Tasting Wine Like a Boss
Bars & Drinks Seller Server Classes
Mike Parker

Have you ever watched a television show where some hoity toity guy swirls his wine around in the glass before taking a small sip, and wondered, ‘What’s up with that snob?’ Believe it or not, there is a method to such madness. It’s all part of a time honored tradition of wine tasting, and once you know the reasons behind it, all that swirling and sniffing and swishing and sucking in air makes perfect sense. Here’s a brief overview of how you can learn the fine are of wine tasting so you can impress that special someone… or if you just want to appear hoity toity at the company New Year’s Eve party.

Wine tasting involves a four-step process:

  1. Appearance – Start with a clean wine glass, one that bends inward to help funnel the wine’s aroma toward the nose. Hold the glass by the stem (holding a wine glass by the bowl or globe will result in undue warming of the liquid inside). Pour approximately one-third of a glass of wine into the glass. Now observe the wine in the glass. Look at it straight down, to get a sense of the depth of color. Look at it from the side to determine its clarity. Now tilt the glass to allow the wine to ‘thin out’ around the edges, giving clues as the the age and character of the wine. Final, give it a swirl (not too hard, you don’t want it sloshing out of the glass). Once the wine settles back into the bowl, observe the way the wine runs down the inside of the bowl in ‘legs’ or ‘tears.’ Heavier legs indicate a more robust wine with higher alcohol and glycerin content.
  2. Sniff – Taste is greatly impacted by smell. In fact, around 80 percent of what we think of as taste is actually aroma. Wine sniffing methods vary greatly, but the process is essentially the same. Swirl the wine to increase its surface volume; then hold the glass (by the stem) under your nose and smell the aroma (sometimes called the ‘nose’ or the ‘bouquet’) rising from the wine. Common aromas include fruits, herbs, flowers and spices. If you smell vinegar sulfer or some other ‘off’ smell, chances the wine is bad.
  3. Taste – Note that this step does not involve drinking, only tasting. Take a small sip into your mouth, and roll it around on your tongue. Different parts of your tongue can detect different flavors such as salty, sweet, bitter and sour, so it’s important to have the whole mouth involved in the tasting process.
  4. Finish – Swallow the sip of wine, then notice the aftertaste, or the finish. Some wine experts call this the conclusion or the completion. Ask yourself if you liked the wine. Was it memorable or forgetable? Was it balanced or did it taste ‘out of whack’? Did the flavor stay with you? Did it linger on your palate. The better the wine, the more likely the pleasant flavor will stay with you.

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