So you've decided to get some friends together and go wine tasting. Other than a great day out with friends, what are you hoping to get from tasting?
After more than a thousand wine tours, and spending months on the other side of the bar pouring wine, I've learned that tasters appreciate knowing the "do's and don'ts" of wine tasting.
Here are the top five tips I recommend to have a better wine tasting experience:
1) Have Fun – First and foremost, have fun. Wine tasting does not have to be snooty. It's about trying anything and everything. It's about surprising yourself by finding wines you never thought you'd like. And it's about pairing wines YOU like with food YOU eat-no rules, just suggestions. If you like White Zinfandel (okay-hopefully not) with prime rib, that's up to you.
2) Swirl and Sniff – When you're a taste of wine, swirl it around in your glass vigorously. You're doing this to help aerate the wine and release the aroma or "nose" of the wine so you can get an idea of what the wine will taste like. Now, hold the glass up to your nose and take a good sniff. Do not just wave it around under your nose-get your nose down into the glass. You do not have the hum and hold your ear like Myles does in "Sideways," but do get your nose down into the glass. Can you identify what you smelling? It takes a little practice because wine can smell like hundred of things from lavender to leather; vegetable to berry; vanilla to cigar. But the main thing is, do you like the way it smells?
3) Take Two Sips – In order to get an idea of whether you like the wine or not, you need to take at least two sips of the wine. Wine should not be judged on the first sip. You may still have something influencing your taste buds like the coffee you had for breakfast, the gum you were chewing, or the previous wine you just tasted. So take at least two sips before deciding if you like the wine or not.
4) Swish and Breathe- One way to really evaluate the wine during your two sips and really work it around in your mouth like mouth wash, then swallow it .. Your tongue has various taste sensors all over it, so if you just gulp the wine down, it only hits the back of your tongue and does not give you an idea of what the wine tastes like. Now take a second sip and swallow as usual, then take a breath in through your mouth and slowly breathe out through your nose. This technique takes the flavor of the wine straight to the back of your pallet and up into your olfactory sensors. Right then you'll know if you like this wine or not, and you can choose to finish the taste or dump the remaining wine in the dump bucket and be ready for the next taste.
5) Do not Rinse – It's best not to rinse your glass with water between tastes. The alkaline in water changes the PH in the wine and alters the taste. And you may think you got all the water out the glass before the next pour, but there is always some left in the glass without you can dry it completely. Now if you're an avid rinser, have at it! But know that if you liked a wine you tasted after rinsing your glass with water, and bought a bottle to take home with you, it's going to taste different when you open it at home than it did at the tasting room. Without, of course, you rinse your glass with water at home before pouring wine into it.
These are the basic tips for having a successful day of wine tasting, but, remember, you'll see people doing all kinds of techniques when wine tasting. It's up to you to decide what techniques work best for you. Keep it simple, have fun, and enjoy the wine.