Since I know a lot of my recent musings have been a bit deep, I wanted to enliven things a bit today. (Don't get me wrong...I love to think deeply on certain subjects, and those posts will keep coming)
So today I dub Wine Wednesday. I think I could make this a regular topic over the weeks and months as there is so much to know and appreciate in the world of wine. For those who didn't know, wine has become a bit of a hobby for me.
It really is intriguing, from the many different varietals, to the struggle that a good wine grape has to go through to produce complex flavors, to the process of wine making and much, much more. In fact, one of the classes I had to take in seminary was a communications class, and for my informative 15 minute speech I presented "How to Taste Wine." It was quite a hit, even though there was no actual wine in the class! Just remember three words and you'll look at least look the part of knowing what you are doing: Swirl, Sniff, Savor.
Swirl: In the glass. You are looking for a few characteristics of the wine while also allowing the wine to interact with the air (setting up the next step). Look at the color of the wine: is it ruby, purple, white, rust red, etc. Look at the clarity of the wine: can you see clearly through it, or is it inky or murky. A tip with this is also to tilt the glass slightly sideways and look at the edge of the wine, giving you a better idea of its color and clarity. Also, in swirling the wine, look for "legs" or "tears" that form along the glass: these are streaks that form and hint at alcoholic content. Generally, a good wine should have them.
Sniff: Perhaps the most important step. OK, not quite, but the "nose" of the wine brings out a ton about its flavor profile. Have you ever tried to eat an apple or pear with a stuffy nose, and it tastes completely differently? Our sense of smell is vital to taste, and wine is no different. Don't be afraid to stick your nose down in the glass (after stopping swirling, of course!). This lets you focus and get the aromas. Is it fruity, floral, earthy, minerally? Wines can have the nose of many different things, and it never should simply "smell like grapes." This is a learned skill, and your body will adapt and get better the more you practice it. Personally, I can attest to being able to better smell food or other scents much clearer now since I started wine tasting than I ever did before, thanks to developing my sense of smell. Feel free to look at a bottle or tasting notes to see what they say it should smell like, but do it yourself first. Say out loud, or write down, what you think it smells like before looking. As a wine ages, it changes, and everyone's palate is different.
Savor: Take a slow sip, bringing in a little bit of air with the wine. Swirl it around in your mouth, making sure it coats your entire mouth. You want it to go over all your taste-buds, and the "mouth-feel" you get of the wine definitely helps you to understand it better. Is it soft, smooth, acidic, rough, etc? For instance, a warm, slightly rough feel around the middle portion of your mouth is an indicator of tannins, found in red wines. It should see balanced, and while it will "dry" your mouth a bit, it shouldn't dominate the wine. What other flavors do you sense? Savor the wine, letting it sit a bit before swallowing or spitting it out. What do you taste immediately when you begin to drink it? How does the wine finish? Is there an aftertaste: how is your mouth left feeling? Just as with the nose, try to describe this yourself. Amanda and I often get much different descriptions of a wine (and also many similarities!) because of our different palates. A wine can be fruity, jammy, herbal, minerally, earthy, or floral. Give it a try!
Now I know this is majorly reduced into a short post, and you can learn so much more about wine as you learn more of the details, but this should hopefully give you a start! I know that the first time that Amanda and I went to a winery and did a tasting we drank the wine tastings so quickly it showed we didn't really know what we were doing. Luckily, we also weren't afraid to admit asking questions, and we gradually learned more and more. Now, I can go to a tasting and take longer to taste a single wine now than we did for the entire flight of wine that first time!
The best single piece of advice I can give is, take it slow and listen to your palate. You know what wine you like, but be willing to learn and practice a bit! Super sugary wines of course initially taste good, but give drier wine a try in small doses!