Wine tasting is defined as the examination and evaluation of wine using your senses. Wine tasting has now become a popular activity among tourists, especially in the US, France and Italy. You don’t have to visit wineries to learn how to taste wines.
You can do it on your own, but how, and like a pro? Learning how to taste wines is a one-of-a-kind adventure and will make you appreciate wines and winery owners even more. To experience the true flavour and taste of wine, you need to pay attention to your senses of sight, smell, touch and taste. You can smell thousands of unique aromas, but your taste is only limited to four – salty, sweet, sour and bitter. So once you combine both smell and taste, you can distinguish the unique flavour of different bottles of wine, like a true wine tasting pro. Don’t rush the tasting experience. Linger and savour the moment.
1. Touch. There is a right and a wrong way in holding a wine glass. Never hold the glass by its head. Instead, delicately hold it by the stem, since the heat generated by your hand will quickly heat up your alcoholic drink.
2. Look: Observe the color and clearness. Carefully pour a little wine into your glass – an inch or less would be best. Slightly tilt the wine and look at it against a light or a white background. What color is it? Is the wine clear or opaque?
3. Smell: To get a good impression of the smell of wine, gently swirl your glass on a flat surface for approximately 10-20 seconds (this allows oxygen to enter the wine, thus releasing the wine’s aroma). You may now take a quick whiff for a first impression. Now, tip the glass up and stick your nose down into the glass. Inhale deeply through your nose. 80% of our sense of taste is actually in our nose. Aromas can vary depending on how far your nose goes in the glass. So, what are your second impressions? At the top of the glass, smells are more fruity and/or floral, but as your nose goes deeper inside, the smell becomes richer. Try to get the wine’s full range of scents.
4. Taste: This is the final step and it should be your last step. Do not have even a sip if you haven’t observed and smelled the wine yet. Taste the wine; just have a tiny sip at first, and let the drink move around your mouth, spreading across the tongue, then front to back, and side to side before you swallow it. Don’t forget to notice the taste, savour and study it. Don’t just play around with the wine in your mouth. Now, you may carefully slurp some air through partially closed lips and by doing so, you will help release some more of the wine’s flavour and fragrances. Assess the wine’s taste. The tip of your tongue detects the sweetness, the inner sides distinguish the sourness/acidity, the outer sides identify the saltiness, and lastly, the back of the tongue discovers the bitterness of the wine. Now, you may swallow.
If you are going to taste a number of wines, it is best to start with the lightest wine or the white wines first, and then make your way down to the heavier, darker red wines. This helps in keeping your taste buds more sensitive so you can appreciate every single wine you taste. A drink of water between wines will allow you to properly taste, assess, then enjoy and savour the flavour of each wine.