Most of us have experienced the feeling of being the only one in the group that isn't calling out flavors and spices and wooden comments while smelling and drinking a glass of wine. Let alone finding enjoyment in even drinking it now because we're suddenly disappointed in our senses in that we can't identify with one of those comments. Our brain then labels wine drinking "too high maintenance" and we quickly replace the vino with a more comfortable beverage, leaving the wine for the those who are clearly more knowledgeable.
If that has happened to you, we understand your insecurities about ever trying another sip of wine!
Hopefully by now you are at least able to enjoy some beautiful wine by yourself or with different company, but just in case, we would like to offer a few thoughts and tips for tasting wine.
Wine tasting is a part of your journey when it comes to developing your favorites, and it's rewarding to be able to share what you enjoy!
When trying a new wine, red to be specific, have you ever been advised to just shoot it to the back of your throat and swallow? Or to avoid the sides of your mouth when drinking wine? There is actually something to these odd sounding rules on how to take a sip.
On average, we have about 10,000 taste buds that are excited and ready to send your brain a message every time you take a sip or a bite. Taste buds are located all over the entire mouth - even down into your throat and also a little further...probably created like this for wine tasting don't you think?
Fortunately, we get to taste Bitter, Sweet, Sour, Salty and Savory - allowing us to enjoy all types of food, amazing spices and herbs, yummy desserts, candies and gum, beverages of all kinds, especially WINE!
This is why we all like different tastes, some like salty while others prefer sour. Some desire bitter, while others grasp sweet...it's the same concept when we dive into wine tasting.
For the purpose of wine tasting, we are focusing on the tongue and its specific taste buds as they are categorized into areas:
Bitter - found in the back of the tongue and inside the mouth
Sweet - on the tip of the tongue of course
Sour - on the sides near the middle to back
Salty - on the sides near the front to middle
Before we go into more tasting, please remember the other awesome senses that come into play with experiencing wine:
Sight - observing the different colors, clarity and overall look of the wine as it is poured and watching the possible changes that can occur over time
Smell - actually more important than taste as your brain will first detect the aromas and flavors before your tongue tastes it...smell is up to 85% of our taste...(we suggest not wasting your patience trying to wine taste with a stuffed nose - make a red wine hot toddy instead!)
Feel - sense the texture and the "body"of the wine, you will notice if it's smooth, silky, or rough and you will be able to feel if it's light, medium or heavy
Sound - listening to the cork or cap removal along with the pour is important, right?
TANNINS - We hear this word a lot. What in the world is it and should we care?
Picture this trifecta: Black Tea ~ Dark Chocolate ~ Red Wine
Breakfast, lunch and dinner may come to mind ~ but what these have in common are TANNINS.
In short, Tannins are compounds found in a variety of plants within the tissues of their seeds, bark, stems, buds, leaves, immature fruits and roots. So for grapes, tannins are found in their seeds and skins. Therefore, aging the grapes within the tannin-rich wooden barrels creates even more tannins over time.
Tannins are referred to as bitter and dry, which is true, but they are vital to adding complexity, structure and proper aging to the red wines. Tannins are also highly protective and have many health benefits, hence the recommendation of having a glass of red wine every night.
There is a lot of info on tannins, but in simple terms, you get the gist that they are necessary and part of the recipe of creating a beautiful wine. With wine tasting you will hear the term Balance often, and balance includes tannins. You really will eventually be able to recognize which wines have low, medium and high tannin content.
A good rule of thumb with tannins - think of red wines, although some white wines are high in tannins too, and tannins give you the dryness on your tongue and gums. Too high of tannins for your palate will seem way to bitter for you, and you probably won't even be able to drink more of it.
If you think you are possibly sensitive to tannins, where you seem to get headaches from red wines, try a low tannin white wine.
So back to the advice for wine tasting that may help you enjoy it better...initially with wine tasting we suggest you swallow just a sip rather than holding or letting the wine move around your whole mouth.
After you have smelled your wine, when you sip to taste (if you actually plan to drink or swallow it), drink it quickly down the back of your tongue so it can dance on all of those taste buds...then you wait for it.
After you have looked at the colors and clarity, smelled the aromas and flavors, you swig down your first sip.
Now you have essentially three stages to be aware of (and these happen quickly):
Initial Taste - The first connection you have to something that describes a flavor or sensation, whether it's dry, sweet, fruity, earthy, tart, bitter or another description...what is your immediate impression of that first impact.
The Ride - Is basically the next moment where the wine goes down. Have fun sensing your taste buds and how your entire mouth responds as the wine goes down. Notice the texture, how does your tongue and mouth feel? What flavors are you picking up? What has changed, if anything, from the initial taste? Whatever you sense, embrace it as your own.
The Finish - Think of this as the conclusion. The aftertaste. Is it quick to leave and short lived or does it last long (20 seconds or so)? The longer the finish, the better. What do you sense when it's gone? Do you like it? What do you like about it? What don't you like about it?
Wine tasting should be fun and effortless. Start simple. Use all of your senses. Track your wines and your interpretations in a wine journal or in a plain notebook. Write down the ones you like, take photos if that is easy, but look forward to trying more and more wines. Practice with peace. There is no wrong answer, no pressure, just becoming in tune with your taste buds.
If you have found that you simply like a wine because it tastes good, it helps you relax, it doesn't stain, you don't get a headache, or whatever your reasons...then you figured it out without trying to. If identifying flavors and aromas and knowing if the vineyard was close to an ocean overwhelms you, then simply enjoy your favorite wines by taste.
Check out the wine tastings that are offered in your city. This varies from wine shops, restaurants, resorts and home parties.
Your wine tasting skills will evolve, and who knows...you may be the one calling out the flavors and even the origins at your next dinner party!
Create your list of favorites.
Share the wine!