Perhaps one of the most confusing and anxiety-provoking aspects of the whole wine world is the oft dreaded tasting. You know what I’m talking about. You go to a wine tasting, they pour you a shot glass full of wine, and then you carefully take a sip and look around to see how everyone else is reacting. Are you supposed to swirl the wine in your mouth? Should you spit it out into the tureen? Should you pour out the excess? Should you be comparing the wine to wet moss and tobacco? How did a pleasurable drink ever get so convoluted?
Wine is meant to be a drink for everyone, and it has unfortunately become an elitist drink here in America. Wine drinkers are beer drinkers as cat owners are to dog owners, or perhaps more poignantly as classical musicians are to classic rock musicians. People erroneously think that in order to be a wine enthusiast you have to look down your nose at everyone else. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Tasting wine is essentially meant to be an enjoyable affair. At its core, tasting is just that. Do you like the way the wine smells? Do you like the way the wine tastes? These are the absolute most important questions you have to answer. Whether or not you can identify the twenty stone fruits that the back labels claims are present in the wine is completely beside the point.
Let’s start at the beginning. First off, you should hold the wine up in the air and get a good look at it. What is its color? Is it cloudy? If it is a white wine, where on the spectrum does it fall? Is it yellow or golden, or is it almost clear? Color can be an important factor when it comes to red wines in particular. The older a red wine is the more orange or brown hues it will have at the edges. Younger reds will have a burgundy or even purplish hue at their edge.
Next comes the smell, or “nose.” When you see people trying wine, oftentimes they swirl the wine before they sniff it. This may look snobby, but there’s actually a pretty good reason for the swirl. Swirling the wine allows the aromas to open up, bringing them out of the wine and into the air within the glass. Swirling is simply a way to intensify the smell or “nose” of the wine.
Finally, you can sip the wine. No swirling is necessary, but official tasters do allow the wine to roll over the entirety of their mouth. The theory is that you have to let the wine touch all of your taste buds in order to make a proper assessment of its character. For regular old wine drinkers, this isn’t really necessary. Drink the wine the way you would normally drink the wine and you’ll know whether you like its taste or not.
Hopefully, this helps break down some of the concerns you might be having about wine tasting. Remember, the key to tasting wine is to simply be honest about what you like and don’t like. Don’t base your taste on how much the wine costs or how many points it received in Wine Snob Monthly. The more wines you drink, the more you will start to develop a palate, and the more you will be able to narrow down what wine characteristics you like the best.