How To Taste Wine
[A Basic Wine Tasting Guide]

To assist with the wine tasting process, we have compiled some general rules when it comes to sampling wines. Tasting wines can not only be an enriching skill, but can deepen one’s sense of appreciation toward wines and winemakers. It’s the combination of the taste and the smell that makes wine tasting so enjoyable. Because the human tongue can only discern four basic flavors [sweet, sour, bitter and salty], it is important to utilize the thousands of scents that your nose can smell.


Please feel free to utilize this as a guide to enrich your wine tasting experience, and above all, have fun!



        To begin...

 

  • Check the temperature of the wine before opening
     
  • Uncork the wine bottle and let the wine breathe. For red wines, aerate in a carafe.

  • Select an appropriate wine glass. Large glasses with longer stems and bigger bowls are generally preferred [for easier swirling, less mess, and a more amplified aroma].  Ensure the glass is clean and uncolored to allow full inspection of the wine’s color.

  • Pour a small amount into the glass. Inspect the color and opacity, preferably against a white backdrop [such as a napkin or tablecloth]. A darker white wine usually means that it’s an older wine. For red wines, age is usually indicated by a lighter color.

  • Swirl the wine within the glass, releasing the scent, or bouquet. Sniff the wine, and note the key elements. The smell of the wine is commonly referred to as the nose. Since the nose fatigues easily, short, quick sniffs may be the most helpful. Don’t be afraid to put your nose into the glass to smell it!

  • Sip the wine [don’t drink], and allow it to coat the tongue. Swirl around in your mouth for at least three seconds, observing the blend of sweet, sour, and bitter. Since the tongue is only able to sense sweet, sour, bitter and salty flavors, savoring the smell and the taste together is very important!

  • If appropriate, spit the wine out [or swallow], and continue to observe the finish, or the time that it takes for the taste and smell to dissolve in your mouth. It is agreed that the longer the finish, the better the quality of the wine. Most great wines will have a good balance of all of its components for approximately two minutes after the wine is consumed.

 

 

The phases of wine tasting can be broken down into three basic categories, or stages:

           

            The attack phase is the first impression that is left when the wine comes into contact with your palette. This is where the initial blend of alcohol content, residual sugars, acidity and tannin levels come together. These sensations do not necessarily dictate taste, but the complexity of the wine is revealed during this initial phase. Ideally, the sugars, acidity and tannin levels will be well balanced.

 

            The middle-range phase, or the mid-palette phase is where the wine’s taste actually comes to life on the palette. If tasting a white wine, you may start noting fruit. For example, our chardonnay may bring forth flavors of vanilla and cream, balancing hints of pear and apple. Red wines, such as our merlot, may bring forth muskier flavors such as tobacco, leather and oak. When noting a wine’s flavor, be as descriptive as you can. This is to remind your palette what you like. Most of the time, if your nose likes the wine, your palette will too!

 

              The finish is the final [and appropriately titled] phase of the taste. This is where the combination of taste and smell makes its final impression. Did it last long after the wine was tasted, or was it quick to dissolve? Did the wine become bitter, or did it sweeten and leave a pleasant, lasting impression upon your palette? The last flavor impression is left here, whether it is dry, sweet, oaky or bitter, and this is usually where the decision is made of whether or not the wine was enjoyable.

 

The most important part of wine tasting is to remember that a good wine is ultimately dictated by you. Trust your palette, and happy tasting!

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