Wine Tasting 101
Oct 07, 2012 07:35PM
The Caves at Bravante
Dave Mosher- Bravante Vineyards
The first thing to know about wine tasting, is that it is supposed to be fun! Not fun, so that at the end you are snockered, but fun in that you learn something about wine, and return home excited about your day in the wine country. What I will tell you about here, are the basic steps in tasting and appreciating wine. You have heard a lot of this before, but it never hurts to review, and refine your wine tasting skills. The first rule of wine tasting is have a nice big breakfast. Then take along with you, lots of water, and snack food. Keep the food simple, but filling. You can never drink too much water!
Another rule that tasting room workers abide by is, no perfume or cologne. Your nose is your best friend when tasting wine, so it has to be bright and alert. Also ladies, try to not wear lipstick on your wine tasting trip. There are lots of flavor there that could confuse your tasting skills. Cherry chapstick, and cabernet do not make a good partnership. Ok, now the basic rules.
There are five “S’s” when tasting wine: 1. Sight, 2. Swirl, 3. Smell, 4. Sip, and 5. Savor !! 1. Sight. We want the wine to be brightly colored and clean of any fogginess. If you find a bottle of wine in your Granddad’s basement, that is 40 years old, it may have a bit of a rusty color to it, but newer wines, being served at a winery, should be bright in color. Tip the glass, making the wine as thin as possible, near the lip of the glass. Look through the wine. A white wine should be soft yellow to golden, and crystal clear to your eye. A red wine should be pomegranate red, not as easy to see if it is clear, but a bright color should be visible. If you notice a bit of a rusty color around the edge, that could indicate a flaw. Rustiness is not a deal breaker, but should be considered. Kind of like a touch of gray on Dad’s sideburns, best not to call Dad and old man! Most wine, like most men, do get better with age.
2. and 3. Smell—swirl—smell. Ok, the wine looks good. Before you swirl, get your nose deep in the glass. Take a deep long sniff. Now, give the wine a brisk swirl. This does take a little practice, not to get it all over your shirt! Try it at home with some water, then show off to your friends. The technical term for what you are doing when you swirl is call “volatizing the esters”. The wine has been locked into the bottle for a few years. It is kind of dormant. Swirling the wine brings it back to life!! Now give it a second sniff. The aroma should now explode into your nose. What you don’t want to find now is wet dog, musty basement, or old sneakers. Those aromas are deal breakers. You should find hints of fruit, maybe some oak, or a touch of smoke. White wines will show you maybe cut apple or pear. Reds maybe pepper or cassis. At this point, if it looks good, and smells good, I bet you, it is going to taste good!!
4. Sip and 5. Savor. Yes---just a sip. The only place you taste is in your mouth. Once it is passed your tonsils, it is gone. Keep the wine in your mouth. Swish it around. You taste different flavors on different parts of your tongue. Let the wine linger in your mouth. Another trick you need to master at home, is taking a bit of air through your lips, so you kind of girgle the wine and air around your tongue. This is when you savor the flavor. You may chug a beer, but you savor a glass of wine. Again, the flavor should have an essence of fruit. Wine is grape juice that is fermented, then aged in oak barrels. A perfect wine will have a balance of fruit, and oak.
There are a few more S’s that could follow at this point, let’s see……spit, swallow, sex, sleep, and of course a Second glass. The steps we have now are great for the beginner. A fun thing to try at home some night, is open a bottle do a tasting, then let the bottle sit for a few hours, and go through the steps again! The changes could amaze you! Wine is a living thing! It is born, matures, mellows, and will eventually die. As you explore wine, you be able to pick out at what point a wine is in it life. Never be afraid to try new wines. Make lots of comparisons. You can always trust your brain to catalogue all of the data, but in today’s world a lap top could be your best friend. If you are in a winery tasting room, or a wine bar, never be afraid to ask questions. The person behind the bar should be able to help you with your questions. No question is stupid or silly. The questions that you have, may be on the minds of all the other people at the bar. My job as a tasting room person is always made easier when my guests are full of questions.
Dave Mosher is the Hospitality Director at Bravante Vineyards. Visit Dave and check out all of the new plans at the vinyard. Dave can be reached at [email protected]. The winery is open by appointment from Wednesday through Sunday, 11-4 pm. Dave is always happy to greet newcomers. Best to call first at 707.965.2552.