Tips for Tasting Wine Like a Pro
Punch Down Thursday Wine Blog 03/21/17
How to Taste Wine Like a Pro
Wine can be simple on the surface so it's easy to forget the complex side of it when you're drinking it and not thinking too deeply about it. If you've ever taken in depth notes on a wine, you know that it can completely change the way the wine tastes. A wine can go from just a Riesling to a green tinted, dry, acidic wine with hints of citrus and floral notes. There is a difference between just drinking wine and analyzing what's in the glass.
The main steps to help guide you in analyzing wine go as followed:
Sight: Color and clarity
Smell: Aromas of the wine. Fruit, spices, floral, woody, and others
Touch: Mouthfeel, astringent, tannins, body, alcohol, acidity
When evaluating wine, the first step is to look at what is in the glass. What color is the wine in the glass, not just red versus white. Is it magenta, brick red, purple, black, burgundy? A white wine could be anywhere from straw colored, gold, or even green tinted. The color of the wine can tell you a lot about what's in the glass, including varietal ques, before you even taste it.
The next step is to of course smell! What we know about smell is that it is much more powerful than taste, we really do taste with our noses. Flavor is roughly influenced 75% by smell. We know that there are thousands of recognizable aromas so it's important to always keep your nose in shape. Training your nose is as easy as going to the grocery store or a flower shop and picking up fruits and flowers you haven't smelled before to practice on picking up aromas in wine. The more you smell, the better of a taster you become!
After smell comes our favorite part, taste! This is the part we are the most familiar with, so try and identify a few smells you know in the wine and go from there. It helps to either look online or read a book on the varietal you are tasting to figure out what the key tastes are for that specific grape. Each grape variety has its own key smells and tastes so knowing those will help in blind tastings and in your overall understanding of wine. Try starting with fruit tastes and then move on from there to floral, earthy, and woody notes.
The last part of wine analyzing is touch. Start off with acidity. Acidity in a wine refers to how fresh or sour a wine tastes. The acid found in wine is primarily malic, tartaric and citric acid. The more acidic the wine, the more your mouth will water. Let how much your mouth waters be the judge of the acidity spectrum; low, medium, and high. Next is tannins. Tannins are compounds in the skins of grapes. Tannins contribute to the body, flavor, and color of red wines. You can test for tannins by paying attention to how much your lips stick to the fronts of your teeth. You can also compare tannins to different steeps of black tea, if you're a tea drinker. Tannins can be anywhere from soft and velvety to rough and sticky. The more wine you taste, the more you'll come to realize which grape varietals tend to have more tannins and which don't have much. Next, you can taste for body. The body of a wine is made up by the tannins and the alcohol in the wine, as well as grape varietal characteristics. To test for body, you can compare how the wine feels in your mouth to different types of milk; skim, 1%, 2%, and whole milk. The last part of touch is alcohol. Alcohol adds to the body in a wine, the more alcohol, the heavier the wine will feel in your mouth. The best way to test for alcohol is to pay attention to how much it burns down the back of your throat and into your chest. As you taste and test more wines, you will get used to what a 13% alcohol wine will feel like versus a 14% or 15% alcohol wine.
To wrap up your tasting notes, think about what you have smelled, tasted, and felt throughout the process; does one aspect of the wine stand out more than any other or are they all around the same? For example, the smell wasn't overpowered by the alcohol level or there wasn't much flavor and acidity but there was so much tannin it was overpowering. This leads to how balanced the wine is. If you found out the alcohol level was really high at the end of your tasting but you couldn't tell while analyzing the wine, that means it's well balanced.
Analyzing wine can be a fun way to expand your pallet and start you off on your adventure of learning about wine. There is always something to be learned!
In the first wine class in series we went through all of these steps in depth. Missed the first wine class? Don't worry, the next one is a Wine Faults class on April 13th. Purchase your tickets online before tickets run out!
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