Think of all the wonderful moments in your life when wine was ever-present. Did it help you celebrate successes or nurse a heartbreak?
Do you want to take your wine drinking to a whole new level above your feelings and, instead, open your senses to the full experience? Learn a new skill and impress your friends at the next dinner party post-pandemic by learning how to taste wine like a pro. It’s more than a neat party trick—maybe you’ll discover what kind of wine you truly want in the process!
A brief history of vino
Wine has been part of human culture since time immemorial. Its earliest remnants were first found in HjjiFiruzTepe in Iran, dating back to the Neolithic period. Winemaking officially started shortly, following 6000 B.C.
Ancient Egyptians used to make wine out of different colored grapes, figs, dates, palm, and pomegranates. From Greece to Rome and across Europe, wine spread across the world and now exists with hundreds of variations.
Discerning drinkers can sometimes tell from which region a bottle of wine is from by being aware of all the wine properties that their taste buds can afford. This skill is no happy accident because it can take years of practice.
Proper wine tasting involves the use of multiple senses
Using one’s sense of sight, smell, and touch is vital to perceive wines. Some even suggest that having ambient music play in the background influence the overall wine experience.
Are you ready to taste, explore, and learn about one of the all-time favorite drinks that have kept humans company in times of both joy and sorrow? Here are some tips on how you can learn to taste wine like a pro.
- Make sure you have the right kind of glass
Choose a clear wine glass with a rim that bends inwards. It may seem like a trivial detail, but this configuration helps funnel the aromas to your nose. Further, using this kind of glass will help you swirl the liquid with a minimized risk of spillage.
- Hold your wine glass properly
Now that you have the right kind of wine glass, make sure you hold it properly. Proper wine glass handling makes a difference. Holding a wine glass by its stem is best since cradling it on your palm by its bowl will transfer the heat from your hands to the liquid. This mechanism warms the wine and alters its impact.
Pro tip: Pour only an inch or less when tasting wine. Also, if you are sampling a couple of wines in one go, start with the lightest of all the wines and progress to the heavier ones. This progression will allow your taste buds to appreciate each variety the right way.
- Judge its color
Knowing how to evaluate wines using color perception will already clue you in on their flavor profile even before you smell or taste it. Connoisseurs usually can already tell a wine’s intensity with its color.
View the poured wine against a white backdrop, such as a whiteboard or a bond paper. With this, you may more accurately see its hue as it will remain untainted by external colors.
Shiraz from the land down under may range from purple or ruby-toned. Moscato is a pink color compared to white wine, which can be amber or light yellow.
- Smell the bouquet
Tasting wine the right way requires a great sense of smell. Swirl the wine to increase its oxygenation, which allows secondary aromas to come forward.
By smelling wine properly, you can tell if it is faulty or clean. Faults could mean excess levels of oxidation, volatile acidity, and other technical factors. Gauging a wine’s intensity comes after determining if it is clean or faulty.
Intensity ranges from low and medium to high. Being able to smell the wine from a small distance away generally means that it is intense, while detecting its aroma with the glass below your nose may mean it falls under medium-plus.
- Evaluate the full palate experience
How the liquid tastes according to your palate will depend on different factors. The factors that define its palate experience include:
- Acidity level
- Alcohol content
Its body may be low, medium, or high, with plus and minus used as modifiers for the medium range. Describing its flavor could mean it is fruity, spicy, floral, or herbal.
Depending on your level of attention, you may also include an evaluation of its secondary characteristics. Examples of secondary wine characteristics are if it has an oaky or earthy flavor as a byproduct of its processing, specifically in terms of fermentation and lees contact.
The third defining factor to complete the palate experience are factors such as its age, fruit development, and oxidation. Fruits, in this case, will be grouped in organized clusters.This evaluation could sound something like, “A vintage Cabernet from Napa Valley has bold fruit flavors like that of black cherry.”
After completing the wine’s flavor profile, you can move on to determine its finish and then its overall complexity.
Before diving in
Sometimes you know what things are, but you do not have the words for it. Do not get frustrated in trying to find the right words in describing wines. Get yourself familiar with wine terms and impress your friends and family with your newfound skill. Throwing in some interesting wine facts and figures will be the cherry on top of your successful debut as a wine connoisseur.
More than anything, stay present and enjoy every sip that imparts its flavor so you can taste its fullness every time.
About the Author
Raichelle is a retail assistant manager at Txanton, Philippines. She obtained her Sommelier license with WSET2 by late 2018 and has been working in the hospitality industry over the past 10 years. She has developed special talent for dealing with every kind of clients and is one of the favorite by many fine wine and deli consumers. Her exceptional skills have driven her to the top and the truth is she actually has a real passion for premium gastronomy, beverage, and service.