Monday, November 5, 2007

Wine tasting 101

Wine tasting is rigorous gruelling work! When you do it for a job, you sometimes forget that what you now do as second nature had to be learned in order to get the most from the experiences. So here’s a quick introductory lesson on maximising your vinous pleasure.

Swirl a small amount of wine in the glass. This releases the aromas, and provides an opportunity for visual inspection. Look at its intensity and its clarity - whether the wine is brilliant, or cloudy with particles. Swirling also prepares the wine for the next step, the olfactory examination.

Agitating the wine vaporizes it, and the thin sheet of liquid on the sides of the glass evaporates rapidly; the result is an intensification of the aromas. Stick your nose right into the glass and inhale. Generally your sense of smell is your most powerful. This is where I normally detect the most attributes and come up with all the wonderful descriptors which people use to try to explain the wine, and bore their friends. Complexity of aromas is a sign of a better wine.

There's a huge distinction between swallowing and tasting. First, as you hold the wine in your mouth, purse your lips and inhale gently through them. This accelerates vaporization, intensifying the aromas. I find making a slurping noise usually helps, and it stops the wine dribbling down your chin.
Second, “chew” the wine vigorously to draw every last nuance of flavour from the wine. Roll the wine all around your mouth, bringing it into contact with every part. This is where you will pickup a lot of the flavours of the wine, which may or may not be consistent with the aroma. Also look at the persistence of the flavours — it’s no good if they are gone in a second.

The mouth-feel of the wine is very important. The drying feeling of tannins is most perceptible on the inner cheeks and gums; some tannins can be smooth and silky, while others are like licking sandpaper.

Spit - if you must
If you are tasting a large number of wines it’s recommended to spit them out. This is mainly to ensure you can continue to enjoy the other wines, but also to ensure that you can remain upright.
After you swallow, exhale gently and slowly through both your nose and mouth to release more aromas of the wine. You'll find that the better the wine, the more complex and long-lasting these residual aromas can be.

Be promiscuous
The best piece of wine advice I have ever received is to drink promiscuously! Not necessarily a lot, just try different styles and varieties and see what you enjoy. No one can tell you what you like, it’s your mouth, it’s a very personal thing.

1 comment:

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