Learn as you taste
The subject of wine appreciation scares people when it shouldn’t at all. The great thing about wine tasting is there really isn’t a right or wrong answer, simply your own conclusion. There are only three things you need. Your eyes, your nose, and your tongue. Couple that with a half decent vocabulary and away you go!
Keeping notes of the wines you drink is a great way of learning what you do and don’t like. Your notes will help you when you’re choosing wine in the shop or in a restaurant as you will be able to tell your server your preferred grapes or styles.
Keep your notes simple! If a wine doesn’t smell or taste like sweaty saddles or you don’t even know what that means (who does??) then don’t use the phrase!
First things first… Don’t overfill your glass. You can always refill it! Leave plenty of room for the wine to breath and give it a good swill in the glass.
In simple terms, using your eyes can tell you how fresh the wine is. What colour is it? If its white wine is it pale and watery, or golden and shimmering? It should be clear and bright. If not you might want to open another bottle! If so then you’re probably ready to move to stage 2. With experience you can start to identify elements of age and even origin by sight alone.
Probably the most important part of tasting – scientifically speaking, most of what we think we’re tasting, we are actually smelling. Apparently!
Use words and comparisons you recognise. Here’s some useful start points: fruit, flowers, spices, oak, animal (really! Is it meaty? Syrah often smells like smoked bacon). If you think its spicy, can you be more specific? Is it pepper, clove or star anise? If its pepper is it black pepper or white?
Can you recognise the flavours you smelt? If you thought it smelt of citrus, does it taste of lime or lemon? Always try and narrow it down. Can you taste any sweetness or how about acidity? Acid makes your mouth water. Is it light or full bodied? And how long does the taste stay in your mouth – does it have good length?
And there you go – you’ve written your first tasting note. Not that difficult and you can now compare this note with other wines to work out what you do and don’t like.
Over the next few weeks I’ll give you some ideas that will help you explore different regions and grape varieties, learning as you taste.