For the first time in recent years, more Americans are consuming wine over beer. I personally enjoy both. Wine, however, runs through my veins as my first taste of it was a red wine, probably Gallo from a jug mixed with water at 3 years old with the adults at some holiday gathering. In spite of this interesting statistic (maybe a bit boring too) even a few of my closest friends and family who are no strangers to wine, are unsure about what they like. I think this is because they think they “should” like something or “should not.”
They find wine intimidating. It is true that there is so much to learn about wine. At the end of the day, it is really meant to enjoy, and everyone’s enjoyment is completely subjective. Hopefully that is a relief to some of you!
I confess that I too once held stereotypes and perceptions of what I liked or “should” like. For example it took my Roman friends to get me to like and appreciate white wine. Two whites from the South of Italy, Falanghina and Greco di Tufo, changed my mind about white. Since then, I’ve tried many I have liked and still some that I do not. At least I keep an open mind.
So, how does one taste wine in a way that you can decide if it’s something you enjoy...or not? I took the plunge into the world of professional wine tasting through the International Sommelier Guild and quickly learned how to look at the wine, swirl it, gently at first as it takes practice, and then stick my not so small nose right in that glass and let my mind free associate with the aroma. Did I smell citrus or tropical fruits? Spices? Herbs? Or something entirely else.
I learned to swirl again and then took a small sip, loudly swished it around my tongue and coated my gums. Did I make the same conclusions with my taste buds as I did when I sniffed it?
I also learned about countries, dozens of different grapes, regions, towns, weather, soil, laws and more.
Fortunately, the vast majority of you do not need to!
Here are some tips to tasting wine and still enjoy it and not feel like you need to analyze that grape juice.
Have the server (or you) pour just a finger’s width in the glass. Swirl it gently first as this allows oxygen to interact with the wine and brings out its aroma.
Don’t worry about appearances and right after you swirl and the wine is still moving, stick your nose somewhat in the glass and breathe deeply. Just think about what kind of fruit the wine resembles. Is it citrus, tree fruit (cherry, plum), or maybe berry like? Do you smell anything else? Wet stone? dirt? Mushroom? Grass? Plastic? There is no wrong answer!
Now the best part: Sip it! Go for it. Swish it around in your mouth, maybe even through your teeth, the idea being to coat all of your tongue. Don’t be ashamed if a drop trickles out. What kinds of fruit does it resemble? Perhaps you taste something else. It’s all pretty subjective especially when you are just starting out.
There is so much more to mention, but for now that’s enough of a tip to impress your just as nervous friends about wine as you friends.
As they say in Italy when they toast...Cin Cin!