Wine Tasting For Newbies – A Skill Like Any Other

I was recently asked about my thoughts on Wine Tasting by a new wine lover. So, this article is for any brand new Winos out there. Those of you with wine experience have no business poking your nose in this post. Newbies only! 🙂

If you had asked me only 5 or 6 months ago as to how one should go about tasting wine, I’d have replied “With an open mouth.” Yeah, you can see why I don’t have many friends. Now, 5 months after having founded Wine Time TV I can’t get away with offering such a hasty reply, though I certainly think about it when asked that question. I’ll never change.

Fact is, my smart-ass answer isn’t completely off base. There just happens to be a formal process to wine tastingopeing-and-pouring-wine and the ‘open mouth’ bit eventually comes in to play. This method to wine tasting that I’m leading up to is actually applied by wine tasters all over the globe. Particular those stereotypical wine drinkers that we Newbie Winos always considered wine snobs before we fully understood the drinking rituals they were performing at tastings.

Actually, once you get past the uppity-yuppity attitude too often associated with it, wine tasting is quite fun and can require a bit of skill, depending on how deep you want to dive into the glass. The art of wine tasting is very easy to learn however and like anything else, the more you practice the better you will be at doing it. Don’t forget, the best part of wine tasting is you get to drink wine. So, practice, practice, practice. Hell, I’m practicing right now with a 2007 Chateu Barrail while writing this article. It’s a yummy Bordeaux I picked up; a steal at only €2.49.

There are no laws in my world of wine, just suggestions. I’m no expert however I know what I like. That’s all that really matters where my palate is concerned and I suggest you don’t let anyone tell you any different. If it doesn’t taste good to you, it isn’t good. That’s my basic rule of thumb.

Okay, let’s get started.

Keeping it ultra simple for the present, there’s red wine and white wine. Sure, many variations of each exist but odds are if you are a brand new Wino you’ve got a basic bottle of each and hopefully didn’t spend a fortune on either. The basic art of wine tasting consists of a few simple steps. So before we begin, you’ll likely want to pour yourself a glass. I’m already a step ahead of you as I mentioned already.

wine pouringPouring, is an art of it’s own and we won’t get too into that! Pro’s will tell you (and I tend to agree) that red wine works best with a larger, rounder glass. That’s due to the fact that the wine will taste better having had a good mixture of oxygen run through it. I find the large glass a good tip. You’ll discover regardless of glass size that the wine will have a different taste from the time you open it and say, 20-30 minutes later. Wine is living. Wine breathes. Contrarily, white wine, when professionally served, is generally in a smaller glass. I personally like a big glass for both as I’m a messy swirler.

Speaking of which, after pouring yourself a glass, the first step to tasting wine is to give it a nice swirl. Believe it or not, some suggest how many times to swirl. I go for 6 to 8 times out of habit and following that you’ll want to evaluate the color and clarity. Being new, you may have little clue as to what you’re looking for. No worries. Just tilt the glass in the direction of the whitest background you have near you. Usually a wall or table top.

Basically speaking, your wine shouldn’t have any solid bits floating around in it. If it does, it’s a good chance it’s part of the cork. Then again, if you’re a newbie on a budget you likely have a wine which has a synthetic cork of somekind and those generally don’t fall apart, no matter how deep you jammed your corkscrew into it.

You should also look at the color and the color tones of the wine. If its a red wine, notice the edges of the wine when you’ve got it tilted towards a light back drop. If it’s looking brown around the edges that may very well mean it’s getting old whereas a white wine that is old will likely appear an orangish or dark gold color along it’s edges. Yes, you can drink it anyway so long as it’s not days old. Just remember my main rule of thumb; If it doesn’t taste good to you, it isn’t good.

The next step is smelling the wine. To properly smell the wine you need to swirl it to mix in some air. That wonderful air makes the aromas in the wine float in the glass just above the wine itself. That’s also why I like a big glass. Not only because I have a big nose. So, after swirling stick your big nose in the glass. Don’t be shy. The deeper you go, the more smells you’ll encounter. Close your eyes and try and pick out as many aromas as you can. The more you do it, the better you’ll be at it. I know first hand you have to train those senses since we don’t use them in everyday life, unless of course you’re a wine professional. Many wine bottles have ingredients printed on the label so test yourself and see if you get any right. Even I often do and frankly, my nose sucks.

Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for, like Pavlov’s dog. Go on and taste it! When tasting the wine, swirl it nosearound in your mouth a bit so that it coats the inside of your mouth. You might also try to inhale some air so that the wine releases even more flavor and aroma in your mouth. You might have seen and heard others making a slurping sound while tasting. Truth is, it really does stimulate the palate and even more flavor comes through. Be careful though, I did a lot of embarrassing drooling my first times doing it.

The tasting doesn’t end after you swallow it, or in some cases spit it out. The aftertaste is a very import factor to serious tasters. The aftertaste is measured in the actual length of the aftertaste, how it coats the mouth, how the mouth drys, the astringency and more is revealed. These sensations are generally a result of the tannins in the wine and red wine will tend to have a much stronger aftertaste than white wine, but thats not always the case.

Play around with all of this and by all means have fun. Before you know it, you’ll be using all sorts of snobby terminology while getting on your friends nerves the next time you have a glass of wine at your local pub, extended pinky and all. I should know, as my new found love for wine has already transformed the beer drinking friends I had only half a year ago.


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