#1. The Newbie’s Guide To Wine Tastings

You’ve been invited to a wine tasting.  Don’t panic and turn down the invitation. Just read this guide before attending and you will have a lot of fun.

The dress code of such events usually ranges from semi formal to black tie.  No need to rush out for a tuxedo though.  A semi formal, New England chic will work well.  A simple cocktail dress for women  and nice jeans with a dress shirt, tie, and jacket work well for men.

At a wine tasting, the glass of wine you receive is, usually, two thirds full.  When you receive it,  first look down into the glass, then, hold it up to the light, next, swirl the wine lightly in the glass.   This will allow you to view the wine’s true color and depth , not just the darker appearing  center.

Newbie’s usually don’t care very much about a wine’s color.  Those more experienced with wine can tell a lot from the wine’s color, such as the wine’s density, saturation, and even the type of grape used to make it.

After swirling the wine, smell it.  Bend your nose over the glass and sniff a couple of times.   Pause to evaluate the smell.   You probably won’t be subject to off aromas at a wine tasting, but you never know.   Wine that smells like a musty attic is spoiled. Don’t drink it.    Wine that smells like burned matches has been bottled with way too much SO2.   Again, don’t drink it.     A smell like vinegar indicates that the vine has aged too long or turned too acidic.   Don’t drink.     A nail polish like smell also indicates spoiled wine.  Don’t drink it , either.

Another less common bad smell is one of sweaty saddle leather.   That means too much undesirable yeast.  Again, do not drink.

Good wine can have a lot of different smells.   Floral aromas, fruit odors, herbs, spices, vegetables, caramel, vanilla,  roasted nuts, coffee, chocolate, etc.  The possibilities are almost endless.

After smelling the wine, take a small sip and swirl it around in your mouth before swallowing.  What you are looking for is all of the flavors in the wine.   Newbies are usually just worried about if it tastes good or not.   Those with more experience tend to concentrate on the flavors and look for balanced flavor that is harmonious, complex, and fully evolved, with a lingering  finish.

A wine is said to be balanced if it has all the basic flavor components; salty, sweet, sour, bitter  are in proportion.   Too salty is very bad.  Too sour is just as bad.  Too bitter isn’t great. Too sweet is slightly better but a balance is what is ideal.    If the wine is young , meaning it was made one or two years ago, it will not age well if it does not have a good balance of flavor.   If the wine is aged, it did not hold up well and may be beyond its peak.

Harmonious wine is wine when all the flavor elements blend seamlessly. In other words, they don’t have edges where one stops and another begins.  Blended flavors transition smoothly.

Complexity in wine is hard to describe in words.  It’s several different elements fusing together into a larger picture.  A complex wine can paint a picture of flavors of a whole feast in your mouth, as well as aromas. The more you slowly sip and savor a complex wine the more flavors it shows you.

A finish is  an after taste. In other words, it is the flavor or flavors in your mouth after you swallow.  A bitter, unpleasant finish is bad and indicates a wine of poor quality. Pleasant flavors that linger over time is the mark of a good finish in wine.

Wine tastings usually offer tasty tidbits like cheese, crackers,  raw veggies, and dip to go with the wine.  Sometimes music and/ or art displays abound, as well.  Nibble, sip wine, and chat with the others attending.  Good conversation starters include,  “Have you tried the _____ ?  If the answer is yes, then follow it with,  “What were your impressions of it?”   Agree or disagree and go from there.   Soon, you will be well on your way to appreciating the art form of wine.


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