So you want to become a pro wine-o? Whether you’re coming to one of our events, visiting a winery or throwing an intimate party at your house, we can help you have a great experience.
We’re breaking wine tasting down into 2 simple sections: the order and the technique. If you’re already at a tasting, and have no idea what you’re doing, just skip to section 2.
Section 1. The Order
Most wine tastings, especially if you’re at a winery, include a selection of both red and white wines. And yes, there is an order for tasting.
You’ll start with your bold and dry whites (think Chardonnay and Sémillon) and then move to herbaceous whites (Sauvignon Blanc). From there you’ll go to light and zesty whites (Petit Blanc and Pinot Grigio) and then your light and sweet wines (Chenin Blanc and Australian or US Riesling).
Note: If Moscato is your thing, please, don’t include it in the white wine lineup. It’s considered a dessert wine. We recommend tasting it after everything else.
If you’re sampling any rosé wines, they usually get tasted with the whites. Not every rosé is made the same way and that’s why we don’t just throw them into the middle. Some are dry; some are sweet. A general rule of thumb is that old world (Europe) rosé is usually more dry and new world (everywhere else) rosé is usually sweet. If you’re tasting a dry rosé, then move it towards that Sauvignon Blanc. If you’re tasting a sweet rose, have it after your Riesling.
Red wines come after whites and pinks, starting with your light-bodied fruity wines (Pinot Noir) moving to medium body fruity wines (Grenache and Merlot). From there you’ll taste your full-bodied fruity wines (Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon) and then your full-bodied earthy wines (Syrah/Shiraz and Petit Verdot).
Sometimes you’ll have the option to sample dessert wines. We recommend tasting them at the very end, so you won’t throw off your palette. This is where Sherry and Port come into play. German Rieslings, Muscat wines, Ice Wine, Zinfandels and Moscato are also popular dessert wines.
Section 2. The Technique
If you’d like to rate your wines, you can print out your wine evaluation sheets from The American Wine Society.
Here’s the technique: Tilt, look, swirl, sniff, sip, swish, spit, cleanse, repeat.
To start your tasting, pour about 2 fingers worth of your first wine.
Tilt the wine glass and let the wine flow up one side of the glass. Level the glass back out and notice the viscosity and density of the legs that form on the side of the glass. The legs determine the alcohol content of the wine. More legs means higher alcohol content. Rate the appearance on your sheet. Is it vibrant? Clear or hazy?
Swirl the wine in your glass; this causes the wine to evaporate, allowing the aromas and bouquet to be smelled. A wine’s bouquet is the wine’s tertiary or aging aromas. Primary or varietal aromas are those of the grape. Secondary or fermentation aromas are those from the fermentation process. Insert your nose into the bowl of the glass, inhale, smelling the aromas and bouquet. Rate the aroma and bouquet. How well are the aromas balanced? One shouldn’t be overpowering the other.
Now take a big sip, don’t swallow. Hold the wine in your mouth, moving it to each part of your tongue. Notice the different notes of the wine as the wine hits each section of taste buds. Slowly swish it back and forth, side to side noticing the texture. Rate the taste and texture. Is the texture smooth? Is the taste balanced?
Spit the wine into your designated “spit” cup . . . Yes, we did just tell you to spit wine. Spitting the wine rather than drinking it is recommended to ensure sure you don’t get tipsy during the tasting process. Most tastings last about an hour or two—that adds up to a pretty big wine intake. And the more alcohol you have, the more distorted your perception becomes. You want to make sure your tasting that Petit Verdot the same way you tasted the Chardonnay. Once you finish your tasting, you usually order a glass or two to drink based on your tasting notes. That being said, if you’re only tasting a few wines (3-5 wines), drink up and don’t worry about the spit cups.
Don’t forget to take note and rate the aftertaste and overall impression of the wine. Is the aftertaste lingering? Is it pleasant?
Eat a cracker or smell some coffee beans to cleanse your palette. Drink some water.
Repeat the process with a different wine.
There you have it. You’ve just tasted wine like the pros do!
Come join us for our wine dinners here @1201. We handle the dinner and our sommelier pairs some amazing wines. Reservations can be made by calling 417.626.0032.