There is more to learning how to taste wine and evaluate its quality than just focusing on the “taste.” Wine, particularly high-quality wine, should be savored for longer than simply a rapid gulp. In point of fact, the last stage in the process of enjoying wine is to taste it.
However, many people think that those who know enough about wine to swirl and smell it are arrogant wine snobs. This is because swirling and smelling wine requires a certain level of wine expertise. This is not the case; rather, they are only taking pleasure in the contents of their glass.
Follow these simple steps to learn how to taste wine.
- Look. Put the wine in a glass that is completely transparent, and then place it in front of a white surface (a sheet of paper will do). Take note of the hue. In the case of red wines, from purple and ruby red all the way through to brown; in the case of white wines, from light straw all the way through to brown.
- Swirl.* When you swirl the wine in your glass, you are combining it with the surrounding air and releasing the aroma of the wine. It enables you to see the body of the wine, which is an interesting visual. Does it have legs? Legs are the sticky droplets that develop as the wine is stirred and then slide down the edges of the glass. Does it have legs? If a beer has good legs, it probably has a substantial body and a high alcohol level.
- Smell. The vast majority of what we experience as taste is really our sense of smell working overtime. After giving the wine a good swirl, take some time to really inhale the smells by focusing on the bowl of the glass. Don’t even think of tasting the wine just yet. Just give your whole attention to what you can smell. Fruit, flowers, the mud, wood, herbs, and spices are all examples of common scents.
- Taste. Put a small bit of the wine in your mouth and swirl it around with your tongue. Focus on the tastes, and try if you can recognize any similarities between them and other flavors, such as berries, butter, vanilla, oak, tobacco, or chocolate. Pay attention to how your taste buds are feeling right now. Take a breath in through your nose and out through your mouth (it’s okay if you look ridiculous). Investigate the body as well as the texture. You’ll be able to pick up on a lot of tastes that you typically wouldn’t identify with wine. Take notice of the aftertaste after you’ve swallowed. How long does the flavor linger in your mouth?
*After pouring the wine into the glass and before swirling it, some wine experts recommend taking a whiff to assess the aroma and flavor of the wine before continuing. Once that, give it a swirl, and after the volatiles have been released, take another smell. This will provide some insight into the complexity that has been developed inside the wine. A good rule of thumb is as follows:
- If rotating the glass doesn’t result in any discernible change, the wine is straightforward and basic.
- When you spin a glass of wine, you should be able to detect additional smells and nuances. This indicates that the wine is more complex and hence likely more costly.
After you’ve had a taste of the wine, take some time to assess the wine’s flavor and harmony as a whole, but the most essential thing is that you enjoy the experience.