While there are many wine aficionados out there who insist that there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to taste wine, the reality is that wine tastings can be as fun and informal as you would like them to be. That’s especially true for members of the young millennial generation, who think nothing of drinking wine out of boxes, cans and even plastic cups – something that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. That being said, there are certain basics that can make any wine tasting experience more enjoyable.
Setting the context
The best environment in which to hold a wine tasting is a room with plenty of natural light. This enables you to observe the color and hue of the wine more carefully. Of course, you don’t want too much sunlight in the room, but a room with a window view is definitely the best option.
Theoretically, you could conduct a wine tasting with the same glassware that you use for other beverages. However, the best option is a clear, unmarked wine glass with a stem and a gently tapered body. The tapered glass body is important, because it helps a wine to “open up” once it is exposed to the oxygen in the air. And the stem is important because it allows you to taste a wine without warming the wine.
And, of course, it almost goes without saying that you should host your wine tasting event in a venue where you are not exposed to a lot of extra smells. In other words, hosting a wine tasting event next to a busy kitchen area in a restaurant is not the best idea because the entire olfactory experience is impacted by all the competing smells. Keep in mind – when it comes to tasting wine, the sense of smell is arguably just as important as the sense of taste, so you want to give each wine a chance to shine in a neutral tasting environment.
Creating a theme
One way to elevate the wine tasting experience is by choosing a theme for the event. This theme might be based on a certain wine region (e.g. the wines of Napa Valley), a certain wine variety (e.g. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon) or a certain type of wine (e.g. organic or biodynamic wines).
As your wine tasting skills get advanced, that is when you can start to introduce the concept of the “blind tasting.” This is when you can use all of your senses in order to truly appreciate the characteristics of the wine, all without knowing which wine you will be tasting in advance.
An important point of any wine tasting is being able to record notes about each wine. It’s best to jot down notes as you experience a wine, rather than waiting until later. Over time, you will get better and better at writing down notes, and prioritizing each aspect of the wine. Even a Master Sommelier, who is expected to be able to recognize six different wines by vintage, grape variety, country, region and appellation within just a 25-minute period, follows the same basic routine as a novice wine drinker, carefully recording notes about how a wine smells, how it looks, and what it tastes like.
The key components of tasting wine
When thinking about tasting wine, the most important point is to engage as many of your senses as possible. As some wine critics and educators point out, tasting a wine should be a “full body experience.” Thus, it is possible to break down the process of tasting wine into several key components:
By taking each of these factors into account, you will be able to make knowledgeable guesses about where a wine is from, what grapes were used to make it, and perhaps even the actual winemaking process used to make it. And, best of all, you will increase your overall level of enjoyment with each wine tasting experience.