Wine has surged in popularity over the past ten years. Many people enjoy wine a few times a week, but not everyone knows how to make the most of it. The art of wine tasting and appreciation does not have to be an exclusive activity. Everyone can learn how to taste wine and how to make the ideal pairings with wine and food. By exploring different types of wine, you can learn what your palate is like and find the best possible wines for every occasion.
What to Look For
First, look at your wine in neutral lighting and take note of the color. Wine colors range from a pale straw color to a deep shade of purple-black. Look through the side of the glass in neutral lighting and see whether the wine is clear or cloudy.
Before you drink, you should smell the wine. You may be able to pick out certain scents, or “notes,” as you take in the aroma. Swirl the wine gently in your glass to release more of the delicious flavors. Wine testers use a common vocabulary of scents. You may want to write down all the different aromas that you can catch in the scent of the wine.
The most common scents you will pick up on are the primary notes. These aromas are related to the grape itself. Fruit scents are the most common. It doesn’t matter how many notes you can pick up at first. Wine tasting is not a contest. Developing your palate may take time, but you’ll enjoy the process.
For example, a Sauvignon Blanc has bright notes that resemble tree fruits like apricot, peach, or apple. A Chardonnay has citrus and pineapple notes depending on the sweetness of the wine. Among red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec often have flavor notes reminiscent of blackberries and fruits. Blueberry, fig, and black cherry are common. Wines known for red fruit flavors are Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Grenache.
The second and third aromas add another layer of complexity to your wine. The secondary aromas are related to the way the wine is produced. These scents are often related to the yeast used to ferment the wine and will be easiest to spot in white wines. These scents include fresh-baked bread, cheese, and beer.
The third level of the aroma is related to how the wine is stored. Most inexpensive wines are aged in the bottle, though many are aged in oak. Some tasters pick up on savory aromas like oak, leather, coffee, and chocolate scents, among others. Make a note of the aromas you find.
How to Savor Wine
After you have thoroughly explored the scent, taste your wine. Take a small sip and hold it in your mouth for a moment. Let it contact all the parts of your tongue to pick out as many flavors as possible. You can determine which flavors are most prominent when you taste it. Note whether the wine is sweet or dry. Dry wines taste more sour than sweet wines. You can also note whether the wine has many tannins, the natural substance that makes your mouth feel a little dry.
You may find that the flavor notes change when you drink the wine. This happens because your tongue can pick out flavors that your nose misses. Make a note of whether the wine has a few prominent notes or whether it is rich with complex flavors. You will find that red wines often have more layers of taste than white wines.
Cleansing Your Palate
If you are trying a number of different wines, you will need to cleanse your palate. Water is the best palate cleanser, but you might need something more substantial. Water crackers are perfect for the job. Avoid cheese and butter on your crackers so that these flavors don’t interfere with the wine. A good slice of crusty bread is also an excellent palate cleanser.
Different Wines for Different Occasions
The art of pairing food and wine can involve trial and error. These basic pairing ideas will get you started, but you are by no means limited by them. For example, try a white wine or a rosé with meat dishes to change things up.
Generally, wines are paired based on the type of protein in the dish. Red wines are associated with beef and lamb, while white wines are associated with poultry and fish. Here are a number of wines and their traditional food pairings.
- Chardonnay: Smooth-tasting whites are great with oily fish like salmon. They are also perfect for fish dishes served in a rich sauce.
- Champagne: You may think of champagne as a dessert wine, but dry champagne is great with salty, crunchy foods.
- Sauvignon Blanc: This wine is light and tart. It goes well with citrus-infused dishes and light cheeses.
- Moscato: This sweet wine goes beautifully with fruity desserts.
- Rosé: This wine is great with rich, cheesy dishes.
- Pinot Noir: Try with earthy flavors like truffles and mushrooms.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet is perfect with a juicy cut of meat. It is also perfect for grilled foods.
- Malbec: This big, bold red can stand up to barbecued dishes with sauce and heavy spices.
The Art of Wine Tasting
Savoring and appreciating the flavors of a good wine can enhance your experience. Don’t feel intimidated by the process of building your palate. It’s not a competition, and no one will think less of you if you can’t taste all of the flavors. Wine tasting takes practice, and the process is fun and educational. Slow down and savor your wine for the best possible experience.
Savoring wine along with food brings out the flavor of the food and the wine. When you are pairing wines with food, don’t feel limited by standard recommendations. When you experiment with different flavors, you will build your palate and find creative new uses for your favorite wines.