How to Taste Wine

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How to Taste Wine

Tasting wine as opposed to simply drinking it down, means taking the time to judge its qualities.  It can conjure up intimidating visions of wine snobs sitting in judgment, not of the wine but of you.  Can’t tell the difference between a cheap Chianti and an expensive Bordeaux?  Don’t worry; tasting is the only way to learn how.  Focus on the three elements in tasting wine:  appearance, aroma, and flavor.

Appearance:

This is how the wine looks in the glass.  Is it dark or pale (regardless of whether it’s red or white)?  Swirl the wine in the glass.  Does it all slide down into the glass or does it leave a few spiky trails behind?  If it leaves trails of wine, it’s a plus.  That means the wine is rich in body.  Wine experts call this having good legs.

Aroma:

Your sense of smell if used properly can greatly enhance your tasting of a wine.  So rotate the glass so that the wine swirls inside the glass, mixing with the air.  Bring the glass to your nose quickly, and put your nose into the glass as far as it will go without actually touching the wine.  Does the aroma smell fruity?  Fresh?  Intense?  In any case, the aroma should be pleasant.  If it smells “skunky” or “corked” send it back or open another bottle.

Taste:

After you have looked at and smelled the wine, take a sip.  Swish the wine around in your mouth as if you are chewing.  Then swallow.  You should be able to taste several things with the wine.  The first thing your tongue will register is either dryness or sweetness, followed by acidity, fruit, and tannin.  Then note whether the wine is heavy, light, smooth, or rough.  Most wine flavors, however, take several seconds to taste because they are actually aromas vaporized in the mouth and perceived through the rear nasal passage rather than through the taste buds on your tongue.

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Tasting Wine:

  1. Pour only two ounces into the glass.
  2. Gently swirl it around so it coats the sides of the glass.  Does it cling to the sides?  Then it’s got legs and will probably taste more full-bodied than those wines that simply slide quickly down the glass.
  3. Put your nose inside the glass and inhale the aroma.
  4. Take a sip…but don’t swallow.  Hold it in your mouth for a few seconds.  Pay attention to which parts of your mouth are feeling the wine.  Any puckering sensations at the back of the tongue and throat?  That’s the effect of tannin.  Any prickling on the tongue?  That’s the wine’s acidity coming through.
  5. Take a little breath while it’s still in your mouth to intensify the wine’s flavor.
  6. Swallow.  Is there a finish?
  7. Take another sip and see what other flavors you can discern.
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