When the wine list at a restaurant triggers memories of your Calculus finals, it’s time to ask for professional help. In this case, you will need the knowledge and insights of a Sommelier – a professional wine taster.
A Sommelier has acquired the training and experience to discern the finer qualities of a variety of wine. He/She can tell you which type of wine will suit your tastes and complement your main course.
You may have seen a Sommelier at work. His/Her eyes transfixed upon the red liquid swirling inside the wine glass. Satisfied, the Sommelier brings his/her nose inside the wine glass, just a few inches away from the fine liquid and takes several small sniffs.
Finally, he/she tastes the wine.
The Sommelier sips the wine and makes a facial gesture as if sucking through a straw. Then swirls the wine inside his/her mouth as if it was mouthwash.
In the next instant, the Sommelier makes another face. Forming an O-shaped pout with his/her lips. All of a sudden, a thin, jet-stream of red wine sprays out into a waiting vessel.
During that 4-step process of sight, smell, taste, and spit, the Sommelier can tell you everything that you need to know about the wine.
Does it taste heavy to the palate? Will the aromatics match the flavor? Will it go better with terrine or risotto? Braised Leeks with Hawaiian Red Snapper or the Dungeness Crab Boil with Chardonnay Butter?
Restaurants have an in-house Sommelier to help improve the customer’s dining experience. Whether you’re a wine aficionado or a beginner, the Sommelier can find the perfect wine and food pairing for you.
So why should you learn how to taste wine like a pro if you have a Sommelier who can make things easier? Why not leave wine-tasting to the pros like you would your taxes to an accountant?
3 Easy Steps To Taste – and Enjoy – Your Wine Like A Pro
It’s your mother-in-law’s birthday dinner and you’ve been asked to bring the bottle of wine. Would you know which type of wine to bring?
Your wife cooked Braised Beef Ribs for dinner and called you at work to buy a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Would you know which variety of Cabernet Sauvignon to buy?
Learning how to taste wine like a pro takes the experience of wine drinking to new heights. You will know what it’s about; where it came from, how it was made, and if it will suit your taste or the occasion.
Learning how to taste wine like a pro will make you appreciate wine even more. You don’t have to be a Sommelier to be good at wine-tasting.
Anyone can do it!
There are only 3 steps because the decision to spit is entirely up to you. A Sommelier will sometimes taste a bit and spit out the rest. If you are tasting only 2 or 3 bottles, drinking the wine won’t get you soused to the eyeballs!
Step 1 – Sight
Pour a little wine – no more than an inch – into a clean, clear wine glass. If you are tasting a variety of wines, start with the lightest such as sparkling, roses, and light whites before moving on to full-bodied whites and heavy reds.
Sommeliers use color to determine the age, origin and grape variety of the wine. For example, clear white wine that has a slightly golden color and hints of green is indicative of a young, fresh wine. In contrast, red wine that is murky and brownish with visible sediments could be aging.
Swirling the wine around the glass will aerate the wine and give you an idea of its alcohol content. Generally, wines with higher alcohol content have greater viscosity. You will see some of the liquid clings longer to the sides of the wine glass.
When swirling the wine, hold the glass by its stem. You can swirl the wine with the glass in your hand or on top of a table for better stability.
If you want to know if the Cabernet Sauvignon is heavy or light, place the glass in front of an open page – could be a book or newspaper. Can you read the words on the page? If you can’t, then the Cabernet Sauvignon is on the heavy side.
Step 2 – Smell
Place your nose over the rim of the wine glass and take several quick whiffs. Close your eyes so you can maximize your sense of smell. The key is to focus on one characteristic at a time.
Wines carry the distinctive aroma of the grapes they are made from. With practice, you can easily distinguish a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Merlot and a Chardonnay from a Sauvignon Blanc.
A Sommelier describes the intensity and cleanness of wine by breathing in its bouquet.
The wine’s scent can be described as “fruity”, “floral”, “spicy’, “gamey”, or “burnt”. In some cases, the wine’s aroma can be compared to other familiar scents such as “citrus”, “cinnamon”, “vanilla”, or “grass”.
As your sense of smell becomes sharper, you will be able to articulate the aroma of the wine more clearly. It is not surprising to read some wine pros use words such as “asphalt”, “manure”, and “soil” to describe the scent of the wine!
Step 3 – Taste
Now it’s time to validate what your senses of sight and smell perceived by tasting the wine.
When you are tasting, you are trying to identify 3 things: Flavor, texture, and balance.
If you noted earlier that the wine had the scent of “tart black cherry”, the flavor would most likely carry the aromatics.
Texture is equally important because you don’t want to drink wine that feels like water in your mouth. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to share a wine that sticks to your teeth.
Balance refers to how all the flavors come together to produce the wine’s distinct taste.
Ideally, you want the wine to have a clean fresh taste at the beginning, a richness that hits you in the middle, and pleasantness which cleanses your palate at the end.
To taste the wine like a pro, only take a sip. Then, suck it into your mouth as if you were drinking the wine through a straw. The purpose of this technique is to aerate the wine and bring out more flavors.
Swirling the wine inside your mouth brings the liquid in contact with the nerve endings of your tongue which are responsible for your sense of taste – your taste buds.
Do you like what you taste? Do you feel like drinking more wine? If the wine looks and smells good, it should taste even better. Good wine is wine that gives you pleasure.
Becoming good at wine-tasting does not happen overnight. It takes time and consistency to develop the skills – and the senses – to taste wine like a pro.
So what are you waiting for? Break open a bottle of wine!
And let’s not forget to take moments to thoroughly unwind on occasion with your favorite bottle of wine. Wine is rich in healthy antioxidants that can fight off free radical damage which occurs during high intensity or long-duration exercises.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community. Also, check out our selection of fine California wines- www.wine4runners.com. You may want to gift a friend – or yourself – after a tremendous race event!