This is my Facebook profile picture. When I uploaded it a while ago, a friend from uni asked me “Why are you spitting wine????”. At first , I thought he was joking but later on I came to realise that he was genuinely puzzled. I didn’t spit the wine because I hated it but because there were a few more awaiting to be tasted and it was a bit early in the day to make a wine cocktail in my belly.
Let’s start from the beginning and we shall go through the 5 simple steps of tasting wine or how to Miss Marple it (we’ll come to that later, promise.)
1. See: Place the glass in a 45 angle on a white surface to get a better view of the colour. You have probably heard wine drinkers commenting on the colour of a wine, the same way that the color of a cocktail might have excited you. On wine, however, its hue, intensity and rim of the color of the wine can give you a good idea of what you’re about to taste. A couple of examples that pop in my head is Pinot Noir and Argentinian Malbec. A Burgundian Pinot Noir is most usually bright ruby, never too intense in comparison to the deep red almost black, at first glance, Malbec. Another good token of knowledge that you get is the age of the wine. A fresh, young white wine is light yellow with green highlights and its colour gets deeper with ageing. Red wines follow the exact opposite route – they are much deeper in colour when young and gradually become lighter.
2. Swirl: Give the glass a light swirl, so you get air into your glass. This step enhances and reveals the aromas and makes it easier for you to identify them.
3. Sniff: Now that you are happy with describing the colour, on to the aromas. Probably the second best step when drinking ( sipping is the first, no?). Often friends ask me : what do you mean that it reminds you of melon peel? Or pineapple? This is just wine! But the they give it a second sniff, open their eyes with surprise and then close them again and indulge the moment when one smell starts breaking down into its elements. Let’s take a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – at first it smells like wine and then fruity and vegetal aromas come to mind and in a few seconds you start smelling the gooseberry and the fresh cut grass.
4. Sip: Here we go on to the most exciting part of our little ritual! The aromas and the mouthfeel a wine leaves in your mouth are probably the most exhilarating feelings you get when tasting or drinking wine. The best thing to do now is to put a bit of wine in your mouth and start inhaling air- don’t be afraid that this step is a bit noisy, this is all you can hear at a professional tasting or any wine exhibition (oh, the class!) Again, you start thinking of the aromas developing in your mouth. Is it black or red fruit? A hint of clove or toast? Then, you can assess the astringency of the wine and how its tannins makes you feel. Are they harsh and leave your tongue stiff and dry or are they velvety and smooth, providing what you might have heard professionals describe as a “full-bodied” wine?
5. Spit: yes, spit. Yes, really. No, it’s nor rude neither disgusting, it’s what professionals do when they’re attending a wine exhibition and aim to taste 30 or 50 or 100 more wines. The first reason is quite obvious; if you survived swirling wine in your mouth without feeling uncomfortable, imagine walking around the room in a rather inappropriate manner, aka like a drunken monkey. The second reason is that you don’t want to tire your palate and put these tastebuds to sleep.
To sum it up, you have to be an old granny like me and know who Miss Marple is, you can make funny noises with your mouth while tasting wine and you can shamelessly spit in front of others!
Tasting wine is a bit like playing Miss Marple or Sherlcok Holmes. With observation, you’re collecting data and evidence and then you break it down into the hundreds of possibilities.
Have fun and enjoy! #5Swinetasting