The basics of tasting wine are relatively simple to learn. Once fundamentals are mastered, nuances and details can be enhanced over a lifetime. Like any other skill, tasting wine requires practice, and consistency is probably most important factor.
One helpful strategy an aspiring wine taster can pursue is tasting with a friend that has superior knowledge. Questions can be addressed, and you will quickly become comfortable with this unnecessarily intimidating subject.
Another important strategy for a beginning wine taster is to taste several wines side-by-side that share at least one common variable. This could be varietal, style, AVA of origin, or any combination of three.
Tasting blind will minimize any prior opinions or stereotypes. You may be surprised to discover that less-expensive wines are more pleasing to you.
The Essentials of Tasting Wine
It is imperative that you taste in spotlessly clean glasses. The most common contaminants in unclean glasses are invisible molecules left behind by cleaning products. Even high-end restaurants can be guilty of this faux pas. It is best to thoroughly hand wash glasses with unabrasive soaps and hot water.
It is beneficial, but not necessary to use varietal-specific glasses when tasting wine. Research has shown that shape of glasses really does make a difference in sensory experience.
Overview of Tasting Process
Wine tasting employs much more than just taste buds, although they are very important. Your palate is a term for how taste buds on your tongue translate particular flavors to your brain. The palate can perceive only four basic flavors: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. Most of subtle flavor components of wine are actually picked up by one's sense of smell.
Although many of our daily perceptions are unconscious, making a concerted effort to pay attention to several things makes tasting process more educational and rewarding. Despite mystique that surrounds many wine "experts", tasting wine can be broken into simple steps. Wine knowledge usually stems from practice and confidence, not any inherent superiority.
Of course, some people have more developed senses than others. An extreme example is Robert Parker, widely regarded as most influential wine critic in world. Mr. Parker's tasting ability is derived from his natural ability to be keenly aware of his senses.
It is within grasp of vast majority of people to confidently differentiate varietals, styles, flavor profiles, and flaws when tasting wine. Tasting wine requires not only a grasp of your senses, but also ability to articulate (with proper vernacular) your thoughts about a particular wine.
Relevance of Sight in Tasting Wine
Your sense of sight will reveal a lot about a particular wine before smelling and tasting it. Immediately after pouring, check to see how clear wine is. While haziness may simply indicate a full-bodied, unfiltered red wine, in any other style it is usually cause for concern. Wines will often taste way that they look (an unrefined look may indicate a clumsy, unfocused wine).
Viewing color of edge of a wine in a glass will give you an indication of its maturity (or lack thereof). Mature, aged-worthy reds will have a deep crimson, or even brownish look. Too much brown usually means that wine is past its prime. rim of a white wine will generally be light yellow in youth, and and progress to an amber color with age.