Wine Tasting 101
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
You're out on a date at a nice restaurant. You order a bottle of wine and the server presents it to you, uncorks it and pours you a sample. Then both she and your date look at you expectantly. So you swirl the glass a few times because you've seen people do that in movies and take a sip, having no idea what exactly it is you're supposed to be doing.
But wouldn't it be nice if you did know? You don't have to be a master sommelier to properly do a wine tasting, and knowing the simple steps will not only enhance your experience, but also might impress that date of yours...
Just like the five W's and one H of writing (who, what, when, where, why and how), the five steps of wine tasting are easy to remember because they all start with the same letter: S
The first thing you what to do when wine tasting is take a moment to visually inspect the wine in your glass. What color is it? If it's a red wine, is it ruby red or a deep, inky red? If it's a white, is it more yellow or clear? If you can, hold your glass up to the light to really get a good look. You'll also want to observe its clarity: is it bright or a bit cloudy looking?
Next you'll want to swirl your glass. To do this properly, you should have your glass on the table and swirl it by its base. This is an important step because aside from making you look cool, it introduces oxygen to the wine, which allows its flavors to open up. If you skip this step, it might be harder to pick up on some of the more nuanced aromas in the next step.
Smelling the wine helps prepare your pallet to taste it, just like when you smell a delicious meal cooking and your mouth starts watering. The best way to smell wine is to close your eyes and really stick your nose the glass, taking a long, deep inhale. What do you smell? Dark berries? Leather? Spices? Tropical fruits? Vanilla? There really are no wrong answers.
Now it's the part you've been waiting for: tasting the wine! You'll want to take a small sip and slurp as you do so. No, I'm not kidding! Wine tasting is one of the rare occasions where slurping is not only acceptable, but encouraged. The idea is similar to swirling the glass: slurping adds air to the wine, which allows its flavors and aromas to expand and enhance.
Sit back, relax and enjoy your glass (or bottle!) of wine. Notice the flavors that are coming through and how they might be similar or different than the smells you noted earlier. The taste of the wine can also change the longer you have a bottle sitting out. Just don't savor it for too long: an opened bottle of wine, even re-corked, is only good for up to three days.