Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

WINE: How to Taste Wine

Merry Christmas! I am back, after all the hullaballoo has died down, blogging from under a pile of brand new books, kitchen stuff, and Nintendo games (because we are still children on some level in my apartment, despite our grown up appearance).

We have learned what wine is, now we should learn how to taste it. Tasting a bottle of wine involves all five senses, which is what makes it so daunting. We see wine enthusiasts in restaurants or wine rooms swirling, sniffing, swishing, etc. and it all seems like a secret language that we can't possibly understand. But really what these people are doing is indulging all of their senses, not just taste. Because wine has something to offer to most of them. Let's go through it and see if we can't understand a little bit more about the mysterious ritual of wine tasting.

Hearing: The sense of hearing only comes into wine tasting in a very limited way. When choosing a wine, it is important to listen to others to help you make your decision. I am fiercely self-determinate so I get very stubborn and don't like to take suggestions to others. I like to pick my OWN glass of wine, just to show that I know what I'm doing. (Even though I actually don't). But while you may know exactly what you like, or may have a good instinct, listening to others can really pay off. Many restaurants have sommeliers and it pays to stop and get their suggestions. This is the way to discover something completely new or something that really works with the dish you are ordering. Listening to the sommelier can help you discover a new favorite, or an amazing pairing or turn a type of wine you thought you didn't like into one you do like, now that you know what to look for.

Sight: Sight is involved in a couple of ways. First, you have to look at your choices. Taking suggestions is good, but you also shouldn't let a waiter, sommelier or other dinner guest bully you into something you don't want or that is too expensive for you. Look at the different wines, what color they are, what grape they are, where they come from and how much they cost, and decide for yourself what you want.

When the wine comes, take a look at it before you scarf it down. Wine is pretty. Take a look at it against a white background. This is also where swirling the wine comes in. If you swirl the wine, you are supposed to take a look at how the wine runs back down the side of the glass. A wine that forms a tear that slowly flows down is said to have "legs." I have to admit I don't much care about this, but it's an easy way to look cool: swirl the glass, look for the tears and then go "Hmmm ... this wine has legs!"

Scent: The swirling has another purpose as well, which is to release the aromas in the wine so that you can better smell them when you take the next step, which is to stick your nose down in there and sniff the glass. Just as wine has many flavors that make up one glass, it also has many scents and smelling the wine is part of the experience. Take a big sniff and look for fruit, spice, herb, flower, plant, or other food aromas. And try to remember as you go through this process that unless you're going for your master of wine certificate, it's not a test. No one's going to grade you on what smells you do or do not identify. It's about discovering what the wine is like and what you like or don't like about it. You don't even have to proclaim what you smell or say anything at all, just do it. Sniff it, see what you think, and then get ready to finally taste it.

Touch: Once you actually get to put the wine in your mouth, taste isn't the only sense that gets engaged. A wine enthusiast will also want to see how the wine feels in his or her mouth. Before they take a swallow, they'll hold the wine in their mouth and swish and swirl it around. I'm just going to say right now, that this is something I do not do. I'm not comfortable enough with wine yet to treat it like a mouthwash. I've still kind of got it up on a pedestal. However, assessing the mouthfeel of a wine can tell an expert about the wine's acidity, tannins and body.

Taste: Finally, there is the ultimate goal: tasting the wine. Part of swishing the wine all around in your mouth like that is that it better allows you to experience the flavors in the wine. Your tongue has different taste receptors on different parts of it, so you want to hit all of them. It is also recommended to draw some air over your tongue with the wine in your mouth. This allows you to taste all those aromas that you smelled when you took your sniff earlier. Do this and see if the flavors you get match the scents you identified earlier.

And now spit! Or swallow. Always one of life's important choices, and one that really depends on occasion and the company you are keeping. I myself prefer to swallow, because I'm not just there for the trappings, I want the whole experience. I prefer to commit to one wine I really like, so swallowing is the way to go for me. However, if you are not ready to commit and would rather play the field, you may want to spit for now and should consider winery tasting rooms and their convenient spitting buckets. It's really up to you.

Enjoy!

5 comments:

My Dearest KT and J.... I must send you a public thank you and a mea culpa..my bad for not reciprocating on the Christmas thing. First I love my crafty apron and shall post a pic when finished crafing.. Such a cute idea. Of course, Uncle Rick is a ColdStone fan on high. So good choice. We do thank you for thinking of us.
A.S.

I truly meant to give you a crack at 'Tea with H. McGee' with a big fat donation. But alas, asleep at the switch here, it was closed when I logged in. So I sent a donation in kind to the women's shelter "as a Holiday request from KT & J JJinglehimer-Smith" only I used your real names.
I love you both. Happy birthday to J
and
Happy New Year to you and all your funny, clever, loyal readers...
A.S.
Off to begin proper wine tasting :)

said by Me at 4:26 PM Delete

How convenient. I happen to have a ton of wine that needs tasting so we can all test out these directions...

said by Zee at 11:58 AM Delete

Great tutorial KT. Yet, that last paragraph... So many jokes, must not make them... =b

- Chubbypanda

said by Chubbypanda at 11:42 AM Delete

Ha ha! I can't help it. I was an English major, and 70% of what they teach you is how to have an exceptionally dirty mind. ;)

said by KT at 12:21 PM Delete

Lol. Where were you when I was still single? (^_~)

- Chubbypanda

said by Chubbypanda at 8:15 PM Delete

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