Tasting wine can be intimidating --- all those people swirling, sniffing, sipping, swishing and spitting. And the way they talk about the wine?
Ugh. We understand why so many people say they are nervous to try tasting.
Here's some great news: Jersey Wine and Spirits is about to teach you how to taste wine like a champ. We've got some tips for how to look and feel ready to start your journey into tasting. We can't get you looking like the guy from that clip just yet but we can start you on understanding how to taste and describe wine better.
How To Taste Wine Even If You've Never Done It Before
1. Look. The first step to tasting wine is to look at it. This will give you some hints. First, you'll notice the color and transparency. Is the wine a deep red? or a translucent copper? When you tilt it does it change color? What about around the rim? It's okay if you don't know what any of this means -- just get in the habit of looking at the wine in the glass. When you tilt the glass and then let the wine level out again do you notice those remnants of wine? Those are the wine's legs -- the more they stick to the glass the higher the alcohol content.
2. Sniff. While not everyone does this we believe in sniffing before swirling. Why? You'll notice huge difference in the pre swirl and post swirl aromas. When you swirl your wine you add oxygen to it and "open up" the wine. This is when the flavors come out. The first time you sniff, close your eyes, get your nose in the glass and sniff slowly and deeply. See if you can identify one odor. Some common odors in white wines are tropical or stone fruits or citrus. Some common odors in red are leather, raspberry, or earth. Don't worry about using fancy terms. Just say what it smells like, even if you think it smells like a tootsie pop (more common than you think!).
3. Swirl. While people who have been doing this a while will swirl in their glass without making a mess, you should keep your glass on the table and swirl it there by making small circles while holding the stem. Not only will you look like a pro you'll also save any sloshing.
4. Sniff Again. Get your nose in that wine again and see what you smell not that it has opened. People find it most easy to identify fruit and spice to begin. So just pick one thing. Sniff until you can recognize one thing. Maybe it's strawberry jam. Maybe it's dirt. Maybe it's river rock. Don't worry about what it is, just get comfortable closing your eyes, sniffing and seeing what pops into your head.
5. Sip. Take a little wine in your mouth and then slurp in some air (this takes practice).
6. Swish. The goal is to get the wine to hit every part of your mouth before spitting or swallowing. Each area of your mouth picks up on different flavors and textures so you'll want to get it into every nook and cranny to taste the most of the wine.
7. Spit. We recommend spitting at a tasting in order to enjoy as much wine as you can without feeling the effects of alcohol. Ask for a spitting pitcher or glass (preferably one with a little water in the bottom) and politely, quietly, empty your mouth of the wine after swishing. You can swallow, but make sure you monitor how you're feeling!
Things To Think About While Tasting
There are a few easy things you can identify in wine even if you've never learned a thing about tasting. Here are some things to keep in mind and try to identify.
- Body. The body is the heft of the wine. The easiest comparison is to milk. Skim milk is the lightest bodied milk whereas whole milk is the fullest. Compare wines in the same way to start figuring out body.
- Tannins. Poor tannins are an oft-misunderstand and much maligned component of wine. Tannin is an organic compound present in many foods that give it a bitterness and make you feel astringency behind your lips toward the front of your mouth. Black tea is pretty much 100% tannin so think about the way your mouth feels when drinking strong black tea and you'll get an idea of what a tannic wine feels like.
- Acidity. Many wines are acidic and the way to think about them is like citrus fruits. A lemon is more acidic than an orange, for example. Think of the way your mouth feels when it has had something acidic and then compare that to wine.
Watch this page for our next tasting and come prepared to start deepening your knowledge of wine.