Do you want to kick start your exploration of wine? Well, we’ve got you covered!
Learning to taste wine is no different to learning to really appreciate music or art in the way that the pleasure you receive is proportionate to the effort you make. In order words, the more you fine tune your sensory abilities the better you’ll understand and enjoy the nuances great wines can express.
If your stomach normally sinks when you share a bottle of wine with your wine-expert friend and they start to swirl, sniff, swish, spit and use words like “tannin”, “lush” or “stoney” then fear no more.
Our ultimate cheat sheet will have you tasting wine like a pro and there are only three parts to it.
A glass of wine is more than just a sum of tastes – to sip like a true wine connoisseur, the first thing you need to do is examine the colour of the wine. Begin by pouring it into a clear glass and examine the shade or hue of the wine against a white background – it is opaque or transparent?
The intensity of the colour of the wine will reflect the intensity of the flavour you will experience when tasting it.
According to wine experts, if you don’t smell the wine you can be “robbed” of the complete tasting experience.
When it comes to smelling it, the first thing you should do is oxygenate it – you can do this by decanting it for 30 minutes before tasting; this is especially necessary if you have red wine. If not, simply let it sit in a wine glass for 5-10 minutes.
Afterwards, be sure to swirl it in the glass again to help aerate the wine – can you smell any particular aromas? Fruits? Spices?
Again, by recognising these smells you can enhance your entire wine tasting experience.
Once you’ve seen and sniffed the wine, you’re ready to take your first sip. Take a small swig and swirl it around your mouth so that it coats your tongue and hits every taste centre to get a true sense of the taste and texture.
Wine tasting pros will often classify the taste in three steps: the initial impression, the evolution and the finish.
The initial flavours may leave a different impression than the evolution phase – particularly when you notice the subtleties or number of flavours in the wine.
Is the wine creamy? Light/crisp? Smooth and elegant? Or heavy and tannic?
To finish the last stage of the puzzle: how long does the taste linger in your mouth? Is the finish aggressive or smooth? Does it inspire you to take another sip?
Exploring wine regions
Wine is made in almost every county in the world and these countries are often referred to as either “Old World” or “New World” depending on the histories of wine production.
These wine regions include countries such as France, Italy and Germany – all of which are known as “Old World” wines.
The “New World” wines will come from countries such as the USA, Chile and Australia where the climates are hotter and the grapes rather than the region are used for recognition and distinction.
While you’re learning how to choose wine and taste it, it’s helpful to know some of the major wine regions and the grapes they are best known for.
Here is a quick guide to help you:
- France – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Chardonnay
- Italy – Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Pinot Grigio
- USA – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel
- Argentina – Malbec
- Chile – Cabernet Sauvignon
- Australia – Shiraz, Chardonnay
- Germany – Riesling, Sylvaner
- Spain – Albarino, Palomino
- New Zealand – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir
- South Africa – Pinotage, Chenin Blanc
Things to be wary of
While there are plenty of things you can do to appreciate a good wine, there are also a number of things you should avoid – such as bad or suspicious odours.
- Avoid corked wines that smell of cardboard
If the cork in your wine smells of damp cardboard or wet dog then DON’T drink it! This may sound like an obvious point but the smell can actually indicate that the chemical compound TCA could be lurking in the cork and that could make you very ill.
- Be suspicious of wines with no smell
If you can’t detect any smells or aromas from your wine then it could be a sign that the bottle is too young or has been shaken a lot during transportation. This will not give you the best tasting experience so give it a miss.
- Don’t drink wine smelling of rotten eggs
While the idea of drinking wine that smells like rotten eggs may sound ridiculous to you anyway it is important that you heed this advice. This sort of aroma suggests that the wine is “off” and could actually cause you to be ill if drank.
Why not order a wine hamper from Serenata today and start practising you wine tasting skills!