Drinking wine is a pleasure. Buying the perfect wine for your palate is an art, and not many people know how to do so properly. This is known as the art of wine tasting, and it involves three of your senses – sight, smell, and taste.
Would you know what to buy for a beginner, or what to pick for someone who is a wine connoisseur? Do you know what makes Chardonnay a buttery wine, or how a fruity Merlot tastes? Do you know what gives Shiraz a spicy aftertaste, and most importantly, how to pair different varieties of wine with food? If you perfect the art of wine tasting, you will know how to answer all of the above, and also enjoy wine a lot more.
If you think that just pouring wine into a fancy glass, and twirling it before you taste it makes you look like a wine lover, you’re wrong. Whether you are a wine lover who likes to pamper your taste buds, or a beginner who wants to develop a palate for wine, there is much more that you need to know than just how to sip wine and hold the glass.
There are many different varieties of wine, coming from different parts of the world. If you have ever visited Napa Valley, a county famous for its 500+ wineries, you know what we’re talking about.
The finest varieties of wine include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Gris
- Cabernet Franc
Every varietal offers a unique taste, color, and aroma, leaving you with a different drinking experience. For example, Syrah is a dark, and full-bodied wine which welcomes you with fruity notes, and leaves your palate with a spicy aftertaste. Pinot Noir is pale in color, with a subtle taste. Chardonnay can be an oaked white wine with a buttery taste, and comes in two varieties – ripe Chardonnay with notes of tropical fruits like guava, pineapple, and mango; and barely ripe Chardonnays with notes of lemon, and green apple. More Chardonnays are being made in stainless steel and are more austere.
Sommeliers around the world with rich wine tasting experience have devised some advanced tips for improving your wine palate, and ability to recall wines whilst you are sniffing, twirling, and sipping them. Follow the three essential tips below to master the art of wine tasting.
1. Examine the Way it Looks
With food, you first take a look at the dish, and try to gauge how it will taste. You should do the same with wine as well. The color of the wine will tell you about its approximate age, the varieties of grapes used to make it, and the amount of alcohol and sugar in it.
To do this, tilt your glass a bit and start by observing the density of color from the bottom of the glass to its center. In the case of a white wine, if the color is slightly yellowish or leaning towards brown, that wine is aged. In the case of a red wine, if the color isn’t rich and a bit transparent, it is again a matured wine.
When it comes to the alcohol and sugar content, an easy way is to swirl the glass a little, and then notice if wine “legs,” (droplets), appear on the glass walls, slowly settling down. This is a sign that the percentage of alcohol and sugar in the wine is high.
Another way that you can evaluate a wine visually is to look through the sides. Wine that sparkles when you hold the glass in light is a good wine. And, if the wine doesn’t look clear, there may be a chance that it was not fermented properly, and is unfiltered.
You don’t have to spend more than 5 seconds on this step.
2. Evaluate the Aroma
Aroma holds a lot of significance in the process of professional wine tasting. When you smell a wine, you can learn a lot about the grape variety, how the wine is treated, and the region it comes from. If you have a strong nose and a trained palate, you can also determine whether or not it is an oaked wine, how old it is, and where it is from.
To different people, the same wine will smell different because of multiple compounds in a single aroma. There are three categories of aromas:
- Primary Aromas – These aromas come from grape varieties and the type of climate which supports their growth. Basically, primary aromas are all about herbal, fruit, and floral notes. White wines produced in a cold climate like Riesling, Rhone varietals, and Gewürztraminer have floral aromas. Cabernet Sauvignon carries an herbal aroma, and Sauvignon Blanc is known for a strong grassy smell.
- Secondary Aromas – The practice of fermentation involved in the winemaking lends wine a differentiating aroma. For example, an aroma of sour cream, yogurt, or buttered popcorn comes from a fermentation process called malolactic. Chardonnays are a great example of this.
- Tertiary Aromas – This category of fragrances comes from whether the wine is aged in oak or bottles. These include vanilla, old tobacco, baked nuts, mushrooms, baking spice, autumn leaves, and cured leather.
3. Evaluate the Taste
After you understand how to look at and smell a wine, your third sense, taste, will help you determine whether it is sweet, bitter, or salty, and whether the wine is balanced, harmonious, complex, and complete. Taste depends on the variety of grapes used and the region and climate where those grapes were grown.
- Balanced Wine – A well-balanced wine means it has a good proportion of flavor components and is not too sour, too salty, or too sugary.
- Harmonious Wine – If different components in a wine are blended together well in such a way that it is becomes hard to identify them, then the wine can be called harmonious.
- Complex Wine – The complexity of a wine is gauged by its length. If the taste lingers in your mouth after you swallow, the wine is said to be complex.
- Complete Wine – A wine which has a satisfying finish and all of the above traits, (balance, complexity, and harmony), is a complete wine.
You should also pay attention to the texture of the wine on your tongue while you are sipping it.
To make your wine tasting experience a good one, make sure:
- you are not in a noisy environment which could prevent you from concentrating,
- the glass size and shape are appropriate and it doesn’t smell like dish soap, and
- you maintain the temperature of wine, (it should not be too cold or too warm).
Wine is enjoyed all over the world. The art of wine tasting can help you get the most out of your wine drinking experiences.. Simply follow the easy steps above to start enjoying wine like a pro. And if you are looking for an adventurous food and wine tour, let us assist you in planning a luxurious Argentina wine tour for a thrilling experience.