Since it takes years of wine tasting practice to become a sommelier here’s some tips that’ll help you graduate from the beginner stage for now.
For starters, you’ll need to know that wine tasting has a lot to do with concentration. If you’re in an area that gives you a sensory overload, it’ll become much harder for you to distinguish what flavours you’re tasting. For example, if you’re wine tasting in a crowded room with strong cooking and people wearing perfume you’re much more likely to be distracted by the other smells. And as a hosting tip, if you’re planning on serving white wine outside, you may want to invest in a built-in patio outdoor fridge. That way, you’ll never have to leave the unfinished bottle in the heat, which can also alter its flavour.
But that’s not the only thing that can alter the way you perceive a wine. If the wine is served in the wrong kind of glass or temperature you can get wildly different tastes. Which will make it hard for you to remember how specific wines taste because they’ll be different every time.
Viewing the wine
There are a few different ways you can examine the wine before you taste it. If you hold your glass of wine up to a light and look at it horizontally you’ll be able to understand how clear it is. Additionally, if you tilt your glass to the side the wine will become thinner and you’ll get a clue as to how old the wine is and what its weight is.
The next step is to give the glass a swirl. This doesn’t mean free swirling in the air, this means keeping the glass firmly on a flat surface while you lightly spin the wine in the glass. Don’t put your nose in it yet. For now, you’ll want to hover over the glass to get a few short sniffs before you back away and think about what aromas you sensed. This is usually the first opportunity you’ll get to determine if the wine is spoiled. Spoiled wines have an off-aroma like a musty basement.
Tasting the wine
The taste of a wine has a lot to do with how it was made, what type it is and where it comes from. For example, white wines with floral aromas are likely to be a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer. If the white wine tastes strongly grassy it’ll be a Sauvignon Blanc and if you get herbal scents it’s going to be Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnays, on the other hand, have a secondary scent (yes, wines have primary and secondary aromas) of caramel or buttered popcorn.
In short, a balanced wine should cover sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes equally. When you start tasting wine try to concentrate on the most prominent smells and tastes before you move on to the secondary ones. If you’re planning on hosting a wine tasting party at your place, try to invest in a built-in counter wine refrigerator. It’ll not only help you preserve your wine a bit better, but it’s also a great conversation starter.