Some people avoid deep relationships with wine due to their fear of it (Oenophobia). You don’t need to know anything at all about a wine to have a fling with it. But if you’re looking for ways to move to ‘the next level’ with your wine step inside….
The good folks over at The Wine Cellar Insider have terrific articles pertaining to learning about wine, such as the following (most ‘headers’ are mine and should not be attributed to The Wine Cellar Insider):
These Eyes Long To Read You
Just like food, your initial taste of a wine starts with your eyes. The color of a wine can tell you a lot about the wine. One helpful hint is, when looking at a wine, hold out the glass and tilt it a bit. Try to hold the wine over a white surface like a white table cloth, plain white plate, napkin or other blank surface.
At this point, you need to notice the depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass. To fully understand the ramifications of the color, in this case, it helps to have a minor understanding of how a wine should look for its grape varietal, age and growing season. For now, we are going to focus on Bordeaux wine, which is most often a blend dominated by either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. For a young Bordeaux wine, the wine should be dark, displaying a depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass. The color can feature purple or dark blue, often shiny accents. Deeper and richer colors let the taster know this is a concentrated wine.
For my palate, concentration and depth of flavor is a good thing. Young wines that lack good color are going to be lighter less ripe and more acidic in style. That is natural for wines made from Pinot Noir. But for young wines produced using Bordeaux varieties, you want to see a good, rich, deep color. The depth of color is also a good, beginning indicator of a wines style. An inky, dark hued Bordeaux is probably going to be intense, mouth filling lower in acid and long. Young Bordeaux or young Bordeaux styled wines with light colors are going to be lighter in flavor, with more red fruits than black and brighter in acidity.
She’s Got Legs D’ya Know How to Read Them?
Next in your visual evaluation of the wine is the legs or tears on the side of the glass. This is not all that important. You can skip ahead to the next paragraph if you like. But as you have probably heard many people remark on the tears or legs in a wine, if you did not skip ahead, let’s cover it now.
The size of the tears or legs and the length of time they remain in the glass give a glimpse into the wines potential alcohol level and sweetness, as well as the viscosity of the wine. Thin legs that dissipate quickly are usually found in lighter, less concentrated wines. While fatter, or should I say more athletic legs that remain on the glass foretell of a rich, concentrated wine with lots of fruit, sweetness and length. Again, it’s important to note, the legs and tears of wine are related to the grape variety and the country the wine was made in. For Bordeaux styled wines, we want large tears that stay in the glass. Legs and tears will let you know a little about the alcoholic content and level of sweetness in the wine, they are not an indicator that you will like the wine, or not.
How to understand the smells, bouquet, aromas or perfume of a wine.
You’ve looked at the wine already, what’s next in learning to taste wine like a professional? That’s easy. You only need to taste the wine. Remember when we first looked at a wine evaluate it? Now, we are going to swirl, smell and sniff the wine. Your sense of smell is much stronger than you realize. It’s a key component to understanding how to taste wine like a professional.
How to Taste Wine, Enjoy Wine, Evaluate Wine like Professional Tasters
It’s said that as much as 85% of taste is derived from your sense of smell. But you cannot smell the wine without first swirling your glass gently. If you’re a beginner, to avoid smelling the wine once its drenched your clothes, swirl the glass, but keep the stem of the glass firmly planted on the table. You will not spill the wine if you keep the glass anchored to the table. The action of swirling your glass allows oxygen to enter into the wine, which allows the wine to release its scents into the air while coating the glass at the same time.
After swirling your wine, you can use whatever technique that works best for you, when nosing the wines aromatics. However, one little trick that could help is, keep your mouth slightly open when inhaling and exhaling the scents from the wine. That little secret will allow you to discern more aromatic complexities in your wine.
Next, do not simply inhale the aromas. Sniff them, more than once. You will inhale more of the wines aromatics using that technique. But at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to nose a wine. Use what works for you. Some tasters inhale deeply, others take small, short sniffs, while others practice a combination of both techniques. Find the technique that works best for you. To help understand the aromas that are correct for the grape varietal characteristics of the wine, please see our page on the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel
Generally speaking, if a wine smells good, meaning there are no off odors such as scents of wet dogs, old news papers, mold, vinegar or generally unclean scents, the wine is sound. The next step is to note how complex the wine smells and what scents make up its complex, aromatic profile. The key to being a good wine taster is understanding that we all have different levels of olfactory capabilities. Some people are going to be more sensitive overall than others. Select tasters will also sense some, specific fragrances better than others. Sense memory, or perhaps it should be scents memory” is the key here. Most of the scents found in wine are common to us. The lack of fear in trying to recall, recognize and communicate our sensations is all that is required here. It’s important to note that wines and the grapes they are made from are quite complex and that once your fear of sharing what you smell and taste subsides, wine will no longer simply smell like red wine or white wine. You’ll find a vast array of scents and flavors are present in your wine. Again, please refer to the Davis Aroma Wheel to get you started. It’s a great tool that will help you be a better wine taster.
To read the third tip and more, please, click on over to The Wine Cellar Insider.