Wine experts often look a little perhaps stuck up when tasting a wine. They swirl, sniff and make funny sounds. Each step, however, has an actual point, and if you learn the basics, it’ll be that much easier to start enjoying wine on a whole new level while learning to understand what it is you actually love.
Here are the simple steps to tasting wine like a pro:
Look at it
With a little bit of knowledge, you can learn a lot of about a wine by a simple sight evaluation. For instance, wine does not hide age well. In reds, the wine will start to fade in color, switching to brown and orange hues. In whites, the color will actually deepen to a bronze/gold look over time. Then, of course, each variety of wine has its own look. A Cabernet Sauvingon is way darker than a Pinot Noir, for example. The easiest way to get a true look at the wine is by pouring an ounce or so in the glass, tilting it and looking at it over a white piece of paper. Look for deepness of color, debris and any other signals of note. Start to remember the characteristics of each wine type and over time, a simple look in your glass will begin to tell you a lot about the wine. By the way, the so-called legs in a wine (the lines of wine that form on the glass) tell you nothing about the quality of a wine.
Our nose can pick up endless aromas and contribute, in large part, to how we actually taste wine. A seasoned wine drinker can often pick the wine type by just a sniff. The key is to make the smell count. Swirl your glass, using your wrist to get the wine whipping around the rim for 10 seconds or so. Then stick your nose deep in the glass while it’s on a tilt and inhale. Don’t be embarrassed if you snort wine. It happens to the best of us. When your nose is at the bottom of the glass’ opening, the aromas will be indicative of the fruit. If you move your nose to the top of the glass while it’s still tilted, you can pick up the aromas added by a winemaker. Think along the lines of smoke, chocolate and leather from oaking. Everyone will smell something a little different, so look for general clues. Does it smell boozey, fruity, earthy, floral, nutty, spicy? These are traits that are easier to relate to than looking for obscure stone fruits. If you want to impress friends with details of fruit aromas, train your nose by smelling everything in the produce isle when you go grocery shopping.
Now the fun part: tasting. It’s a simple task, really. Open your mouth, pour a little wine in, let it sit for a few seconds and think about it. Do you start to salivate (a sign of acidic background)? Does the wine feel like rough sandpaper over your tongue, zapping the moisture right out of your mouth (big tannins)? Is it fruit forward (as in, do you taste cherries and berries and the like)? Is it sweet? Is it dry? Sweet wines will coat your tongue with a sugary viscosity. Dry wines can showcase fruit flavors without that. How long does the flavor stay in your mouth? How big is the body in the wine (as in how heavy or light does it feel in your mouth)? These are the main questions you should answer when evaluating a wine. Professionals never say whether they like it or not, rather is it properly made. You have the luxury of just saying yummy if you’d like.
The tasting room, at 4640 Pecos Unit I in Denver, is open 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. We're happy to help with any of these basics when you stop in.
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