A few years ago, I got "into" wine-tasting. My timing was lucky because shortly thereafter, the movie Sideways came out. It was a fun, but somewhat expensive hobby (both financially and calorically) but I learned a few things over the years.
Here I won't talk about grape varietals, malolactic fermentation or terroir. You can spend a life-time studying the intricate details about wine and still never learn everything. Wine is an amazing marriage of art and science. This is just a basic Wine 101 tutorial. I didn't make this stuff up- it's what I was taught over the years that I attended tastings and classes.
Wine Tasting/Drinking Do's and Don'ts:
- Don't sniff the cork. I was informed in one of my first wine-tasting courses that this is akin to "sniffing a woman's vagina." Please don't do that. Not in public anyway. (Confession: I can't help doing this at home if I think no one is watching...sniffing the cork, I mean. It's like not blinking when someone blows air in your face.)
- Do pour a small-ish amount of wine into your glass to taste it. A single glass measures exactly 5 ounces (and is much, much smaller than you think- barely more than half a cup). Unless you are in the UK where they measure to the closest milliliter, most bars tend to pour 'heavy' into small glasses. In order to taste the subtleties of wine, you need to swirl the wine in your glass and then inhale the vapors before you drink. If your glass is filled to the top, you can't swirl. Fill it to less than half way up your glass if you have the option, so that you can swirl and sniff.
|This is a 5 oz glass or "one serving" (edited to add...this is 120 calories)|
|Pop Quiz: How many ounces of wine is in this glass?|
|Answer: the single filled-to-the-top glass above contains 24 ounces or nearly FIVE servings of wine (that is almost a whole bottle!)|
- Do return wine that is corked. This is a chemical contamination that can occur with natural cork and it taints the aroma and/or flavor of the wine (though it's not dangerous). Due in part to increasingly poor cork quality, this is occurring more often. Forward-thinking winemakers (Australians, New Zealanders for starters) are switching to metal screw caps and even Mylar-style bags-in-a-box (yes, like extra large Capri Sun for adults!) How do you know if a bottle is corked? You will swirl and sniff...if it smells like gym bag or a wet dog, it's corked. Good restaurants, markets and wine shops will take back a corked bottle of wine without question. Just return the remainder of the bottle.
- Do gently hold the glass by the stem. Not by the bowl. There are a few reasons for this: 1) Your hand is warm and will change the temperature of the wine. 2) You get your fingerprints on the glass 3) Wine gurus deem this is a wine-fashion no-no. This is sort of leaving a comment like "That's Amazeballs!" You are supposed to hold a wine glass as you would hold a delicate flower.
|Correct way to hold the glass|
|Incorrect (but very common) way to hold the glass|
- Do take a small amount of wine in your mouth and swirl it around- including the roof of your mouth. Please don't gargle or make sucky faces at this point, but do coat your whole mouth with the wine. We have taste buds all over our mouth in addition to our tongue, so it heightens the awareness of the flavors.
- Do swallow a small amount and really taste the wine. This isn't the Big Gulp of Diet Coke you had earlier while taking your new kitty to get his vaccinations. OK you didn't, but I did. You're judging. I can feel it.
- Do not order "White Zinfandel" if you are concerned about your wine-drinking reputation. I know that this will shock and sadden many of you, but in wine circles "White Zinfandel" is considered spiked Kool-Aid. It was discovered after a technical accident by a low-end mass-market winery and the quality is known to be 'poor'. Having said that, it is an extremely popular wine outside of wine circles. By the way, wine circles do embrace rosé wines- that is a totally different wine!
- Do 'spit' at tastings (not at restaurants, duh!). At wineries and tasting events, there are 'spit buckets' provided (sorry it sounds so crass - hope you're not eating your chia oatmeal) It is totally acceptable to spit the wine into the containers provided. (Personally I prefer to have an opaque cup for my own personal use. I then empty the contents of the cup into the buckets). Trust me on this...if you taste dozens of sips of wines and swallow all of it, you might need someone to carry you home. And explain the drunk texting, Tweets and Facebook postings to your family and friends.
Q: Do you enjoy wine? Have you been wine-tasting: to a winery or tasting event? Do you have any good drunk texting/emailing/dialing/instagramming stories? Anything to add?