The Four Steps to Wine Tasting
Ever wonder what the wine world is doing when they look at their wine glass so intently? When they press their entire glass up to their face breathe in? How about when they take a sip of wine and slurp really hard?
If you love wine as much as I do, you want to get the most out of your wine drinking experience. Below I break down why wine connoisseurs do what they do to understand wine. Learn how to taste like the experts by following these 4 easy steps.
Look down into the glass, then hold it up to the light, then tilt it to its side against a white background. This will ensure you get the view from all angles.
Look down into the glass and get a sense for its density and saturation.
Looking against the light will show you impurities or sediment in the wine. This will show you how clear it is or if there is sediment or cork in the wine.
Tilt the glass away from you preferably with a white background to really tell the contrast. Notice the outside edges of the wine to the body of the wine in the middle of the glass. How would you describe the color of your wine without using the words red, white or blush? Try more descriptive words. Dark or dull? Clear or cloudy?
Tilting the wine glass and looking at the color will indicate its age and weight. A thinner or lighter wine will have a watery edge. An older wine will have a dark yellow or brown color for a white and rusty brick or orange color for a red. Older reds tend to have a burnt orange around the edges. Older whites are darker than younger whites.
Swirl and look again.
My favorite part! (Apart from drinking the wine)
Really swirl your glass. This will open up the wine and its flavors will stand out. Swirl it about 10 times. (Try swirling it while the stem is on the table or flat surface if you are afraid of spilling it everywhere!)
Look at those legs! (My dad once wanted to create a wine label that was just a women’s legs from behind. She would be wearing short blue jean shorts and red heals… mom said no. But this was an attempt to have a play on the wine vocabulary, “legs.” Nice try, Dad!)
You are looking for the wine dripping down the inside of the glass. Is it thick or watery? Do the legs disappear quickly or slowly fade away?
Good wine legs are thicker and consist of wines with higher alcohol content or residual sugar content. This translates as bolder and deeper wines.
After your wine is swirled hover your face over the top of the wine glass and deeply inhale. Take a few short breaths. And comprehend what you have just inhaled.
What do you smell? Earthy? Fruity? Floral? The nose of the wine is a great way to get to know your wine.
Primary Smell: You will smell the fruit itself. This may be earthy, floral, or fruity. This is the smell of the actual grape. Really comprehend this smell.
Secondary: What’s next? Oak? Smoke? Roasted Nuts? Butter? This smell comes from the wine making process. Influenced by the wine maker and not the grape itself. Oak is a popular smell that is easy to point out in a wine. The oak addition is added in the fermentation process.
Tertiary: The older the wine the more aromatic the lingering smell will be. These are usually bolder or deep smells like cacao or coffee. Earthy smells usually linger at the end as well, look for fresh soil or mushroom smells. Or you may be drinking a youthful wine that was fermented in a steel tank. “Fruit forward” smells usually indicate a youthful wine with little to no lingering smell.
Sniff your forearm if you are overloaded with aromas. Not kidding!
Finally! If you really want to impress your friends, try sucking on the wine as though you are drinking it through a straw. (Maybe don’t do this on a first date.) The benefit of doing this is to circulate the wine throughout your entire mouth while aerating the wine at the same time.
When describing your wine keep it broad. Nobody is expecting you to taste a wine and describe the frontal notes as “ripe raspberries harvested on a Sunday morning grown on the south side of a hill.” To avoid frustration try to find simple characteristics you know. There are thousands of different qualities you can taste in wine, but keep it simple. For simplistic characteristics that apply to all wines look for salty, sweet or bitter.
Attack: Your first sip will hit you with alcohol content, tannin levels, or residual sugar. What hits you right when you taste? Is it heavy? Crisp? Sweet? Dry?
Comprehend: How does the wine taste on your palate? This is the middle phase. This is where a lot of the berry flavors come out or spices. This is where you might taste the oaky flavor or floral flavors. Honey, herbs, or butter for example.
Texture: Heavier textures are due to higher alcohol content. Tannins give you that sand paper feeling on your tongue. Light, Medium or full body of the wine.
Aftertaste: How long does the wine linger? How long is the wine with you? Did the wine have a good balance? How did you like the wine? Acidity? Well balanced?
Take note of the vintage, the taste will continue to change year to year! If you really like this bottle you might want to buy one or two. You may never get this opportunity again!