While people have been enjoying the experience of tasting wine since ancient times, this practice became more formalized during the 14th century. Professional wine tasters use a very strict wine tasting vocabulary in their description of wines. Recreational wine tasting events are much more informal and involve attention to a wine”s:
- finish (aftertaste)
- fragrance in the glass
- mouthfeel (sensation in the mouth).
How to Taste Wine
Whether professional or recreational, wine tasting is a multi-sensory experience. Although not formally considered part of wine tasting, even hearing is involved in the process, beginning with the distinctive sounds of the bottle being open and the wine being poured into its glass. The other senses are involved in a more direct way. Here are some tips for involving your senses to the fullest when tasting wine:
- Sight: Using a clear glass, and holding it up to a white background will help you to enjoy a wine”s true color. Tilt the wine in the glass slightly and take a good look. Depending on the type of wine in your glass, you may see deep reddish brown, bright ruby red or warm gold. Color can give you a clue about a wine”s age. White wines usually gain color as they age while older red wines lose color.
- Smell: If you use a glass with a rim that bends inwards, it will help you to enjoy the complex scent of a wine. Swirling the wine around in the glass coats its sides and allows you to experience the full fragrance. Scents actually vary from the top to the bottom of the glass. Lighter floral and fruity scents rise to the top while deeper, richer aromas can be found toward the bottom.
- Taste: To fully experience the taste of a wine, swirl a little bit of it in your mouth to cover all your taste buds. Take a moment to enjoy the flavor before either swallowing or spitting out the wine. In addition to the initial taste, you will find there is also an aftertaste to the wine, usually referred to as the finish.
- Touch: When the wine is in your mouth, it provides a tactile experience, often referred to as “mouthfeel,” in addition to the taste. Some wines feel refreshing on the tongue while others might feel velvety, flat or even prickly. The prickliness comes from tannins which are used in red wine to keep it fresh. The younger the red wine, the higher the tannin content and more prickly the feel.
Wine Tasting Venues
If you are interested in wine tasting, there are many available venues for you to try. Wine tasting events are often offered at:
- wine bars
- wine schools.
You might even decide to host a wine tasting party. For a great event that your friends will remember, be sure to include:
- appetizers to enjoy before the tasting
- bread to cleanse the palate between wines
- clear wine glasses
- dump buckets to deposit unused wine before next pouring
- four to six types of wine
- pitchers of water for rinsing glasses and palates between wines.
You may also want to include tasting cards, so guests can record their wine tasting experiences.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
Wine tasting has its own unique set of manners and behaviors. Here are a few wine tasting etiquette basics to be aware of:
- Allow other tasters the chance to form their own opinions. Wait until everyone has had a chance to taste a wine before making any comments.
- Don”t interfere with other taster”s sense of smell. This means no smoking or use of highly scented products such as after-shave, perfume or scented lotions.
- Drawing air into the mouth enhances tasting ability. The gurgling sound this can make is considered perfectly alright at a wine tasting.
- Spitting is permitted at wine tasting events. Usually a spittoon, plastic cup or ice bucket is provided for this purpose. In wineries, professional tasters even spit directly into drains or onto a gravel floor.