From Our Cellars

Tasting Wine like a Pro, not like us.

Posted August 28, 2012 in Tasting

Do you know how we serve wine here at Wine is Life?  In those big red plastic cups, quickly.  Then it’s Bottom’s Up.  Sure, we swirl it around a little, and give it a sniff or two, but it’s really just the tasting that we’re after.  One of our snooty friends poured a nice glass at his home one night, and remarked that his fancy vintage had wonderful “legs.”

I sure does, as it runs down my throat into my belly!

He was not amused.

So we thought that we’d share some helpful tips on tasting wines, the snooty way.  You know, just to save some of you from the kind of embarrassment that we faced.

The first step is to look at it.  I mean, really look at it.  Look at the label.  Is it the wine that you’ve chosen?  Look at the neck, and examine the corked area. Does it look as if its been properly sealed, or is there grape goodness escaping from beneath the foil?  Then, look at the wine.  Wine is, of course, made from grapes.  Grapes are wonderful plants with seeds and stems and leaves, and of course, those life-giving fruits, but you don’t necessarily want all of those things in your glass.  Many wines are aged in wooden barrels, but you don’t want to swig a splinter on your way to joy.  If a wine has been stored properly, a certain amount of sediment is to be expected, but if you pour it with care and a gentle hand, you can leave it in the bottle and not put it in your glass.

Now, give it a little swirl.  You can tell your friends that you’re looking at the “legs” of the wine, but that’s really more about physics than the quality of the wine.  You know how some wines will sort of cling to the side of the glass as you swirl it around?  Well, milk does that, and as healthy and good for you that milk is, it holds not a candle to a good glass of wine.  What you’re actually doing is “aerating” the wine.  You’re allowing it to oxidize a bit, freeing some of the more subtle flavors.  It has been cooped up in that bottle, and some of the characteristics will want to be freed.  This is a step to skip if you’re drinking a sparkling wine.  Those characteristics are in the bubbles, and you want to save those for nose tickling.

This is when you stick your nose in the glass.  You aren’t doing an anteater and slurping or making obnoxious noises, but are searching for the sneaky little hints and clues that you released when you swirled.  It’s kind of like a game – what do you smell?  Is it oak or berry?  Do you smell a leathery, earthy smell or is it crisp and fresh? You taste with all of your senses, from looking to smelling to touch to taste.  This is why we don’t eat blue tapioca pudding.  Or just about anything blue, for that matter.  But at this point, just breathe deep and see where the wine takes you.

We’ve now arrived at the best part, putting the wine into your mouth.  This is not glug, glug, glug time, but rather the point where you savor for a moment.  As the wine rolls around on the tongue, lightly breathe in. Do you taste a really good wine, or is it a sharp alcohol taste?  You’re using this moment to liven up the taste buds.  They need exercise also.  Do you have a moment of sweetness?  Salty?  Bitter?  All of the hints and tones that you released into your glass should be slowly coming into play.  Going back to milk, a more full-bodied wine should sort of coat the tongue, while crisper wines, like many whites, should leave your mouth feeling fresher. As you swallow, revel in the flavors that remain.  You should be left with a pleasant aftertaste, and not one that purses the nose like bad sushi.

The last step is the easiest.  Hold out your glass, and in an earnest Oliver Twist moment, say, “Please, Sir.  I’d like some more.”  And you’re now ready to go back to step one.

So, in a nod to our snooty friend, anyone can appear to be a connoisseur.  And anyone can enjoy wine.  You may even choose to imbibe from a big red plastic cup.  Just don’t let your wine sprout legs and run away from you.

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