Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting
If you are new to the world of wine, the art of wine tasting can seem daunting, but these simple tips can help you to overcome the intimidation and have you tasting and appreciating wine like a pro.
It’s always good to know a few basics about wine before you delve in.
Firstly, get to know the main types of wines.
- Still or Table Wine is the everyday wine you more than likely come in contact with and has an alcohol content up to 14% and comes in red, white and rose varieties. Note sweeter wines tend to have an alcohol content level between 11%-12%
- Sparkling Wine is basically still wine with bubbles. Sparkling wine includes Champagne which only comes from the Champagne region in France, Prosecco from Italy and Cava which hails from Spain
- Fortified Wine includes Ports, Sherries and Ice Wines and has a higher than average alcohol content which is over 14% and is usually very sweet
Secondly, know your grapes.
- Popular White Wine Grapes/Varietals include:
- Chardonnay – dry wine, full bodied wine with tropical fruit notes
- Sauvignon Blanc – dry, crisp wine with green fruit, grass and herb notes
- Pinot Grigio – dry wine that has a soft or smooth feel with ripe fruit and nutty notes
- Moscato – sweet wine with grape and pear notes
- Popular Red Wine Grapes/Varietals include:
- Pinot Noir – dry wine that is smooth in body with a crisp finish and has notes of baked cherry, plum and damp earth
- Merlot – dry wine that is soft in body with notes of plum, cherry and blackberry
- Cabernet Sauvignon – dry wine that is smooth with a coarse finish and has notes of dark berries, current & cedar wood.
With this basic knowledge you should feel confident enough to select and taste wines or the staff at The Naughty Grape are more than willing help you chose a few to begin with.
To appreciate wine, utilize the 5 S’s – Sight, Sniff, Sip, Swirl and Swallow.
Sight – to start, pour a small amount of wine in a clean clear wine glass. Next, look at the wine from different angles. Note that as red wines age they become lighter and as white wines age they become darker. Gently twirl your glass and observe how the wine that coats the glass either falls back into place or disappears. This run off is called the legs and is an indication of alcohol content – the more legs, the higher the alcohol content.
Sniff – the action of twirling the wine actually helps the liquid to come in contact with oxygen which opens up the flavours and aromas of the wine. Place your nose over the top of the glass and take a deep sniff or breathe. You should be able to determine different notes or scents. Keep in mind wine tasting is very subjective and scents and tastes are based on our experience and interpretation.
Sip – you are now ready to taste the wine. Take sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth. By doing this action you should get a feel for the body of the wine – whether it feels soft (light) or full. It is at this point that the abstract scents you interpreted when you sniffed become more concrete e.g. a smoky scent can then be interpreted to taste like tobacco or burnt wood.
Swirl – with the sip still in your mouth gently swirl it letting in come into as much surface area as possible, coating your mouth. This action allows you to determine the texture of the wine whether it feels smooth or rough.
Swallow – lastly swallow the wine. Does the taste linger on or does it disappear? A finish can be short and crisp or linger on continuing to develop and unfold. Generally extensive finishes is indicative of a higher quality wine.
Our final tips for wine tasting are either to start with light bodied wines and make your way up to full bodied wines or you can taste a range that includes white to reds or you can stay within either white wines or red wines. You can also taste one type of varietal from various regions e.g. a Chardonnay from Chile, California, France and Italy. What you would usually find is that wine from warmer regions tend to have more sugar than wines from colder regions making the same grape taste quite different.
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