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Beginner’s Guide to Tasting Wine

By Pallavi Gupta

Learning about wine for beginners don’t need a degree in rocket science. Otherwise, it would be so dull, lol! Life would sack big time! So, all you need is a good tongue and maybe a nose…just kidding. There are plenty of self-proclaimed wine professionals and enthusiasts who create wine tasting terms and descriptions to credit or discredit one particular grape, that a layman like us finds it hard to understand. For first-time wine tasters, don’t worry about complicated wine tasting vocabulary. The good thing is that you can simplify the whole process by having fun with an open mind while tasting wine. To expand your wine-tasting knowledge, all you need is a little effort and focus. 

Now let’s put on your wine tasting gear (if there is such a thing) and dive into the world of wine tasting to find out what makes a good wine, using these simple wine tasting tips for beginners. 

Now for the juicy part of wine tasting, let’s talk about the three different types of wines available for tasting.

To simplify things, let’s talk about wine color as an essential wine guide to achieve excellent wine-tasting results. Generally, there are three distinctive colors; red, white, and rose. Reds are what make my day if you ask me. But that’s just me. Here’s an elaborate on each type :

  • Red wines – these are made from dingy colored grapes. They have bolder, pleasant tastes than the white or rose wines.  You can serve this wine at your room temperature with either starchy foods, cured meat, or even your usual meatballs. 
  • White wines – these are made with green grapes, which gives them a yellowish color. They are served chilled due to their soft, lighter, and fruitier flavor. You can enjoy them with your favorite seafood, fruit, desserts, and also salads. 
  • Roses – when you blend the red and the green grapes, this is what you will get. You try this type of wine with anything either chilled or at room temperature. 

Now, talking about varietals. 

Varietals are the actual kind of grape that is used to make the wine. Each varietal has a unique flavor and smell which changes annually. Some of the well-known wine varietals for each wine color include:

  • Reds: Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Bordeaux, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah.
  • Whites: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Moscato, and Sauvignon Blanc. 
  • Rose: There is no particular varietal to speak of as most of the rose wines are blends. 

To adequately sample how great a wine is, you need to incorporate all your five senses. Yes, that’s true!

Take a Good Look: 

Just like food, your eyes have to initiate the wine tasting process. Just like a beautiful woman too….lol The color of wine speaks volumes about the quality of the wine, especially in red wine tasting guide. Holding out a glass of wine and tilting it a bit of a white surface, allows you to get the depth of color. At this point, you will notice the depth of color by swirling the wine glass gently and observing it closely. If the beverage moves around like water, it means that the wine is lighter and fresh with less alcohol content. A syrupy wine shows that it is more full-bodied and is potentially has higher alcohol content. Whites, indeed, can vary in color, which can give you an idea of the quality of the grape.

The older the wine, the darker will be the color. It’s due to its natural aromas that tend to separate slightly over time. Newer wines, on the other hand, are more uniform in color. The last thing you need to observe in your wine is bubbles. Bubbles are quite evident in Champagne or sparkling wine. It is fascinating to see them floating on top of your wine glass as you enjoy its excellent aroma. Unwanted bubbles mean that the wine has gone bad and needs to be tossed. 

Swirl the Wine:

Wine swirling allows you to establish its texture. To follow this, carefully swirl your wine in the glass by holding the base on a smooth surface. Slowly move your glass in close circles on the table, as you gradually increase the speed for the wine to slide up along the inner surface of the glass. Continue for a few more swirls. It isn’t mandatory to swirl wine on top of a table. You can also hold the stem and circularly move the wine glass. Essentially, the benefit of wine swirling is to allow air to mix the wine to get its aroma, also displaying your love for the wine.

Smell the Wine:

As I said, you need a nose to suck all the aroma out of your wine…lol. Before the tasting, there’s the smelling part. If you master the art of wine smell, it will make it easier for you to establish the kind of wine before tasting it. You can gather lots of information from the smell, and it’s quite pertinent. If you get the smell of rotten egg or boiled cabbage, it means that reduction was used to make the wine. Alternatively, if you get the smell of toffee or honey, it means that oxidation is undertaken in the process of winemaking. 

Wine smells can be broken down into three categories, which are:

  • Type of Grape: Now that you all know about different grapes, judging the type of grape used to make the wine would be quite easy. You may feel herbal, fruity, or even floral aromas.
  • Baseline Flavours: These are the secondary kinds of flavors used to make a particular wine. You can smell of yogurt, bread, cheese rind, or sour cream. 
  • Over Time-lapse: These aromas culminate over time and can vary from mushroom, tobacco, leather, vanilla, or cloves smells. You may get confused at first, but this won’t deny you the pleasure of tasting wine.

Tasting the wine:

To taste the wine, take a small sip first and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds. You can even slosh it around like mouthwash for the wine to reach the entire mouth. It may sound grouse, but no, it’s not! If it gives the right results, it’s worth it. Another technique that requires a bit of practice is drawing a small amount of air into the mouth and over the wine. Follow this without dribbling. It allows the aroma up into the nasal passages in the back of the throat for you to smell the wine again.

  • Your nose is a perfect tool to give you accurate clues about the wine. The taste should complement the smell and not contradict it. You should ask yourself whether the smell advertised correctly what the mouth consumed. You will find out that the nose is more accurate than your taste buds once you’ve tasted the wine. 
  • Your Wine can be either sweet or sour like aspirin, mostly it depends. For a higher alcohol content or riper wine, the texture will be stronger towards the red color. Usually, In red wine, the presence of tannins also affects the composition of the wine. 
  • The freshness of wine comes from its acidity. To enhance the sharpness of the wine, odorless acids are infused at the winery. You will know your wine is acidic if your mouth waters. 

To conclude the wine tasting process, you can either swallow or spit the wine out. What you need to observe is how long the taste stays in your mouth. For a bottle of great wine, the flavor will remain in your mouth for long. 

Reaching your conclusion

After going through all the swirling, smelling, and tasting of wine, you would have probably concluded the type of wine you like or what doesn’t make your day. Think about the overall impression of the wine aftertaste. There are various questions you will need to ask and answer yourself according to the experience you had throughout the wine tasting process. Was the taste strong or quickly fade later on? Did the smell marry the flavor in your palate? Were you be able to distinguish between the various components like fruit, acidity, alcohol, and tannins. 

To relish a heavenly wine taste, all the components need to complement each other and find harmony from your nose to your palate. All that matters is you had that feeling of eternal bliss while tasting wine for the first time. At the end of your tasting, you can always write down funny wine tasting notes to describe your sensations, subjective comments, or perceptions. 

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