I hate tasting wine in front of people. I never know what to say and I'm always apologizing for my impaired nose and palate. To save my self-esteem, here are 8 rules to wine tasting that are not bullsh*t: (1) The ways to describe a wine are endless. Unless you’re starring in Somm 3, stick to the basics – body, taste, finish; (2) Don’t feel bad if you don’t like a wine everybody else loves; (3) What you dislike today you may love tomorrow – remember that Ornellaia last year when you thought a Super Tuscan was a Marvel Comics superhero? It will taste different now that you know it’s not; (4) You’re not a wine critic, so you're not expected to taste and evaluate the same way they do. Full post and the other 4 rules at thetipsywriter.com
#1. K.I.S.S: Keep it simple, sweetheart
There are hundreds of ways to describe how a wine tastes but unless you’re planning to star in Somm 3, I suggest sticking to three: the body, the taste, and the finish. Is it light-, medium-, or full-bodied? Does it taste sweet or savory? There are some sweet fruity notes that can be easily identified ― berries like raspberry, blackberries, or blueberries for red wine or crisp fresh fruits like apple, peach, lemon, or pineapple for white wine. Savory, on the other hand, are those that generally taste more smoky, leathery, or spicy. That’s enough to get you by. Forget the “piss on stone” or “dew on grass” and all that other stuff. And finally, the finish. How long does the taste linger? Long ― good; short ― not so good.
#2. Be honest with yourself
It’s OK if you don’t like a wine, even if it’s one you’re supposed to like. Admittedly, it can be tough when you have the winemaker himself watching you expectantly as you taste. In such cases, lie through your teeth. I said be honest with yourself, not necessarily with others.
#3. It’s OK to change your mind
You may change your mind about a wine and that’s OK. Tasting an Ornellaia a year ago when you thought Super Tuscan was a Marvel Comics hero and tasting it now that you know it is not, makes a world of difference. What you like today, you may dislike tomorrow ― and vice versa.
#4. Don’t be swayed by snobby tendencies
Research shows that we respond differently to bottles with Old World labels with unpronounceable French names or incomprehensible Italian words and to New World labels with cute little animals, bright colors, and the grape varietal splashed out on the front. The more Old World the wine, the more snobby we feel our palates have to be about it. To circumvent this and humble yourself, drink blind.
#5. The critic is no regular Joe
Ratings are given by wine experts and wine experts are not your average drinker. He regularly visits châteaux in Bordeaux, hangs out with the Frescobaldis, and may have laid his hands on the actual billionaire’s vinegar (the 1787 Lafite, not the book). He tastes wine for a living. His review can send a winemaker soaring high or crashing down to earth. He lives in a universe you and I will never know. And we’re relying on him to tell us what to drink and think? What he looks for in a wine is very different from what we look for in a wine, especially when what we’re looking for is a happy, easy bottle for under $35.
#6. Forget the ratings, reviews, and stars
Sure, ratings are important for certain categories of wine, like a first-growth Bordeaux or a top-end Burgundy. When you’re talking about bottles costing in the region of thousands of dollars and above, ratings are critical indications of quality, but when you’re talking about a $35 bottle from the shop to drink with a pizza you tossed in the microwave on a Wednesday night, forget it. To ratings, I say start your own, for yourself.
#7. Tasting is not drinking
Drinking is drinking whereas tasting is tasting – complete with the thoughtful expression, clinical atmosphere, fervent note-taking, and spitting. Unless you’re going the spittoon route – I tried it once and found it impossible to spit with dignity – forget tasting. Just drink. Relax and have fun with it.
#8. The million-dollar question
The million-dollar question to ask is not how the wine tastes, how it smells, or even how good you look swirling it in your hand. The questions are, in order of importance: Do you want another glass? Would you recommend it to a friend? Would you pay money to buy it again?