You have been invited to a formal wine tasting for work. What do you do?
Panic? Frantically begin smelling fruits, tennis ball cans, and freshly cut garden hoses? (hey, they said it in a movie) No. All you need is LSD. Not that LSD…our 3 step wine tasting process: Look, Spiral, Drink.
Your mom told you not to judge a book by its cover, but it turns out you can actually tell a lot about a wine just by looking at it. There is the obvious, whether the wine is red, white, rose’, orange (which we will cover in our wine styles post!). Then, take a closer look, and you will be able to tell a bit more about the wine.
First, and an easy way to impress wine snobs, you can generally gauge the age of a wine by looking at it. You can do this because as wine ages, it changes color. Typically, the rule is that red wines tend to get lighter and turn more orange/brown, while white wines become darker looking more golden/honeyed. In most cases (not all), this color change is due to air slowly seeping in through the cork over time.
So, next time you are at a party and get a very gold white wine or a brown-ish red wine, mention that the wine looks like “it has some age on it.” Your snob friends will be impressed by the observation guaranteed, even if it is a younger wine when you explain that you noticed the color and that it could indicate age.
Spiral you ask? Why not sniff or swirl? It is true you need to sniff and swirl to properly smell a wine, but nobody ever tells you how to swirl. Usually, you end up just sloshing wine around trying not to spill. We are here to help you blend in with wine snobs, not to soak your clothes.
Begin by holding your glass by the stem (as you already should be), then pretend the top of your glass is the tip of a pencil, and you are drawing a spiral on a piece of paper above your glass. This motion will allow you to swirl your wine perfectly.
Once you have spiralled, take a whiff of the wine (the best technique is short sniffs). If asked to share what you smell, simply pick aromas that are personal to you (remember everyone has their own bank of smells). No one can argue with you when you say a wine smells “like my grandma,” since no one knows what she smells like!
Finally, we can drink the stuff! In most cases, you want to take a sip and discreetly move the wine all over your tongue to activate all of your taste buds (you will see some sommeliers and winemakers slurp their wine like soup, this is called aspirating the wine which further aerates wine in the mouth).
Once you swallow, keep your mouth closed and breathe out your nose. Breathing out your nose will help you taste flavor notes missed while swallowing and help judge the alcohol in the wine (the wine will feel hot going down or tingle when you breathe out your nose if the wine is high in alcohol). While we don’t have time here to get into all of the details of taste here (we will in a later post), there are two easy rules of thumb:
- If your mouth feels dry after taking a sip of red wine, that means the wine has high tannin.
- If your mouth is watering (extra saliva) after a sip of wine (most often white), that means the wine has higher acid.
Using these two rules and again noting that you taste something from your taste bank, will be enough to have the wine snobs thinking you are one of them!
Now you have the tools. Who would have guessed that all you needed to blend in at a wine party was LSD? But, unlike the drug, the only illusion will be that of you being a wine expert in front of any wine snob! That is is for now, until next time…Cheers!