When it comes to tasting wine, what do you suppose distinguishes wine experts from most other people? I think it’s that they develop the habit and take the time to smell and taste in a consistent, logical way, and always pay attention. Whether opening a bottle of wine at home, or tasting wines to potentially add to our list here at Maynards, I spend a concentrated few minutes, smelling, tasting, and assessing them. You can learn to use a few simple techniques to thoughtfully evaluate a wine, and by becoming a more deliberate taster, increase your enjoyment of the experience.
First of all, there are factors that can skew your perceptions like tasting while eating strongly flavored foods (they can clash), shortly after brushing your teeth, or after eating mints. The first few sips of a wine often taste abrubt because your mouth hasn’t yet adjusted to the acidity and the alcohol. It’s a good idea to go back one or two times and try it again to be sure you are evaluating it correctly.
Some scientists believe that wine is a virtually tasteless liquid that happens to be very fragrant. If you’ve ever tried to enjoy a glass of wine during a bout of nasal congestion, you might agree.
To begin, pour a couple ounces and hold your glass of wine at an angle over a white background. You will be able to see if it’s clear or cloudy, bright or dull. White wines get darker with age while reds get lighter.
Swirling the wine a few times will help release the aromas in the wine. Next, stick your nose right in the glass and take a few short sniffs. The taste of a wine is largely confined to sweet, sour, and bitter profiles. However the nose can pick up an enormous amount of information and the trick is establishing a vocabulary to express it. White wines have aromas of fruits (fresh or cooked), butter and cream, vegetables, nuts and grains, spices, flowers, earth, and wood to name a few. Red wines have fruit, vegetables, chocolate, coffee, spices, herbs, tobacco, flowers, earth, animal, and wood, plus many more.
Take some wine into your mouth and make sure it reaches every part of your mouth and tongue. Don’t swallow right away. Breathe into your mouth while the wine is still in there. All this helps your nose to register the flavors and weight of the wine. Does the taste of the wine confirm the aroma? To ascertain the weight of the wine, think about the different relative ways that skim milk, whole milk, and half and half feel in your mouth. Now think about the intensity of flavor you’re experiencing. Does the wine have any discernable texture? Is it balanced? Finally, how long does the flavor last in your mouth? That’s called the wine’s finish. The world’s best wines all have long finishes.
I hope this information helps increase your understanding of and capacity to enjoy wine.
I used The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil as part of my research for this blog.
Our November Wines of the Month are from California. Stonegate Chardonnay from Napa has ripe apple, vanilla oak, spice and butterscotch. Wilson Daniels Merlot is made predominantly from Paso Robles grapes. The wine is full-bodied with dark berry fruit, vanilla and toast. They will both sell for $9. Wine Club Members, please pick up your bottles before they are gone.