Wines are beautiful, personal and complex. The variety in different blends is endless. This makes the art of tasting wines important so that you can understand what qualities in a wine you’re drawn to.
The idea of wine tasting sounds simple. However, to taste like a pro is something else altogether. When you taste a wine properly, you open up your senses to truly appreciate all the flavours, textures, smells and colours of the wine. You embark on a sensual sensory journey and begin to appreciate what goes into making a great drop!
So how do you taste like a pro? Follow these steps to take a journey through the senses and learn what elements you love in a wine.
Take a moment to look at the colour and opacity of the wine. You can tilt the glass forward, allowing the wine to spread, revealing more of its colour. Holding the glass above a white surface will reveal more of its hues. Colours give you clues into what sort of a wine it is. Pay attention to any ‘wine legs’ or ‘tears’ which are streams of clear residue left around the side of the glass. Stronger legs indicate a higher alcoholic percentage or a sweeter wine.
Next, move on to understanding the aroma of the wine. First, smell the wine still without swirling. Notice how strong or weak the aroma and say out loud your initial impressions. Don’t worry so much about categorising the wine at this stage, just say whatever comes to your mind. Next, holding the glass by the stem, swirl it around to agitate the wine and release more of the aroma. Place your nose inside the glass and have a good smell. When smelling a wine, think about the three broad categories which are; fruits, wood and earth. Do you notice tropical fruits or citrus? Can you taste oak from the barrel the wine was aged in? What about earthy flavours? Usually, earth flavours come from the vine and tell us something about where the grapes were grown.
- Finally, we get to taste!
Tasting involves experiencing the wine in two stages. First, we experience the wine with our tongue. Secondly, we swallow the wine which changes the flavour as we experience it at the back of our mouth and our throat.
When tasting, our first impressions will be if the wine is sweet, bitter, sour or salty. All wines have some element of sourness as this is a characteristic of grapes. However, this will differ depending on the type of grapes used. Allow the wine to sit on the tongue and experience the flavour in your mouth. Before swallowing, allow your tongue to ‘feel’ the wine. What’s the texture like? A strong texture normally indicates a higher alcohol or riper wine.
Finally, swallow the wine and experience the flavour and texture as it goes down your throat. Take notice of the ‘length’ of the wine which is how long the flavour lasts. If you’re tasting multiple wines, some people discard some of the wine rather than drinking the whole thing. However, it’s up to you. If it’s a good wine, why waste it?
This is a very subjective and personal stage of wine tasting as it’s all about whether you liked the wine or not. There’s no right or wrong. If you like or dislike a wine, think about why. Was it too acidic, not enough body, too much tannin? Once you start to categorise and understand the elements that you like, you can then choose better wines for yourself. If you like big, bold flavours, you may go straight for a shiraz and skip tasting a pinot for example.
Following these steps will allow you to truly experience a wine. However, remember that wine is a personal experience. One of the beauties of wine is the diversity it offers. What’s pleasing to you, may not sit well with someone else and vice-versa. In the end, wine is about enjoyment. So look, sniff, taste away and enjoy all the sensations a good wine has to offer. Cheers.