For many of us, a simplistic view is taken with wine; if we like the taste then that’s good enough. But imagine being able to detect the slight nuances that come with it – a hint of blackberry or elderflower perhaps – this is when a true appreciation of what you are drinking can be realised. By being able to taste the subtleties, quality and the faults, you will then become a better wine buyer; expensive is not always the best. At the very heart of wine tasting are four principles: look, swirling, smell and taste. Regardless of whether you are a novice or a connoisseur, this guide will help you to understand exactly what has gone into your glass of vino.
Wine Tasting – No Rules, Just Fun
Most budding wine enthusiasts tend to learn as they go, and this is a good way to start; however, it’s only the beginning. First of all, it’s important to know that the grapes used in making wine are different to the ones we eat and are known as Vitis Vinifera which, rather surprisingly translates to wine grapes, but sounds so much more sophisticated! They have much thicker skins, are small and sweet and have to be picked at the optimum time, so the weather plays a large part in their quality. Many wines are named after the grape that produces them, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, whilst others are known by the region where the grapes are grown, including “Burgundy” and “Champagne”.
Choosing the Right Glassware
There is a saying, “We eat and drink with our eyes first”, and this is very true. You should choose wine glasses that suit your style, however, the shape of the glass can improve your enjoyment of the drink. There are glasses designed to accentuate the special characteristics of your chosen wine, as they are able to direct the aroma and taste profile to specific areas of your tongue and nose. A Pinot Noir wine is perfect with a larger glass, such as those used for Burgundy, where you can swirl it around to release the aromas. For a light-bodied, crisp wine, use a smaller bowled glass as it will keep the wine chilled for longer and enhance the floral tones.
Now the Serious Bit – The Temperature and Look
All wines should be served at the right temperature. A warm beer is not good, neither is a warm Chardonnay, Champagne or the lighter styles of red, which are best drunk slightly chilled. Burgundy and wines that have been aged in oak, such as Jacob’s Creek, are nicer when served slightly warm to bring out their mellowness. The wine is now ready for the ‘look’. Hold the glass out in front of you and raise it to the light – you are looking for total clarity and colour. A lighter wine will be pale in colour, whilst a full-bodied white will have a rich and golden tone. Similarly, a full-bodied red will have a deep hue and an almost sanguine look.
Next Step – Swirl, Smell and Taste
Your nose will tell you if something is good or bad – it’s the same with wine tasting. Swirl the wine around the glass to release the aroma and then take a good, deep sniff. Let your nose digest the primary aromas, such as fruit, floral notes and dried herbs. The secondary notes are in the background and could include nuts, buttered brioche, yeast and cheese rind. Thirdly, there are the aromas that come from the ageing process – regardless of whether this was done in an oak casket or a bottle – such as roasted nuts, vanilla and baking spices. If you detect an underlying smell that is not good, such as wet cardboard or rancid butter, then the wine could be flawed.
Now the best bit, the tasting; remember, you’re not supposed to gulp it down, no matter how much you want to. Take a sip, roll it around your tongue and let your taste buds do the rest. Fortunately, practice makes perfect, so don’t waste another minute – order some wine, follow these simple steps and you’ll soon be tasting wine like a pro.