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How to Taste Wine

Glugging, gulping, spitting, swallowing - all you need to know to taste wines.

by: Cathy Marston | 06 Nov 2009
A tutored winetasting

 If you have never tasted wine before – then you’re in for a treat. There is nothing scary about winetasting – if you’ve got a tongue, you can do it! Remember – your palate is unique to you so whatever you taste is right and happily, the more you taste wine, the better you get at it. Here is a step by step guide to tasting wine.

1.    Look
Pick up the glass and tilt it in front of something white so you can see the colour properly. Does it have anything floating in it? Is it clear and bright? What sort of colour is it – dark, light, intense, pale – and is there a difference between the middle of the wine and the edge where it touches the glass?
Can you describe the colour – pale green – light lemon – straw – golden – deep yellowy brown might be words for white wines. Young, unwooded whites tend to be paler than older, oakier wines. Reds may range from – bright purple - clear ruby – dark maroon – semi black – brickish red – vaguely brown. Young reds tend to be brighter in colour which fades to a bricky, almost orange colour with age.
You are trying to assess the age, the condition and, possibly even, the variety of the wine in the glass.

2.    Smell
With the base of the glass on the table, swirl the wine round and round (if you feel confident, you can do this in mid-air but the table is easier). Try and use a glass which is wider at the bowl than the rim as it is practically impossible to spill wine out of these sorts of glasses so you can do it with a bit of dash and verve! You are doing this in order to mix oxygen into the wine which releases the aromas.
When you have swirled, stick your nose in the glass and take a good sniff. Does it smell clean and fresh? If it smells of damp mushrooms and wet cardboard, it may be corked. What sort of fruit can you smell? Swirl and sniff again. Is there anything else that isn’t fruity – tobacco, smoke, butterscotch, leather, honey, incense, flowers?
Try and remember those aromas as you taste for the first time.

3.    Taste
Now tilt your glass and take a decent mouthful. Move it round your mouth so it touches every part of it – different parts of your mouth and tongue detect different flavours so make sure you cover all your bases. If you feel really confident, you can suck in a little extra air through your lips to continue aerating the wine – don’t dribble though, that is really uncool! Swallow your wine and then think what it tasted like.
Does it taste clean and correct – if not, then could it be corked (mushrooms and cardboard again) or oxidised (smells and tastes like sherry or vinegar)? Is it dry, crisp, fresh and acidic or smooth, soft, rounded and fat? If it is a red wine, does it have high tannins – the same extracts as in a strong cup of tea which make your mouth dry up after you’ve swallowed the wine.
What fruit does it taste of – same as you smelt or different? What else does it taste of – other flavours? After you’ve swallowed it, do those taste linger in your mouth for some time or do they disappear completely – this is called the length of a wine or the finish.

Most importantly – did you enjoy that? Does it make you want to have more? Try another mouthful to see if you get anything different and to see if you’ve changed you mind at all. Jot down a few notes, have a disagreement with your neighbour as to your differing opinions and move on the next wine.

Congratulations – you are now a Winetaster! Cheers and enjoy.


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