Attending your first wine tasting can be very intimidating. It can appear that oenophiles have a language of their own that is difficult to decipher. You want to fully participate in the wine tasting festivities, but you fear committing some wine related faux pas or not being able to adequately express your impressions of the wine you taste. Have no fear. Follow the five steps mentioned in this article and you should sail through your first tasting without anxiety.
However, before you get to the tasting steps it is helpful to know that to expect at a typical wine tasting. This is by no means the gospel according to wine, since some tastings may be more formal and structured and some may be more relaxed, however most wine tastings will operate under these similar guidelines. First of all, you are given a tasting glass and this is the glass you may use for the whole tasting, but some tastings may provide a tasting glass for white wines and another one for reds. Dry not to have any gum in your mouth, because the gum can alter the taste of the wine. You may also be given water and bread or crackers to cleanse your palate. There will be a vast array of wines to taste. You normally start the tasting with the lighter wines and gradually make your way to the more bold ones. Remember, you are not obligated to taste all of the offerings, however, the more you sample the greater your wine horizons may grow.
Now back to the five steps of tasting. Repeat these steps each time you taste a wine. Paper and pencil may be provided so that you can take notes. If not, it is fine to take mental notes or log your impressions of the wines in your BlackBerry.
Sight. The person pouring the wine will pour about a one ounce serving into your glass. The first thing you do is look at the clarity of the wine. Is the wine clear or is it cloudy? What about the color? Is it the color of straw for a white wine, or a bold rich ruby for a red wine? Note your impressions.
Swirl. Take the glass at the stem and swirl it around for a couple of seconds. If you are graceful, you can swirl the glass in the air. If you fear spilling your wine, leave the glass on the table and swirl it in a clockwise motion. Swirling opens up the chemicals in the wine.
Sniff. After you swirl the wine, lift the glass to your nose to sniff the wine. What do you smell? Do you smell peaches, cherries or vanilla? Take note of the scents.
Sip. This is where the fun begins. Sip the wine. Let it sit on your tongue. What do you taste? Do you taste fruits, minerals, grass? Note your impressions. This is truly subjective. There is no right or wrong answer. No one can tell you what you taste. Special note about sipping. There will be several wines at your tasting. Even though each serving is approximately one ounce each, if you multiply that by five or six or more tastings you stand the chance of getting a little tipsy. There is a metal bucket where you can spit the wine out. This may sound déclassé but it is acceptable behavior and could save you a DUI charge.
Savor. Last but not least savor the wine. Was it smooth? Did it make your mouth pucker? Is it a wine you would like to try again or one you did not care for? Again, note your impressions.
Now the tasting is over. You navigated your way through a maze of chenin blancs to cabernets. You loved some and possibly hated some, but you survived your tasting like a pro because you had these tips in the back of your mind. Go off and enjoy more wine. Life is too short. Cheers.