‘All about wine’ is a new series which will cover everything you need to know about wine; from ‘how to taste it’ through to ‘how to pair it with food’ and so much more. First off, here’s a guide how to taste wine like a pro!
When I first started drinking wine I used to be very intimidated at the idea of going to a wine tasting at a winery. I had no idea of what to do (apart, you know, from the obvious ‘drinking‘ part) and I suppose that in my mind I viewed the whole wine tasting thing as a bit of a snobbish exercise.
However, after a few wine tastings I quickly realized that tasting wine properly isn’t actually as complicated as some people make it out to be. In fact, the whole process can be broken down into 5 very easy steps: see, swirl, smell, sip and savor – all of which can take as little as a couple of minutes to complete!
When I visited the Te Motu winery in New Zealand last month I asked their operations manager Mark Gitmans to expand on each of the steps a little more. Mark has a great no-nonsense attitude to wine tasting which I really love. Although he agrees that taking the time to taste wine can greatly enhance your overall enjoyment of wine he also believes that wine tasting should first and foremost be fun!
Without further ado, here are a few tips to taste wine like a pro (or as we joked – ‘at least pretend to’ ;):
Step 1: See
First, take a close look at the wine. If you want to look very serious then hold your glass up to the light and tilt it slightly. Here are a few things to look for:
♥ Is the wine light or dark in color? White wines usually range from a very pale (almost transparent) yellow to a deep golden color whereas red wines range from a light brick color to a deep/almost black red.
♥ Is it the wine clear or a little cloudy? Good wines are usually nice and clear.
♥ How’s the consistency? Does the wine ‘cling’ to the glass when you tilt it back? – this is what people refer to when they say that a wine has ‘legs’ and it usually means that the wine either contains a high level of sugar or alcohol.
Step 2: Swirl
Once you’ve taken a good look at the wine, give your glass a little swirl. I find it easier to put down my glass on a flat surface first as spilling wine all over yourself does little to looking like a wine expert.
Swirling the glass will help open up the wine and release its gorgeous aromas.
Step 3: Smell
This is quite an important step so don’t be scared to really put your nose in there :)
Make like a yogi and take a big breath through your nose. What’s the first thing you smell? Fruit? Spice? Wood (oak)? Remember, there are no wrong answers here so don’t be afraid to be vocal about your first impressions! As a guide, here are some of the most common aromas found in wine:
♥ White wine: grass, citrus, peach, green apple, pear, apricot, tropical fruits, vanilla, spices, honey, nuts, oak
♥ Red wine: plum, cherry, blackcurrant, berries, tobacco, vanilla, pepper, spices, oak
♥ Rose: strawberry, honey
Step 4: Sip
Finally, you get to taste the damn thing! When sipping, take in a small mouthful of wine and slowly swish it around your mouth to get your taste buds going. The pros usually loudly slurp the wine through their teeth and tongue to let in air at the same time but that’s in no way compulsory. Instead, focus on how the wine feels in your mouth.
♥ Is it sweet or a little bit acidic?
♥ Does your mouth feel a bit dry or does the wine feel soft and smooth?
♥ Also, does the taste match the smell? For example you may have detected plum or cherry when you first smelled the wine but you might now taste hints of chocolate and vanilla!
Step 5: Savor
Once you’ve let the wine roll over your tongue a couple of times, you can then either swallow it or spit it out into a bucket if you don’t like it. Good wines will usually leave a lovely after-taste in your mouth and continue to reveal themselves long after you’ve swallowed them. Enjoy!
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. To make it even easier for you, I’ve summarized all the steps in a snappy info-graphic below!
As with most things, practice makes perfect so don’t worry if you don’t seem to taste much on your first wine tasting adventures. Have a bit of fun, keep developing your taste buds and before you know, your friends will be calling you an ‘expert’ (or a wine snob ;).
Many thanks to Mark at Te Motu for sharing his pro tips with us. Make sure to pay the winery a visit if you ever go to Waiheke Island! You can read all about my experience and see more pictures Te Motu’s gorgeous setting over here.