I have always dreamed of being able to discuss wine with others on an actual intelligent level! I also find myself not even knowing what my favorite wine to drink is! Whatever tastes good to me at the time is just what I go with! So, I wanted to do some research and figure out how I could learn a little more about wine in a short amount of time and here is what I found!
- Look at it – Inspect the wine very carefully in natural lighting. Check the colour, opacity and viscosity of the liquid. This step shouldn’t take too long (about 5 seconds) but first impressions count! After all, a lot of clues about a wine’s quality can be discovered through its appearance, such as: vintage, alcohol %, grape variety etc. Although, bear in mind that a lot of this information can be found on the bottle! Remember, you can often tell a wine’s age this way. As white wines age they change colour, becoming more yellow and brown. Red wines tend to lose colour and become transparent as time goes on.
- Smell it – The first thing you should be thinking about when smelling wine is the stronger aromas. Are there fruits? Think of broad categories first. When smelling white wine be on the lookout for citrus, orchard or tropical fruits. If you’re smelling red wine then sniff for red fruits, blue fruits or black fruits.It’s important to not get too specific or to search for a particular smell as this could lead to frustration. Broadly, you can divide the smells of wine into three categories:
- Primary Aromas- These are grape-derivative and include herbal, floral and fruit-driven notes.
- Secondary Aromas- These aromas come from the wine making practices. The most common aromas are yeast-derivative and are easiest to spot in white wines.
- Tertiary Aromas- These come from ageing, usually in bottle but sometimes oak. These aromas are mostly savoury, such as: roasted nuts, baking spice, vanilla, autumn leaves, old tobacco, cured leather, mushroom etc.
3. Taste it – Probably the most obvious step. We use our tongues to observe and test the wine. You may hear of people spitting out wine after this point but its important to swallow it. The aromas in the wine may change after consumption as you are receiving them retro-nasally.
- Taste- our tongues can be very sensitive and thus can detect whether a wine is salty, sour, sweet or bitter. All wines are going to have some sour taste due to grapes all being inherently acidic. This of course varies with different terrain, grape type and climate. Some wines, such as Pinot Grigio, are known for their bitterness. This manifests as a sort of light, pleasant tonic-water-type flavour. Some white table wines retain a small portion of their grape sugars, adding natural sweetness. Interesting fact- only your tongue can detect sweetness. Lastly, only in a few very rare cases is there a salty taste with wine.
- Texture- Your tongue is actually able to “touch” the wine in order to make out its specific texture. Usually, a rougher texture indicates higher alcohol content which is common in riper wines. Wine gains its texture from the Ethanol present, which we see as richer in taste compared to water. We are also able to feel “tannins” with our tongues, these being the harsh sand paper-like feeling on your tongue.
- Length- This aspect isn’t very commonly known, although considered quite important. There is actually a beginning, a middle and an end to the flavour of wine, how long does it stick with you? Did it make a lasting impact to your taste buds?
4. Think about it – This step is no doubt the hardest. What did you get from the wine? Was it well balanced or too acidic? Did you enjoy it? Is it memorable? Be sure to think of every characteristic that either impressed or disappointed you.
Swirling wine: Every wondered why you see people swirling their wine around? Well it’s not just something obnoxious people do, it actual helps oxidise the wine! This at first helps the wine, breaking it down and opening it up, releasing its aromas. Therefore, people swirl wine to help the oxygen get into it. Just don’t leave wine out for too long as it may go bitter!
Improve your wine tasting skills faster: Why not spend an evening comparing different wines with a friend? This could help improve your taste palette faster, making you more attuned to certain aromas. Why not get more social with it and join a wine tasting group, there’s a lot you can learn from the experts!
Aroma overdose: If you feel like you are being overwhelmed with different smells simply sniff a neutral object, a good place to recommend would be your own forearm! After that your nose will be reset and ready for new aromas!
Obviously, there is so much more about wine. More than I could ever possibly learn, but I think this will help me get started in the actual enjoyment of different types of wine!