How to taste wine
Taste wine like a pro with this simple routine: Look-Swirl-Sniff-Sip.
Before you take your first sip, hold your glass in the light to first evaluate how clear the wine is. A wine that looks clear and brilliant and shows some sparkle, is a good sign. A murky wine might be a wine that simply has some sediment due to be shaken up before being poured, or it might be a wine with chemical or fermentation problems (which doesn’t taste good).
Then, take a look at the color of the wine. If the color looks pale and watery near its edge, it suggests a rather thin, simple wine. If the color looks tawny or brown (for a white wine) or orange or rusty brick (for a red wine) it is either an older wine or a wine that has been oxidized and may be past its prime.
Swirl the wine to see if it forms “legs” or “tears” that run down the sides of the glass. Wines that have good legs are wines with more alcohol and glycerin content, which generally indicates that they are bigger, riper, more mouth-filling and dense than those that do not.
Give the glass a swirl and hover over the top like a helicopter pilot surveying rush hour traffic. Take a series of quick, short sniffs. Try to look for the following aromas:
Wine flaws You don’t want to smell a musty old attic (corked wine), burnt matches, vinegar, nail polish, horses or sweaty saddles. If you do, the wine is flawed and you should request another bottle.
Fruit aromas Wine should smell like fresh fruit, unless it is very old, very sweet, or very cold.
Floral and mineral aromas Can you smell flowers, leaves, herbs, spices or vegetables? Earth, mineral or Rock? Next time you taste a Sauvignon Blanc, see if you can detect the smell of hay and herbs.
Wine barrel aromas If you smell toast, smoke, vanilla, chocolate, espresso, roasted nuts, or even caramel in a wine, you are most likely picking up scents from aging in oak barrels.
Take a sip of wine into your mouth- finally!- and try sucking on it as if pulling it through a straw. Ignore the stares of those around you; this simply aerates the wine and circulates it throughout your mouth. If you have done your sniffing homework, flavors will follow right along where the aromas left off. Aside from simply identifying flavors, you are also using your taste buds to determine if the wine is balanced, harmonious, complex, evolved, and complete.
A balanced wine has its basic flavor components in good proportion. Our taste buds detect sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. If a wine is too sour, too sugary, too astringent, too bitter, or too flabby (lack of acid) then it is not a well-balanced wine. If it is young, it is not likely to age well; if it is old, it may be falling apart or perhaps completely gone.
A harmonious wine presents its flavors harmoniously and you can identify every flavor.
A complex wine is like a good painting. To more you look at it, the more there is to see. The length of a wine, how long the flavor lingers after you swallow, is a good indication of complexity.
Now you’ve got the basics, there’s only one way to really improve your wine tasting ability: experiment as much as possible. Cheers!
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