Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to Taste Wine

I recently attended my very first importer tasting event and it prompted me to think about how one goes about tasting wine. Wine tasting has been transformed from a simple action to an elaborate activity and even an art. There is a book entitled How to Taste: A guide to enjoying wine, written by Jancis Robinson. While I am sure that I will at some point read this book and will most likely find it at least somewhat useful, I am also amazed and even a little disturbed by the notion that one needs to read an entire book to learn how to consume a beverage.

I decided that before I read anymore instructions, guides, suggestions and rules about the "art" of tasting wine, I would share my own views on the subject. But as with almost everything that I have thought of or discovered about wine on my own - someone else has thought of or discovered it before me. And moreover, it is already easily google-able.

So when I thought to myself, "I know, I could write about tasting wine in terms of the 3 S's: See, Sniff, Sip," of course I found an abundant number of google hits for that phrase - and there were not only the 3 S's but the 5 S's of tasting wine: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip and Savor. Maybe I could put my own spin on things and bump the number up to the 7 S's of tasting wine with: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Swish, Swallow, Savor. But this gets back to the whole question of whether or not drinking wine should be such an elaborate and/or rigid procedure.

When I began drinking wine, I certainly did not swirl the wine in my glass. I thought that was a rather pretentious display. My sniffing was merely incidental to the fact that my nose was in the glass as I took a sip. After taking a sip I moved on with my conversation or my meal. It was an unceremonious event.

As my interest in wine has grown I have picked up on the following pieces of advice:
  • Hold the glass against a white background in order to see the true color of the wine
  • Open your mouth when you inhale (it helps you detect smells better)
  • Swirl the liquid in the glass (it aerates the wine and releases the aromas)
  • Sip the wine and actually swish it in your mouth - allows it to touch every surface.
  • Sip your wine with a piece of food in your mouth (how else will you know if they go together?)
  • Keep the wine in your mouth for a few or even many seconds longer than you would when you sip of water - keep thinking about what you are tasting
  • After you swallow the wine, note the sensations and residual flavors in your mouth.
  • If you are at at a professional wine tasting you must spit out the wine that you try or risk being "that obnoxious person."
Well, as you can see there are many things that can be considered when tasting wine. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that there are no rules. If you enjoy the wine, then you're tasting "the right way."

Tasting Notes:
"Maximum" Pinot Noir, Labouré-Roi - 2005 (13.99)
First sip - good aroma, fruit, maybe red fruit. Nice smooth texture, easy going down, not very acidic. Back to the kitchen - mussels into the pot, onion chopped, tomatoes diced. Back for second sip - joined living room conversation. Back to the kitchen, spilled jar of capers, took mussels off the flame. Needed another sip. Tried wine with bread and aged goat cheese. Not bad, maybe even good....back to kitchen.

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