They look sophisticated don’t they? Those wine snobs with their pinkies in the air and their monotonous blather about ‘spicy’ tastes and ‘earthy’ aromas-and they know how to say Pinot Noir. They’re so pretentious. Now we can be just like them! (Oh, and-you won’t have to do it with your pinky up in the air-unless you want to.)
The trick to wine tasting is that there is no trick! Tasting wine starts with three basic senses: look, smell and taste.
Phase One of Wine Tasting: Look
First, you must notice the ‘look‘ of the wine. The look of a red, white or blush wine when poured into a glass comes in a varying amount of hues. Red wines can be ruddy, purplish, maroon, etc., while white wines, although clear in appearance, can be goldish, pale yellow, straw-like or brown.
Still looking at the wine, notice its opacity-meaning: is the wine clear/transparent or cloudy/opaque? Tilting your glass and swirling the wine gently, notice the color and clarity and check for bits of sediment or cork that may be floating around in the wine. (Don’t freak out if there is-it won’t kill you.)
Phase Two of Wine Tasting: Smell
Next, smell the wine! Swirl the glass under your nose and take a whiff. What do you smell? This is your first impression of the smell but to get an even better idea, stick your nose down into the glass-keep it dry-and inhale deeply. Now what do you smell? Is it a fruity smell? Is there a hint of citrus or vanilla?
Phase Three of Wine Tasting: Taste!
Now that you have smelled the ‘bouquet‘ it’s time for the last step and the one we’ve all been waiting for: tasting!
Take a small sip of the wine and roll it around on your tongue. Next you ‘swirl’ the wine by inhaling a small breath between your lips and allowing the air and wine to mingle on your tongue. (You know how to do this-it’s called the ‘reverse blow’, the thing you do when you get a mouthful of pizza and the cheese is too hot…) What do you taste? Is your red wine woody or is there a hint of berry? Is it white citrusy or do you taste something more floral?
Now comes a more daunting question- do you spit the wine or swallow it? This depends. If you’re at a restaurant-swallow it. If you’re at a wine tasting and the bucket is offered-spit. That is, unless what you’re tasting is the most premium of wines-then gulp it down. Just kidding on that one but in a case like that-you do swallow it.
When offered the bucket, rule number one is: try not to get the wine on yourself and everyone around you. Wine, in case you haven’t seen all those laundry and carpet cleaner commercials, stains big time. On top of that, you’ll look like an amateur-which you are but no one needs to know, right?
The proper technique of wine spitting is to pucker your lips like you’re whistlin’ Dixie and tighten up your cheeks so they don’t ‘bullfrog’ out. (This keeps you from coating everyone in a fine spray). While you’re doing that, keep your tongue to the roof of your mouth and pool the wine there -sort of behind the teeth- before expelling with force through the lips. The stream should be tight and straight. Easy right? It’s probably a good idea to practice (with water) before you get to wherever it is you’ll be tasting wines. Either that or bring gift certificates to a dry cleaners to hand out to the poor saps who get too close.
And there you have it-you are now a snob. Or you’re at least getting there. Now let’s all head to Wal-Mart and get our wine in a box. If you’re lucky enough to go to Vinitaly, even better!