The most effective way to appreciate wine is to learn how to taste like the professionals. The more knowledge you have about wine styles, climate, varietals and winemaking techniques, the more you will be able to detect during the tasting.
Benefits of “tasting” wine like a professional:
Recognize “why” a wine tastes the way it does
Then you can determine whether you like or dislike it. This understanding will help you describe wine to a sommelier or wine director. It will also make it easier to navigate the wine section of a store.
Most importantly though, you will gain an appreciation for the “quality” of a wine.
Do they really have to do that?
Watching a Sommelier swirl, sip and swish wine may appear a bit dramatic, silly or even pretentious at times. However, the technique they are using provides a lot of insight into the origin and quality of wine in the bottle. Professionals can detect grape varietal, age, region, winemaking techniques and maturation from tasting a wine.
Wine tasting can be fun
While you might not be interested in this level of proficiency, wine tasting can be fun and informative!
How to taste wine like a professional
Tilt your glass over something white (like a piece of paper or table). You will notice clarity, but also color. The appearance can give you the first hint to what you might smell and taste, but also provides insight into the varietal and age.
Give your glass a swirl to release the bouquet, then stick your nose in the glass and give a gentle sniff. It might take a few sniffs to capture all the aromas. Look for these characteristics:
- Primary aromas (grape driven) – fruit, herbal and floral notes
- Secondary aromas (winemaking driven) – biscuit, brioche, yeast, nuts, cheese, cream, vanilla, smoke, butterscotch, etc.
- Tertiary aromas (maturation driven) – almond, chocolate, coffee, marmalade, dried or cooked fruit, petrol, spice, leather, earth, game, etc.
The nose can tell you the most about a wine, but it can also be deceiving when it doesn’t reconcile with the taste or smells like a horse stall.
Take a small sip, swish around your mouth and if you dare—suck in a little air during the process. This allows the wine to hit all areas of your mouth, warm up and release flavors. A few things to notice and assess:
Wine professionals objectively conclude on the wine quality from good to great. Personally, you might just care if you like it enough to purchase it or drink it again. The real value in this process is to understand “why” you like or dislike the wine.
Practice makes perfect
Tasting wine is fun, but to taste and evaluate wine like a professional takes time, practice and education. Building a solid knowledge base about wine styles, varietals, winemaking techniques and other impacts on quality will help you understand more about a wine’s journey. This makes wine tasting even more challenging, yet so much more rewarding.
Don’t feel intimidated, start evaluating wine every chance you get!
Stephanie Roberts, WSET® Certified, is passionate about educating people about wine and all its complexities. She believes that through education comes enlightenment and approachability—elevating the wine and food experience. Stephanie is the founder of Corks & Boards, offering unique and tailored wine experiences, and topic driven tastings/education. Furthermore, she has developed a wine education series that she will launch February 2020. She currently offers wine experiences and education to the Lake Norman community at Brick Row and the Charlotte community at Camp North End.
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