Wednesday, July 02, 2008
5 Quick Steps to Becoming a Wine Tasting Expert
By Grace Chen
If you enjoy wine, then you know that the right glass of wine is the perfect complement to any meal. However, there is more to wine than just knowing whether to serve white or red with your particular dish of choice. Knowing how to taste wine will help you to learn to appreciate it more – and will make finding the perfect wine even easier. The actual process of learning to taste wine is straightforward, but the actual practice can take years to master. Here is what you need to know to get started on your own wine tasting adventure.
- What You See Interestingly, the first step in wine tasting does not involve your taste buds, but rather your vision. When tasting wine, you want to first view the color and clarity. Start by pouring the wine into a glass and taking a good look at it. Tilt the wine away from you and look to see how the color changes from the edges to the middle. All wines have a variety of colors, even if they fit into the red, white, or blush category.
For instance, a red wine might actually be purple, ruby, or brick, while a white wine might be clear, straw-like, or golden. Once you have decided on the color, take a look at the opacity. See if it is water or dark, if you can see through it, and if it is cloudy or clear, and has sediment. Tilt the glass, swirl, and look again.
- What You Smell The next part of wine tasting is the smell. Smell influences the taste of the wine, and identifying the smell is an important part of wine tasting. Start by gently swirling the glass and taking a quick whiff. What is your first impression?
Next, stick your nose into the glass and inhale deeply. What impression do you get now? Common scents include oak, berry, flowers, and citrus. Swirl the wine and repeat.
- What You Taste – Attack Phase The “attack phase” is the first stage of tasting, and it is the initial impression that the wine exudes when you drink it. This is defined by the alcohol content in the wine, the amount of tannins, the acidity, and the residual sugars. In the best wines, these will be well-balanced. You do not have to try and identify each individually; instead note the impressions. Is the wine soft or firm? Crisp or creamy? Sweet or dry?
- What You Taste– Evolution Phase The “evolution phase” is the second stage of tasting, and it is the actual taste on the palate. Here you will try to identify the individual tastes. With a red wine, you would start with fruit, such as berry or fig, then a spice, like clove or cinnamon, to a woody flavor like oak. With a white wine, you might note apple or citrus, then a floral, to honey or herbs. Each wine will have its own notable flavors.
- What You Taste– The Finish Phase The “finish phase” is the last step of tasting and involves how long the impression lasts once swallowed. This includes the amount of time the aftertaste lasts, if the wine was light or full-bodied, and remaining tastes that are left on the tongue.
Putting It All Together
Once you have seen, smelled, and tasted a wine, you may want to write down your personal impressions. This includes how well you liked the wine, if you thought it was sweet or bitter, whether you would buy it again, and the type of food with which it would pair well. If you think it is a wine that you will purchase in the future, make sure to write down the name of the wine, the winery, and the year that you sampled. The next step is throwing a wine & cheese party.
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