Wine Tasting 101

Drinking vs Tasting

Growing up in Sonoma County, I have always been fascinated with the world of wine. Therefore, over my 28 years of life, I have accumulated a number of years of drinking this lovely beverage. Additionally, the years I spent at San Diego State further equipped me with the experience of drinking a lot of wine, beer and spirits. This qualifies me to know what I am doing, right? Ha. In some respect but not in the way that counts. The act of drinking wine is just the tip of the ice berg. Yes, exposure does count for something but drinking wine versus tasting wine is a completely different experience. When I moved back to Sonoma County, I brought it upon myself to learn about the art of tasting wine to better understand the nuances and complexity that is found in a wine glass. Over the next couple weeks, I will take you on a journey of truly appreciating a wine and all of its glory- perfections and imperfections alike. We are going to explore what to consider when trying to appreciate and taste a wine.


Tasting Techniques

Tasting wine is all about using your senses to help you come to a conclusion about the wine you are tasting. The basic steps of tasting wine, as described by include (in order):

  1. Sight

  2. Aroma

  3. Taste

  4. Conclusion

Before you even get started, there are a couple of things to take into consideration. Yes, I realize that everyone wants to dive straight into the fun stuff (aka tipping the glass back) but if you want to get the full experience, it is important to know how to prepare.

First, the type of glass that is used when tasting wine is important. You want a glass that will allow for movement of the wine in the glass. Preferably, the glass should be clear and relatively thin. Tulip glasses are the universal ideal since its bowl narrows towards the opening. This allows aromas to be concentrated inside the glass and the wider bowl allows a greater surface area of the wine to be exposed to oxygen, helping the wine to open up.

Secondly, I found that the appropriate amount for tasting is filling the glass about 1/3 full (contrary to my San Diego Aztec instincts) which is about 2 to 3 ounces of wine. Thirdly, the temperature of the wine is important. The proper temperatures for serving white wine is 45 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees Fahrenheit for red wines. The colder the wine, the less likely you will be able to get all of the small nuances of aroma and taste. So, as the wine warms up from these temperatures, it is important to revisit a wine to see if new characteristics have become present.

The taster should also be in a healthy state of mind, not sick nor buzzed (bummer). One thing that I learned was that the best time of day to engage in a proper tasting is from 10am to 11am. This is one component that my San Diego State days had prepared me for. So don’t let anyone tell you that it is far too early in the morning to start tasting. By conducting tastings mid morning, the taster is more likely to have a fresh palate. Steer away from coffee or spicy foods; anything that can exhaust your palate before tasting.

These are the basic steps that you need to know to prepare yourself for a proper tasting. Next time, we will explore what to look for when tasting wine. Knowing what to look for before tasting a wine is almost as important as the tasting itself. It better equips you with the ability to evaluate a wine. Until next time… Cheers!

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