If you’ve ever wished there were a reality TV show called So You Think You Can Wine Taste just so you could learn the ropes, you’re in wine-tasting luck. No, we’re not producing a show. But YES, this article will give you the tips and tricks your novice-to-intermediate self needs to ascend to the connoisseur heights.
TIP 1: THE 4 STEPS
Commit these steps to memory:
1. Look: Thoroughly scope the wine under neutral lighting.
2. Smell: Pick out aromas by breathing through your sniffer—that’s orthonasal olfaction (a.k.a. sensing odors sniffed in) for all you fancy folks.
3. Taste: Observe the taste structure (sweet, sour, bitter) and flavors of the wine through retronasal olfaction (a.k.a. sensing odors when breathing out).
4. Conclude: Come up with your own unique wine profile to tuck away in your long-term memory or jot down in tasting notes.
TIP 2: HOW TO SNIFF, SWIRLAND FIND VARIOUS FLAVORS
It can be a challenge to move past the overarching scent of “wine,” but rest assured, there are endless nuances. Try this technique on for size: alternate between shallow, quick inhales and long, slow inhales.
Ever wonder why wine connoisseurs swirl their vino? It’s because swirling the wine heightens the number of aroma compounds released into the air. Whether by hand or on a table top, swirling actually opens the wine up with oxygen, so get to swirling!
Find Various Flavors
First coat your mouth with the wine. Then take multiple small sips to isolate the flavors. Do yourself a favor and focus your attention on one flavor at a time. You can start with broad flavors, then home in on more specifics. Think “dark fruits” to “blackberry,” “raspberry” or “tart cherry.”
TIP 3: QUICKEN YOUR TASTING SKILLS AND SWISH & SPIT OR SWALLOW
Sharpen Your Tasting Skills Quickly
One tried-and-true way to sharpen your wine tasting skills quickly is to compare multiple wines in one setting. This allows your palate to participate in rapid-fire action. It also gives clarity to wine aromas and gives your brain, nose and mouth a one-way ticket to Obviousville. Side-by-side tasting for the win!
Swish & Spit or Swallow—Your Choice!
You know how awesome it feels when someone tells you there’s no wrong answer? That’s the scenario we’re in right now.
Whether to swish and spit or swallow is a question that pretty much everyone on the planet asks along their journey to wine tasting connoisseur superstardom. Do you want to know why the question was ever posed in the first place? Spitting was the product of necessity in order to remain sober during an entire wine tasting!
Most modern wineries now offer smaller tasting samples. So you can swallow to your heart and belly’s content, or if you hate a particular wine, dump it in the “spittoon” bucket. Both are acceptable and common in tasting circles.
TIP 4: WRITE KILLER TASTING NOTES
You’ll want to remember what you liked, loved and wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, so taking killer tasting notes is an essential part of the experience.
Three General Aroma Categories:
- Primary Aromas
Primary aromas are from the specific grape and terroir (a.k.a. how a region’s climate, soils and terrain impact the wine’s taste) and are typically floral, fruit or herbal aromas.
- Secondary Aromas
Secondary aromas result from the winemaking process and include notes from yeast (like lager and bread) and notes from malolactic fermentation (like yogurt and sour cream).
- Tertiary Aromas
Tertiary aromas are produced from aging in the bottle or in oak and include aromas like smoke, vanilla, clove, dill, coconut, roasted nuts and baking spices. There can also be a shift from fresh to dried in the fruit character with tertiary aromas.
After you’ve got these down, remember that adjectives are your friend and nothing you write down is stupid if it helps solidify the taste in your brain. Candied cherry and armpit are perfectly reasonable notes.
Body, Tannin, and Acidity:
This is the texture—how the wine feels in your mouth. Think about the difference between skim milk and whole milk.
This is another textural element that makes wine taste dry. Notice if your lips stick to your teeth.
This is how tart or puckering a wine is. High acidity is like a lemon, low acidity is like a watermelon.
The Final Finish
- Tart & Tingly
- Juicy & Fresh
Remember as you journey toward your wine connoisseur dreams that anything worth mastering takes time…and at the very least should probably give you a moderate buzz.
If you’d like to bone up your skills in the comfort of your own home before venturing out into the big and boujee world of wineries, grab the Wine Connoisseur Crate, text some friends and get to tasting!