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How To Taste Wine Like A Pro

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Now that dry January is over and you are enjoying the vino again, we bring you our five-step guide to getting the best out of your bottle. But isn’t life too short to learn all about grape varieties and all the absurd sounding flowery French terms? What’s wrong with the own-brand Pinot Grigio 2016 we have sitting in our fridge? These are valid points, but next time you're at a work dinner or trying you impress your friends you can have a little more knowledge with these easy steps...

1.0 Look

Sight can be very important when tasting wine; it allows you to have an insight into grape variety, origin and age. First look into your glass and note the brightness and clarity of the wine. If a wine is bright, this indicates that it's likely to be healthy and fresh. Are there any bubbles or sediment? Tilt the glass and hold it at eye level to assess it. The bubbles are residual carbon dioxide from the fermentation process, which gives the wine spritz. Sediment, though uncommon in most wines, is something to be aware of.

By swirling the glass you can get an idea of the alcohol content. Wines with a higher viscosity have higher alcohol content and will cling to the sides of the glass

 

2.0 Smell

Smell the wine, breathing in the bouquet. Note its cleanliness and intensity and whether the wine can be described as: floral, vegetal, fruity, mineral, spicy, animal, dried fruit, burnt, or chemical (one you don’t want to recognise in your wine). By thinking in terms of these categories you are more likely to be able to identify the subtitles of the wine in your glass. 

Give the wine a good swirl and smell again before it settles. Note the difference between the two. It should now smell weightier and you may pick up new notes in the bouquet.

 

3.0 Sip

Wine in the mouth or ‘on the palate’ is a more complex experience than smell alone. The primary tastes – texture, temperature, spiciness – and the manifold facets of alcohol all connect to a much wider network of the brain than that for the nostril pathway alone.

Take a sip of wine and suck as if you are drinking it through a straw. Swill it round in your mouth in order to actually taste the wine. This will aerate the wine and get its aromas to your olfactory bulb. Without doing that, you quickly notice the limitations of taste buds alone.

What you are trying to find is the wine’s balance – neither too sweet nor too astringent – and also attempt to further identify attributes you notes in the first two steps.

 

4.0 Spit

The longer you keep the wine in your mouth, it will maximise contact with your taste buds, palate and smell-receptor system. You will find all the sensations it has to offer magnified. Do swallow a small amount as there are buds in your throat, but then spit the rest. Purse your lips and form a small O-shaped pout. Using your cheek muscles and tongue, spit out the wine.

 

5.0 Sip Again

Recent scientific studies tell us that there is a significant variation in the number of taste buds that each of us have. This does not affect how good of a wine taster we are but the way you mull it over. Take your next sip and concentrate on the intensity of the individual flavors and how the wine develops in your mouth. Finally, note the finish of the wine. In other words, the balance between scent and taste. You may need several sips (or indeed glasses) in order to do this.

 

Adapted from Essential Winetasting by Michael Schuster

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