How To Taste Wine Like A Pro
The method behind the madness can benefit you too.
Whether you're trying the seven wines Sampl sends you or a wine of your choosing, every wine you try ends up on your tongue. How you taste wine is a unique experience, so you don't need to be an expert to better understand your palate.
Sommeliers and other wine professionals have a method for tasting wine. While they end up tasting wines to serve them to other people, we can take advantage of their method to enhance the way we know our palate.
Wine professionals aren't going to be consuming all the wines they're tasting, but they need to be able to communicate important information about the wine. A sommelier in a busy restaurant needs to tell an interested diner about the wine's origin, what varietals make up the wine, and generally what to expect when it's out of the bottle and into the glass. A sommelier will also need to be able to identify faults in a bottle of wine, like cork taint or oxidation, before finally serving the wine.
A sommelier doesn't have a tuned palette overnight. It takes study to understand the information behind the wine and practice to actually try different wines and understand how your palette perceives them.
Plenty of information is easily accessible online, in books, and at your local wine shop to kick off your wine knowledge. What's left is for you to taste it, so here's how you can tune your palette.
SeeThe first step to trying your new wine is to use your eyes. After the wine's poured into your chosen glass, look at how it appears in the glass.
What color is it?
- Wine comes in a stunning variety of colors. It could be a bold and vibrant ruby red, a pale straw-colored white, or more.
Are there any particulates floating around it?
- Particulates in your wine aren't a bad thing. If it's a piece of the cork, it might help to take it out, but generally, these particulates are tannins that have fallen out of the wine or tartrate crystals which are also harmless.
SwirlTake your glass and gently swirl your wine around it. Not only are you looking like a pro, but swirling your wine serves several purposes.
- Allowing oxygen to enter your glass will increase the aromatics of your wine and start breaking down tannins in red wines, which is known as a wine "breathing."
- By swirling your wine, the wine will coat the sides of your glass, and drips will start to form as it settles. The amount of those drips and how fast or slow they fall indicates how much alcohol is in your wine.
SmellNow that you've taken a comprehensive view of your wine, it's time to take your glass up to your nose and slowly inhale. All the aromatics you saved up by swirling are just about bursting out of the glass.
What do you smell?
- There's no right or wrong answer here - try to pick out one or two scents you recognize. Are they fruity? Earthy? Spicy?
SipOnce you have a good sense of how your wine is on the nose, it's time to raise your glass and take a sip. Now's the time when you get to practice fine-tuning your palette.
- Similar to smelling your wine, try to identify a few tastes. Different types of fruit are common, as well as a barrel's influence on a wine which can result in vanilla and wood flavors.
- Is the acidity of your wine making you salivate? Are the tannins of a red wine coating the back of your teeth?
SavorHere's where a wine professional on the clock would spit, but you can either do that or go ahead and swallow. But your tasting is still ongoing, so pay attention to what's going on in your mouth.
- How long are the flavors you tasted lingering in your mouth? A long finish means you'll taste them for quite a while, even after swallowing or spitting.
Tasting wine is an activity you can make as complex or as simple as you like. An experience at a winery typically spans between three to six wines in what's called a "flight." An experience in your home can be the seven wines you get with Sampl or a few wines from the grocery store.
The 5 S's are just a tool in your arsenal to start figuring out the wines you like and why you feel that way.
They can be as straightforward or detailed as you make them; tracking the specifics of wines you like is another tool to help your palette.
Figuring out why you like the wines you do will ultimately lead to making future wine decisions you can be proud of. Sampl is an example of one, but even entering your wine shop with a new sense of purpose will result in new discoveries and experiences you'll get to enjoy.