It can be amusing sometimes to read the labels on the back of wine bottles… you’ll see wine given some very interesting and amusing descriptions, for example “This wine has an aroma of fresh citrus, pear and orange blossom” or “This wine has a hint of white truffle chocolate, spearmint, spice and black pepper flavours“.
While I always enjoyed a good wine, I never quite understood those wine descriptions. I used to wonder where those descriptions came from. How could these flavours come from fermented grapes?
That is, until I learnt how to drink a wine so that I could fully appreciate its aromas and flavours. Now I understand that by smelling and tasting a wine in the correct way I can smell the aroma and taste the flavours described on the label. You just need to open your mind to it!
Most people associate the look-smell-taste wine drinking style with wine judges/experts. But with a small amount of knowledge and by following their example, you can easily improve your experience of wine. Drinking the wine is only a small part of the experience!
Here are 3 simple steps you can use to maximise the enjoyment of your wine drinking experience:
Step 1: Look
It’s important to have a good look at the wine. If the wine doesn’t look good you may not want to drink it. Make sure you’ve got good light, a white background and clean glassware.
White wine should be clear and sparkling with no sediment or haze. The colour of the wine will be affected by the grape variety, whether or not it was aged in oak, the sugar content and bottle aging. But generally as it ages, the wine becomes darker in colour; changing from straw, to yellow, to dark yellow, to gold.
The colour of red wine varies depending on the grape variety. It will also depend on the quality of grapes; length of time the wine was fermented with the skins and bottle aging. Young red wine is generally a vibrant “purple” colour and as it ages the colour will change from plum, cherry, brick red, to tawny.
Step 2: Smell
The smell of a wine can be very interesting and can be almost as enjoyable as drinking the wine!
When you pour a wine, only fill the glass to a third full. The best wine glasses are those that close in towards the top to trap the aroma. Hold the glass by the stem, and give the wine a swirl to coat the glass with wine. This will release the full aroma. Then, stick your nose into the glass, breathe in and concentrate on what you can smell.
When you first start doing this, you may want to compare what you smell with the winemaker’s description on the label. It’s interesting that you really can smell the aroma as described by the winemaker, such as “fresh dark cherries and plum, spice, white pepper and liquorice”.
Step 3: Taste
Sip your wine. Hold it in your mouth for a moment, and then swallow. Look for:
– Fruit flavours or other recognisable tastes
– Wood flavours – has the wine been fermented in oak?
– Nutty flavours – from yeast aging
– Acid tastes – which contributes to the crispness of the finish
– Palate length – does the flavour start big and then drop away in the middle palate? Or is it long and lingering?
– Astringency – can you detect involuntary “puckering” of your mouth as the tannins hit your tastebuds?
As you can see there is a little more to drinking and enjoying wine than simply swallowing, especially if you want to gain the maximum pleasure. Try the look-smell-taste method and compare the difference.
This is also a great topic of conversation at a dinner party… see who can pick the aroma and taste that the winemaker suggests on the label!!
The bottom line though is: drink the wine that you enjoy. The best way to find out what wine you enjoy the most is by tasting as many wine varieties as you can and make a note about what you thought.
by Jodie Smith
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