Wine is one of the most inclusive drinks in the world, with millions of people enjoying a glass or two every single day. While wine can certainly be appreciated just by putting the glass to your lips and drinking, there is a certain amount of craft involved if you want to get a true feel for the artistry of the winemaker and the effort they have made to create a wine that is of immense quality.
Sommeliers taste wine in a way that allows them to detect every single note, allowing them to more fully understand the intensions of the producer instead of simply drinking the wine with a meal or with friends. It is an entirely different way to taste wine if you have never tried it before, so here are a few steps that should help you to get the absolute most out of your taste experience.
The Wine Glass
The type of glass that you use and the way that you hold it are all going to play a large part in how you taste the wine. While this may change slightly between different vintages, the general rule of thumb is that a white wine will usually have a smaller rim than a red, though this really depends on how the wine reacts with oxygen.
What is perhaps more important is the way that you hold the glass. It should be tilted slightly towards you, as this allows the various aromas to cascade out of the glass and towards your nose when you go to smell them. Perhaps even more importantly, you should never hold the glass by its bowl. The heat from your hand will change the texture of the wine, perhaps not ruining the taste but definitely making it different to what the producer intended. Instead, make sure to hold the glass by the stem.
Examining The Wine
Every single wine offers something a little different when you look at it, though many people will completely miss this aspect of the drinking experience. The best way to properly view the wine is to pour a little into your glass and then hold it up against the light while tilting. This will allow you to see if the wine is clear or cloudy and may give you a better idea as to its quality.
Red wines run the gamut from bright raspberry colours in younger wines through to deeper and more complex reds that include hints of mahogany or even wisps of gold. A white wine, on the other hand, will range from a sort of greenish colour through to more golden colours as they age.
This is the step that many people tend to forget when drinking wine instead going straight from examining the colour through to smelling the aromas on offer. However, this step is crucial if you want to be able to get a feel for the body of the wine.
To do this properly, you should firmly hold the stem of the glass and swirl it gently in little circle while the glass is placed on a flat surface. Do this for about 10 to 20 seconds, as this will allow the wine to take in enough oxygen to give you a feeling for what you are looking at.
To get an idea for the body of the wine, examine the streaks that roll down the side of the glass after you have swirled it. These are called legs and their thickness will help you determine just how complex the wine is going to be.
Swirling also allows you to mix the wine with oxygen in a process that is called aerating, releasing the vapours that start evaporating from the side of the glass in the process. This allows you to release its bouquet, giving you a more tangible aroma when you bring the wine to your nose.
Smelling The Wine
Once you have swirled the glass, the wine will be ready to release its various aromas. It is at this point that you should tip the glass towards your nose and inhale. Some people believe that holding the glass a small distance from the nose will allow you to take in more of the scent, while others prefer to place their nose in the glass. Do whatever works best for you after experimenting.
It may even be worth doing both each time you smell, as the aromas will start to differ the further away from the glass that your nose is. At the top of the glass you should be able to pick up the fruity and floral notes that the wine contains, while you should start to notice richer smells like oak or spices as your nose gets deeper into the glass.
There is no real right or wrong way to do this, but almost everybody believes that smelling the wine is important if you want to get a true sense for everything that has gone into its creation.
Of course, we can now finally get to the moment that you have likely been waiting for and actually taste the wine. It goes without saying that you should not drink the wine in large gulps. Instead, enjoy a little sip and let the wine travel around your mouth, hitting every part of your tongue. This will allow you to experience every flavour the wine has to offer, from the sweet through to the bitter.
As a general note, the tip of your tongue will be used to detect sweetness, while the inner sides will detect acidity and sourness, while the outer sides detect saltiness. By swirling the wine around your tongue you should be able to taste many of the notes that you detected when you smelled the wine.
You may also decide to purse your lips and breathe in a little as you do this, thus aerating the wine further and releasing more of its flavour. Finally, you need to make sure that you take a little bit of time to experience the finish after you have swallowed the wine. This aftertaste often provides a number of sensations that you didn’t note when drinking, making it a valuable part of the tasting experience.