New to wine tasting?
But don’t know how to begin?
So many varietals and so many wines.
How do you chose?
Or more importantly, how do you find a wine that taste great and is easy on the pocket book?
In this article we will explore the various ways to explore the wonderful world of wine and how to “TASTE” wine properly.
The best place to start, is a Wine Tasting event.
What is a Wine Tasting Event ?
When you hear “Wine Tasting” you may picture a bunch of pseudo intellectuals standing around, swirling their glasses and sniffing the wine. They may throw out terms like fragrance, tannin, undertones, buttery, bold, mild, full-bodied, acidic etc.
But …. What does that all mean?
In this article I’ll give you a “Drinking Man’s” version of wine tasting and why you need to know it. There are some basic terms to learn along with the proper technique to taste wine.
After reading this article you should understand how to TASTE wine and pick out a decent varietal that is budget friendly and tastes great.
Here we go!!
Top 3 reasons Why You Should Learn To Taste Wine.
1. The COST. What exactly are you paying for?
Some bottles go for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Two buck chuck”for example, goes for $5 to $20 dollars. Which is the better deal? And Does expensive wine taste any better than cheap wine? There are some great tasting wine between $5 and $20.00
“ The Cost of wine has nothing to do with taste”
2. Collecting. Let’s say you develop an interest in collecting wine.
How do you know what is the REAL DEAL?
There’s lots of charlatans out there plying their wares on the uninformed. Be informed and pick the right wine for the right price without getting ripped off.
3. Wine tasting events help with selecting your favorite wines.
Sampling a wine beats paying for a whole bottle if you don’t like the wine. Most events provide 3 or more varietals to taste. Be sure to cleanse your palate between tastings either with water or crackers.
People’s tastes vary from person to person. A good Sommelier will help you pick a great wine based on your particular tastes and the food you enjoy.
Knowledge of “wine tasting” will take the guesswork out purchasing wine.
Factors that influence the price of wine
a. Storage: Is the wine aged in barrels or open containers? Oak is a bit more expensive than open containers.
b. Age: Younger wines are less expensive.
c. Type of grape: some grapes require specific growing conditions which makes the wine expensive. Yields may be low and the demand for the varietal high.
d. Shipping and handling. Where is the wine from? Italy, France, Australia etc.
e. And finally, labor.
Should beginners sign up for Wine Classes?
Wine classes will help you find a great tasting wine that is budget friendly.
The class will give a brief history of wine throughout the ages, the regions where specific varietals are produced, and cover the modern wine making process. The more you know about the wine the better judgment you’ll make about its quality.
The instructor or Sommelier will teach the basics on “how to taste the wine” step by step. VERY IMPORTANT.
There is more to tasting wine than drinking it.
Where To Go for Wine Tasting events?
Try to find a local winery that host tastings right on the premises. An actual winery immerses the attendees in the wine making process. “From vine to bottle”
Some wineries will let you sample the grapes right off the vine and show the vats/tanks where the wine is stored. Higher end wine tasting events will take you to special “tasting rooms” to try the more expensive varietals.
This event is a little pricey but worth it if you want to sample $1000 dollar bottle of wine.
More exclusive “tastings” will charge $100 or more depending on the varietals offered.
Wine Tasting Vacations:
Wine country in CA and Europe are the most popular regions to explore.
Wine tasting vacations immerses people in the wine making culture. Visitors are introduced to the winemakers, the process, the country and the history of the winery. Etc. Some wineries offer memberships to their clubs and include food or condiments upon joining (sauces to pair with the wine
Other vacation companies include a bottle or case of wine along with a discounted wine club membership. Be sure to check with the winery for more details.
How to taste Wine like a Pro
Just remember the 4 S’s: Sight, Sniff, Swirl, and Sip
The Four Steps to Wine Tasting
Look- Check for color
Smell-Smell the aromas
Taste- Take a sip. Swish it around the mouth
Evaluate-What did you think about the wine? Was it balanced? Too much acidity or too little? Did the wine have a bold taste or milder one? Did the wine live up to it’s reputation? Or did it fail to impress?
Follow these steps with all wines: reds, whites and rose.
The Mechanics of Tasting
Sight- Tilt your glass until you see the wine thin out near the top of the glass. Hold it close to a white background and check out the color. How dark or light is the color? Is there a pinkish hue or a brownish hue? This will help with the determining the age of the wine. Or to see if its spoiled.
Sniff- Next, stick your nose in the glass. Really get it in there and take a big whiff. What do you smell? Spice, fruit, strawberries, raspberries, oak, maybe honey or vanilla.? Some people can perceive a slight cheesy or mushroom smell as well.
You might smell some earthy tones, like peat moss or charcoal.
Swirl- Swirl the wine glass. I recommend holding your hand over the top of the glass while spinning. Notice the “legs” of the wine after spinning. The thicker wines will cling to the sides of the glass as it trickles down.
Stick your nose in it again and see if you can pick out some more odors. Do this action a few times. Swirl and sniff, Swirl and sniff Swirl and sniff etc. Really aerate the wine and release the aromas.
Sip- Slurp the wine. Yes I know not exactly refined but you want to aerate the wine as it enters your mouth.
Swish it around the mouth, like mouth wash, then spit it out. Yes spit it out. Now evaluate its textures. Does the wine linger in the mouth after spitting it out? Is there a sour or a sweet taste.
Run your tongue across your teeth. Do your teeth feel rough or smooth? Roughness, indicates the amount of tannin in the wine or how dry the wine is.
Does the wine feel balanced? Fruit mixed with sourness or sweetness. Does it burn the back of your throat?
Burning indicates a high alcohol content. Sourness indicates how acidic the wine is.
How’s the finish? Does the taste linger after swallowing or spitting it out?
Next, make a big snorting sound while inhaling through your nose. This “uncouth action”opens up your nasal passages and allows the odors to enter the olfactory nerves.
Now reevaluate the odors and see if you released any new scents.
Finally drink the wine.
Congratulations, you have properly tasted the wine like a Pro. The fine dining establishment will be proud of you.
To wrap things up:
The Taste is in the palate of the beholder.
Just remember these four simple rules:
1. The cost of wine is affected by the production, region, type of grape, supply and demand etc. Not the taste
2. There are plenty of great tasting wines for under $20.00 available at local grocery stores, fine restaurants/ wineries.
3. Wine classes will provide knowledge to help with wine selection and purchasing decisions.
4. Proper wine tasting technique engages the four senses: Sight, Smell, Taste, and Texture.
5. Let me know in the comments what some of your favorite varieties are.
Here’s to great tasting wine!
You can check out some great inexpensive, keto friendly varietals, here.
Here are some books that may help in your Wine Tasting Journey
Wine for Dummies, by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing Mulligan
Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly
Great Wine Made Simple, Andrea Robinson