I was approached by a lovely lady well over 30 years ago who asked me to plan a trip to France taking in some of the various wine regions in that country. My ignorance was such that I had NO idea just how many wonderful regions in France grow fabulous wine, nor did I know anything about these wines. You see, my perception of wine was based upon the few times Annie Green Springs or Boones Berry Farm was smuggled into a college football game and enjoyed by all. But I quickly decided I did not care for wine. I never imagined that I would ever be so interested in this drink that I would spend more than 25 years studying, tasting, and learning by traveling to various countries all about this elixir of the gods as I have now decided it is.
The one thing that I quickly learned is that wine is an individual adventure. The way a person feels about a wine depends not on what Wine Spectator tells you is good, or the other people in the room, rather it depends on the personal perception of every individual. Each person’s opinion depends entirely on their history and culture and is not directly related to the actual sensory characteristics of wine. It is our memories that confer hedonistic characteristics on wine. That being said, even though culture defines the standards and quality criteria for each product, each person is free to like or dislike any given wine! You need to decide for yourself what is good and what is not-just for you.
Wine is something you learn to appreciate. Your preferences may very well can change but to truly enjoy tasting wine, you need to know how to identify different aspects. I am certainly no expert but I can share some of the things I have learned while tasting wine.
First you need to evaluate the wine’s robe – which is its color. For white wine, the nuances go from pale yellow to golden yellow and even amber. Rose’s go through a palate of grey to orange. For reds, the spectrum is wide, from purplish to different shades of ruby.
What about its intensity. Is it pale, strong or deep? How is the brightness. Is it lively, forthright, or dull? Now we are getting real technical. How is its limpidity..crystalline, transparent, cloudy, milky-does it have deposits or not
You hear all these weird, technical terms while on a wine tasting adventure but make sure you don’t get caught up in what everyone else is expressing. Remember, only you can decide if you like this wine or not. However, by taking the time to dissect it, you may figure out just what types of wine you tend to enjoy and that will make purchasing a bottle at a store or ordering wine in a restaurant a much more pleasant outcome.
Tasting wine can be almost like a ceremonious occasion as we do all sorts of “different” things with this liquid in our glass. Here are a few tips that may make your wine tasting more enjoyable next time. Hold your glass by the stem and gently tilt it towards the light to be able to observe the nuances in the robe (using one of those fancy terms). Then gently swirl the wine in the glass for the “legs”, “tears”, “window panes” to appear. These thin lines that cling to the glass will give you an idea of the consistency of the wine; whether it tends more towards the fatty and concentrated or the fluid and light. Some say it gives an indication of the alcohol content but don’t quote me on that one.
Your nose is indispensable when it comes to tasting. Don’t ever waste the time tasting if you have a cold or are plugged up…the enjoyment will be totally lost. Plunge your nose into your glass, breathe in deeply through your nostrils,take a little air, and then repeat. You will detect a variety of scents that will either be very pleasant, obnoxious, powerful,subtle, fresh, a whole array of descriptions.
All of these aromas may bring to mind things like woodsy, floral, earthy, fruity, leathery and the list goes on. The aromas of wine are as diverse as its flavors. But what these aromas bring to mind are among the many things that form a spontaneous association with your memories linked to places, people and emotions. I have purchased wine from a winery whether it is in Barossa Valley in Australia or the Rhone River of France only to pop that bottle open once I get back home and it just does not quite taste the same as when I was actually at the winery with a group of friends. Yet certain characteristics still linger…or maybe it is my good memories that is picking up those special notes of taste.
Take the time to truly “taste” the wine. You don’t just drink wine, you totally savor each sip. To make the very most of your wine, use your tongue to roll it around the whole surface of your mouth. Opening your mouth just so slightly and breathing in some air while the wine is still resting on your tongue will allow yet another chance to experience the unique aspects of this wine. Once you have swallowed your wine, you’re almost done. Did the wine stay long or short in your mouth, meaning that the flavors either stayed in your mouth and filled out over time or the aromas quickly faded away.
So, you when you have the opportunities to go wine tasting, do just that – taste, and then take the time to really ask yourself: Do I like this wine, why or why not? Remember that it is your own impressions that take precedence over everything else. There is only one you so enjoy yourself and the wine you prefer.
I wrote this article because I want to make sure that no one feels they are not qualified to join us on any of our wonderful wine and food tours. We are NOT wine snobs, just people who enjoy tasting and learning about wines, the winemaker, different terrior, and of course food. Please consider joining us on an adventure to France, Croatia, South Africa, Australia, Italy or wherever we may be traveling to next. Oh so many wines, so little time!