It always best to learn from professionals. We have talked to Ethan Turner, CMS – Level 1, and he gave us 5 ultimate wine drinking and tasting tips that anyone can implement.
As a sommelier through the court of master sommeliers, you are required to learn the deductive tasting method. This method helps you to pull out some of the more austere flavors, the difficult scents, and see things that the average wine lover won’t see. As I work to perfect this craft, there are five tips that I noticed really have helped when tasting wines. These tips may not make you the next world wine champion, but they will help you assuredly get more from every bottle you buy!
1. Use all your senses
The first tip is pretty straight forward, but not commonly thought about. The first tip is to use all your senses when you are tasting a wine. Think about the way the a red or white wine looks, is it colored the same throughout the wine, is there staining on the glass, are there sediments. Listen to the glass, do you hear how effervescent it is, are the bubbles popping quickly, slowly, are there small crisp bubbles from a young excited wine?
Smell the wine, do you pick up hints of vanilla or baking spice (could be an oaked wine), do you smell blue, black, or red fruits? How are these fruits characterized, are they ripe, baked, marmalade, or rotten? Do you smell any earth in the wine, or minerals? Then as you sip your first sip, let the wine roll over your tongue so you can feel it. Is it silky smooth, crunchy, sharp, blanketed? Then of course the last but now well prepared sense, how does it taste? Can you confirm everything else that you noticed from your other four senses on this wine.
2. The 1 Minute Sip
The final sip is valuable, but take your time with confirming things. I call this the 1 minute sip, a tip I learned from Windows of the World from Kevin Zraly. The first step is to take a quick sip, prepare your mouth for a deeper tasting of the wine, I normally swallow the first sip to get a quick indication of alcohol content, and it won’t shock your senses for the second sip. Then take a larger sip, the one minute sip. Let it sit on your tongue, roll it around, twirl the wine then spit or swallow for the first 5 seconds. Then you will go through a series of questions in your brain over the next 55 seconds that will help you categorize and put this wine in your library of gustation!
3. Tasting White
After you swallow, sit for the next 55 seconds and ask yourself these questions. If the wine is white the first question to ask about the wine is “sweet or dry”. Determining “sweetness” gets better with time but in reality there are very few sweet wines in the world. Sweet is about sugar content, if you don’t taste left over sugar in the wine it is more than likely still dry. Next, check the fruits you taste. Are they apples or pears, melons, tropical fruits, or stone fruits? What type of fruit is it if its one of those, is it a granny smith or a passion fruit? Then ask yourself about the characterization of the fruit. Do you taste any earth or minerality in the wine. Think of licking rocks as a kid… or as an adult.. and of spices you’ve used when cooking. Do any of those tastes make their way to your mind. At this point you should be about 30 seconds into the tasting.
4. Tasting Red
If the wine is red the first question to ask about the wine is practically “how dry”. There are very few sweet red wines in the world because of how red wine is fermented almost no sugar is left over. There are always unique situations, but for the most part this holds true. The bigger question is the level of dryness in the wine. Next, check the fruits you taste. Instead of apples, do you taste red, blue, or black fruits. Are you getting ripe vibrant strawberries, developing blueberries and plumbs, or dark raisined cassis? Then ask yourself about the characterization of the fruit just like before. Do you taste any earth or minerality in the wine?
In the final 30 seconds of tasting a red or a white think about the texture of the wine on your tongue and in your mouth. Does it have a bitter bite, does it dry the mouth or make it water, is it heavy or light on the tongue, did the taste last all 30 seconds or do you have to take another sip to finish checking, and is there a whole lot to really say about the wine? After you have done that you are ready to make an opinion on the wine.
5. Pairing with Food
One of the delicious parts of drinking wine, is the excuse to eat more! When thinking about foods to eat with your wine, think about their origin. I like to pair my wines and food by country. Spanish quisine will see a Tempranillo, Pasta will see chianti while pizza Napolitana may see a chewy falanghina, burgers will get zinfandel, and spicy sausage will see Riesling. We were born to eat and drink, and that is what many wines are made for. There are many other ways to pair food and wine, but this one tends to be a great way to always have a complimentary meal.
Next time that you go and taste a wine try to take my approach into account. These 5 tips will drastically change the way that you taste wine and eat food!