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How to Get the Most Out of a Wine Tasting
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Whether you're nestled in the relative comfort of your own home or out and about in the splendor that is wine country, attending a wine tasting is a fantastic way to acclimate yourself to all things fermented and grapey.

For the uninitiated, though, being faced with a slew of fancy-looking bottles can be intimidating to the point of completely ruining the entire experience. With a little preparation (and a whole lot less pretention) you can equip yourself with the skill and mindset to have a truly enjoyable – as well as educational – experience.

 

Look

They say you eat with your eyes first, and the same idea goes for drinking a glass of wine. There are all kinds of things a wine’s appearance can tell you, some of them a lot more useful to the average drinker than others, but the bottom line is that gulping down your beverage without taking the time to appreciate the color, shine, and overall clarity of the liquid is a waste of an opportunity.

  • Color – What color is your wine? Use descriptors that everyone can understand. While “brick red” might be an easy go-to description, saying a wine is the color of a perfectly ripe strawberry or the skin of a black plum evokes a much more universal mental image. Red wines tinged with orange at the edge may be an older vintage or come for a warm, Mediterranean-like climate while whites tend to get more honeyed in color as they age.
  • Shine – The amount of wine a wine reflects is generally an indicator of how much alcohol is present.
  • Clarity – Are there bubbles present? How about sediment? Does your wine look like it would coat your mouth in thick, chewy tannins or is it thin and light, holding the promise of a palate-cleansing treat?

You may be asking why any of this is important, and the answer is simple – the more you know about what you’re about to put in your mouth, the more connected you’re going to be once you’re actually drinking it. Take only a few seconds to visually assess your glass, and you’ll be armed with a powerful first impression moving forward.

Smell

Stick your nose in your glass and take a deep, appreciative whiff. What do you smell? Most people will answer something supremely cheeky like “wine” (very funny, guys) but try to think a little deeper, and follow a simple format to cover all your olfactory bases. Do you smell fruit? What kind of fruit? Is that fruit underripe, just picked, cooked, baked, or tart?

The more you narrow down what you’re sensing the more you’ll start to understand what that particular thing smells like in wine – and you’ll understand more about what went into that wine as well. Whenever I smell the slightly bitter slightly sweet burst of citrusy orange rind in a rich, red wine, I immediately think of Washington Cabernet and a whole bunch of associated imagery crowds into my brain.

My guess may not always be right, but I’m still setting a stage, and that bit of sensory preparation makes the next step, my favorite, so much more delicious.

Sip

I know it feels like you’ve waited eons to actually get to put your poor, neglected wine in your mouth, but in reality there’s only been about a minute or so between the wine hitting your glass and you finally lifting your goblet to your uber-excited lips. Now that the moment has arrived, enjoy it! Slurp it up, swirl it around your mouth so each taste bud gets equal exposure, and see if everything you’ve surmised so far holds true. Can you taste the fruit you smelled? Does the wine’s weight and mouthful hold up to how it looked in the glass? Whether it does or doesn’t, now’s your chance to revel in both the confirmations and the new discoveries. Like reading a book with a twist at the end, sometimes being shocked by what you find in a wine that seemed sp clear cut at the outset is the best part of the whole bottle.

Savor

Savoring is everything that comes after. This is where you figuratively roll around in the magic you were just lucky enough to experience. Hopefully the wine was a good enough quality that the balanced flavor profile is still dancing around your mouth. You can still just barely taste that juicy blackberry jam on your tongue, covered in a glaze of semi-sweet cocoa powder and a bit of that Rutherford dust the meaty Cab you were drinking is known for. Now is the time all your conjecture combines to create not just closure for this particular experience with this particular wine, but also a sort of mental blueprint that will help you remember this wine when you taste it again or when you try to relate it to someone else in the future. But above all, now’s the time when you close your eyes, lick your lips, and think about how lucky you are to be tasting it at all.

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Wine Geo

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