How to taste wine and why it is so important to appreciate wine
You must have seen it on TV, in tastings and the likes… Wine Tasting!
The swirling, the smelling, the calling out of names…
But is it really useful?
Is it something you need to learn about if you have no intention of being a wine professional?
The answer to this is yes! If you want to be serious about your wine and you really want to learn to appreciate it, wine tasting is at the very base of all this.
It gives you the base understanding that is needed to move forward and really get into wine.
You can think of it as learning to run if you’re going to play football or rugby. You need to grasp running pretty well to really enjoy these sports even if you don’t want to become a pro. Jogging, sprinting, change of speed… when you get good at these, it will help you become better than someone who has no fitness, no speed, even if they are great with a football.
Wine is multifaceted drink. There are a lot of things happening and some of those are small details, tiny aspects that you don’t appreciate if you don’t really look at them in detail.
And tasting wine allows us to go in the depth of the wine, look at and appreciate the details… just like a top car! It’s more than just a loud engine. There’s the sound which you need to appreciate, the power you get to feel, the feel of the steering wheel, the feedback from the road.. there’s the interior, the use of different materials, the stitchings. It’s a sum of so many things!
Wine is just the same. And the better the wine, the more there is happening.
So how exactly do we go about wine tasting? What is it we need to look out for?
Wine tasting is done in three steps, in 3 phases and in each phase we’re going to try to concentrate on 1 of our senses.
Before we start: what do we need?
All we need is a wine glass.. which is a glass that needs a stem, and a head, a tulip shaped head.
The stem is for us to have to hold the glass by.. so we don’t hold it by the head, where our hand would 1st of all warm up the wine, but also because our fingers would leave marks on the glass.
And of course wine.
First of all we start of by examining the colour..
To do this, we’re going to tilt our glass forward at about a 45 degree angle.. We’re now going to look at the surface of the wine.
Is it light or deep? Is the colour the same everywhere?
You’ll start noticing that it isn’t and that the colour in the centre is not the same as the rim: this where the wine is in contact with the glass.
Do this every time you taste a wine and you’ll start seeing and appreciating differences.
This is the most romantic part of tasting..
In this step, we’re going to study the aromas, using our sense of smell.
To do this we’re going to swirl our wine and smell it.
Simply put the glass down on a flat surface and make it go around in a circle, this will give the wine inside a swirl which is going to help make the smell more intense and easier to analyse.
Try and see if there are any aromas you can pick up?
Does it smell of fruit? Of flowers? Of herbs? Of spices?
It isn’t easy, but the more you do this the more you’re going to be able to pick things out.
Finally we actually taste the wine…
Now, in this step we use our sense of taste, using our taste buds.
Contrary to popular belief there are only 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and finally umami. These are the only tastes our palate can pick up
So we’re going to try and think at where, on a scale of say 1 to 10, the wine stands on each taste.
Now, I told you contrary to popular belief there are only 5 tastes, that is because things like “it tastes fruity” or “it tastes of blackcurrant” are not really tastes but flavours.
This is when our sense of smell brings an extra dimension to the wine.
This happens through a phenomena called retro-olfaction, this is basically when the wine in our mouth releases aromas that are picked up from inside our mouth and up our nose. This then is picked up by the brain as a taste but is actually a flavour.
This is exactly why, when we have a cold and our nose is blocked we feel like we can’t taste anything… we can taste.. so you will pick up sweet, sour, bitter in wine but not the flavours.
So how is it we actually taste? What’s the technique we use to strengthen the taste to make it easier to analyse? What’s the equivalent of the swirling of the glass for the smell stage?
Well for the taste it’s pretty easy too.. although it does have a bit of a tricky part.
So we first start of by putting a small amount of liquid into our mouth and instead of swallowing it straight away, we’re going to whirl around our tongue.. around our palate.
Just like when you rinse your mouth after having brushed your teeth.
Then we’re going to tilt our head slightly forward we bring the wine to the front of the mouth… and we’re going to slightly relax the lips, and create a tiny gap while at the same time inhaling a bit of air and then tightening the lips again.
We do this a couple of times.
This is going to basically explode the taste and flavours in your mouth and you’re going to be able to appreciate all the small flavours and the taste much much better.
And when you’ve done that, that’s basically it!
You are ready to go out there and really taste wine and appreciate its little secrets.
Try it the next time..
Try smelling the wine first before swirling and again after and you’ll see the difference.
Try tasting the wine as you did before and try with a bit of swirling around the palate and oxygenating that’s when you inhale air through it..
You’ll see the difference!
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to wine tasting and this introduction to wine appreciation.
In the meantime, if you have learnt anything I’d love to know! Let me know down in the comment section.
What’s your one take away from this article?
Also do let me know when you try these tasting methods, how was it for you?