The world of wine can be intimidating. We get it, but we also love wine, so we don’t want to avoid opportunities to taste and learn about it for fear of being shamed. Rather than feel intimidated and ‘unworthy’ of a wine tasting, we thought we’d do a little research so that next time we’re at a formal or informal wine tasting we can contribute more than a smile and a nod.
When you attend a more formal wine tasting, or a walk-around event, you’re equipped with a tasting glass and a booklet with some information on the wine producers and products available at the event. This + your palate is all you need to enjoy the event, though you may want to bring your own personal spit cup if you don’t feel comfortable using the ones provided at the booths. Yeah, you’re supposed to spit the wine!? Well, professional tasters almost always spit, but you aren’t a professional, so we’ll leave that up to you. But don’t be afraid to spit, it is expected and not seen as rude.
All you need to do is engage with the different winemakers and vendors and taste the wine. We recommend striking up a little conversation before presenting your tasting glass for a pour, but that is more out of courtesy than law.
So what do you do once you’re poured your wine? Well, enjoying and examining a wine starts before the liquid hits your lips. It starts with color. Typically, the color of the wine provides a clue as to the variety of grape and age of the wine.
After observing the wine, give it a sniff. Our olfactory senses play a crucial role in how we experience flavor. Make a note about the wine’s aroma. Consider what you now expect from the wine’s taste.
Finally, take a very small sip of the wine. Swirl it around in your mouth. What different flavors do you sense? What part of your tongue is reacting to the taste? What is the wine’s texture? Acidity? Do you taste any smokiness or notes of vanilla? If you don’t, then perhaps that wine was aged in a stainless steel wine barrel like the ones we make at Skolnik.
If you need help remembering the order of what senses you ‘should’ experience your wine with, just think of going top to bottom. Eyes. Nose. Mouth.
Oh, and the best advice we can give about attending a wine tasting event: don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re there to enjoy, experience and learn about these wines. Talk to the vendors, refer to the booklet, discuss your thoughts with your friends. Wine is meant to be experienced, not feared.
You make observations about appearance, aroma and taste every day, so don’t be afraid to trust your senses and dive into a wine tasting.