you have learned the pattern, jumping into one situation after another is perfectly easy. More to the point, after learning the principles of wine tasting, your ability to experience many different wines has exploded. All you need now is to find a club which will provide you with the opportunity to practice your skills.