Ask any wine enthusiast and I am sure that they will agree with me when I say that wine tasting is a sensory seduction.
While professional wine tasters such as sommeliers undertake rigorous examinations to learn how to analyze and best describe the flavors, aromas and general characteristics of wines, for the average wine enthusiast it is much more of a recreational event, allowing oneself to explore the wine world using a less analytical approach but still using similar terminology.
I believe that a good wine tasting experience should leave you with a sense of achievement. You should walk away with more knowledge about wine, more appreciation and certainly have bought more wine from the vineyards you were in!
Wine tasting is one activity that never tires me and if this was an Olympic sport, I have no doubt that I would win a gold medal. The longer I am at a wine tasting, the more developed my sensory skills become. (This might be due to the fact that I do not spit my wine out in a spittoon!)
Your first wine tasting experience should be compared to that of a child tasting their first piece of chocolate. Your general curiosity should leave you wondering, your first taste should leave you so inquisitive, wanting you to immediately know more about where this taste sensation is coming from, how it was created and where you can find a constant supply. I have been lucky enough to have visited many wine farms and whilst the majority do follow a similar routine when it comes to tastings – a school-like approach, filled to the brim with information and allowing you to be shown how to taste like the connesiours. I have however had the misfortune of visiting a few wine farms that have not had proper time management. Allowing for a very brief explanation about the wine that you are sampling and before you have had time to savor the aroma and taste it, the next wine is being introduced. In my opinion a good wine tasting should take time, you should experience sitting in a room full of strangers or even good friends, swirling your glasses and sniffing away at aromas that intrigue your imagination, leaving you feeling like a little child.
A wine tasting should cover the “five S” steps: see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor.
This is the basic foundation of wine tasting and the quality assessment of a wine should be achieved through the above method. There are however further comparisons with recognized standards that allow wines to be categorized according to price range, regions, vintages, styles or certain wine making techniques.
Please find a brief explanation of 5 steps of wine tasting.
SEE: This stage is all about color. By looking at your wine you should be able to distinguish whether you will be sampling a heavy or light wine by distinctive variations in color. Red wines that are full-bodied and heavier may appear to have a deeper red color. White wine shades will vary from anything from appearing to have a golden or caramel color to slight off white color. It is recommended that during this stage, you hold your wine glass against a white background and slightly tilt your glass as it allows the color to run.
SWIRL: By swirling your wine gently it is exposed to oxygen. This is done with most wines, with the exception of sparkling wines as it increases the speed at which bubbles are released. You might notice streaks running down the side of your glass after swirling your wine. These are referred to as legs or tears and are caused due to the surface tension of the wine against the glass and alcohol content.
SNIFF: The aromatic experience of a wine is known as a wine bouquet. As you gently swirl your wine, smell the aromas coming from your glass and write them down. The first thoughts that come into your mind, as bizarre as you might find them will leave you pleasantly surprised when you overview them later. The aromas that you picked up may appear on what is known as an aroma wheel. This is a guide that provides a breakdown of aromas that are commonly picked up on during tastings. These may range from spicy smells such as black pepper and cloves or burnt smells such as burnt toast or coffee.
SIP: Taking a small sip of wine allows for flavors to be perceived. Once inside your mouth, the exposure of heat allows for your taste buds to be saturated and you may experience the texture, taste and weight of the wine. By slightly opening ones lips and allowing air in, significantly adds to this experience.
A word from the wise: When I had my first wine tasting, I was extremely concerned when I saw a group of people spitting out their wines they had just tasted. I found it downright rude and offensive to the vineyard we were visiting. It wasn’t until my good friend explained that it was an uncommon practice for wine tasters to spit their wines out in to what is known as a spittoon and then proceeding to clear their palate and glass with fresh water.
SAVOR: The initial sip of wine whether it may tasting a new wine or a good old favorite, always leaves me in a state of reflection. Savor these moments especially after your tasting and note the feelings that you have from tasting the different variety of wines.
Wine tasting can be more complex and if you have enjoyed your basic wine tasting, why not ask the person who hosted the tasting for more information on advanced wine tasting classes. In this day and age, anybody can do a wine course, be it for professional or personal satisfaction. Ask about your local community if there are any wine clubs and if not, why not start one up yourself!
Once you get involved, start paring cheese and other delectable dishes with your wines and enjoy every minute of it.
Life is filled with so many learning experiences. If you get presented with the chance to do so, take on the challenge. A simple wine tasting will astonish you and remind you how unique your sensory system really is. Whether you are fortunate to live in a country with a vast array of vineyards and cellars or if you find yourself on a foreign holiday where you can take advantage of visiting a vineyard, it would not be time wasted.