Monday, July 14, 2008

Wine Tasting Basics

What is it ?
How often have you had your nose in a glass of wine, and you think 'I know what that aroma is' but you just can't put a name to it, even though it's on the tip of your tongue..... literally. Outlined below are the tasting technique used by most connoisseurs. By taking just a few moments to think about how you drink, you will learn to taste – and more fully appreciate your wine experience in the process.

Proper Tasting Technique

(1) Look
The appearance of a wine, examined in a clear, un-etched glass against a white background, will tell you several things about the wine. The color indicates age, grape variety, and potentially the type of extraction and maturation during the wine making process.

What color is it? If it’s a red wine, is it ruby, garnet, red or purple, for example? If it’s a white wine, is it straw-like, golden, pale yellow or light green?

Move on to the wine's opacity. Is the wine clear, cloudy, transparent or opaque? Tilt your glass a bit, give it a little swirl - look again, you are looking at color, clarity, brilliance. An older red wine will be more translucent than younger red wines.

(2) Smell
Did you know that smelling a wine accounts for approximately 75% of what you actually taste. But, not only does it help you taste the wine, it also lets you assess the intensity, age, fruit character and even the faults of the wine. A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.

Gently swirl the wine in the glass to help the aromas surface. Then sniff the wine to gain a first impression. Now stick your nose down into the glass and inhale deeply (through your nose). Are the aromas powerful or subdued? Is the wine developing, or is it still fresh and fruity? Do you smell red or white fruits, herbs, minerals or spice? How about freshly mowed grass or cigar box.

(3) Taste
Now, take a taste. Start with a small sip and let it roll around your tongue. Let it mingle with the air by pulling in a little air through your lips. It may sound funny but it helps the wine to further expose its full range of character. This is your first impression of the wine's components and flavors. What do you taste? Often, reds will have berry, woody and bell pepper tastes. Whites often have floral, apple or citrus flavors.

Notice if the wine is smooth or harsh. Do you feel the back corners of your mouth watering? Does the wine seem heavy or light on your tongue?

(4) Spit / Swallow

If you are tasting versus drinking wine, you spit. Otherwise, you won’t be able to assess wines accurately after a while. But when you are determining a wine’s finish, you swallow. The finish is how long the flavor lasts after it is swallowed. Did it last several seconds? Usually, the longer the finish, the better the wine.

(5) Evaluate
Now, it’s time to evaluate what you have tried. Think about the overall character of the wine. Is it simple and easy to drink or complex? Does it require aging or does it drink well now? Overall, is it well made? And probably the most important question is, do you like it?

One thing you should remember is that when you go to purchase your favorite wine, environment plays a big part in the taste. For example, a crisp white wine sipped on a warm summer evening while listening to music by the lake will taste quite differently when sipped during a chilly mid-winter evening by the fire. Likewise, an elegant wine rich in complexity may not be fully appreciated in a casual, stand-up party setting.

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