Monday, 9 November 2020

A beginners' guide to tasting wine

It can be an intimidating moment for a wine novice. 

You are at a restaurant and the sommelier asks you to sample the bottle you have just ordered. Or maybe friends defer to you over the dinner table to ensure an old bottle is still at its best.     

There is more to wine tasting than swirling liquid around in your mouth.

You also need to use your eyes and your nose to determine whether a wine is in the perfect condition for enjoyment or has been affected by age, oxidation or a faulty cork.

First check out a wine’s colour range to ensure it does not look thin, too brown  or have bits of cork floating in it.

Next, give the glass a swirl or two and hover over the top, taking several deep sniffs. If the wine smells like damp cardboard it may be “corked” or have been infected with aromas from a faulty closure.

Try to avoid wines that smell of vinegar (volatile acidity); a nail polish smell (ethyl acetate) or sweaty saddles/cow barn floor (brettanomyces—an undesirable yeast).

Instead try to find floral and fruit notes that indicate the appeal of the wine.

If you can smell toast, smoke, vanilla, chocolate, coffee or roasted nuts, you are probably picking up scents from a wine that was aged in new oak barrels.

Next, take a sip and sucking on the wine. You’ll hopefully find a range of fruit, flower, herb, mineral, barrel and other positive flavours rather than bitterness and alcohol.

Spit out your sample (you'll need to practice to get spitting right) - and then enjoy the wine.

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