Wine Tasting

In addition to focusing on Israeli wine, I want to provide some basic instructions for new wine drinkers, perhaps of the Millenial Generation. I’ve seen too many people either filling up their wine to the brim or just drinking wine as if it were a soft drink, that it’s worth emphasizing some basic – and also more advanced – points. As I have repeatedly said, I’m not critic and others have far more refined palates than me, but there are some basics for anyone serving wine, whether at a party, holiday meal, or formal wine tasting.

WINE DON’TS

  • Don’t serve wine in inappropriate stemware. I’m not saying you need $100 Riedel glasses, but wine shouldn’t be served in a plastic cup or a regular drinking glass. It doesn’t allow the wine to flourish and is often extremely thick, which harms the taste and diminishes enjoyment. Use a balloon glass, and the more sophisticated you are, the better the glass, but minimally a basic balloon glass that is big enough to fill in enough wine but leave most of it empty to allow the wine to breathe.
  • Don’t fill up a wine glass more than a third or a half. To fill it up all the way is extremely crude, and, above all, doesn’t allow the wine to breathe and doesn’t allow proper swirling. If you fill it up all the way, you won’t be able to smell the full aroma or enjoy the wine to its fullest.

So HOW DO YOU TASTE WINE?

Look: Check out the Color and Clarity.

Pour the wine into a suitable wine glass and then tilt the glass. It helps if you hold the wine up to a light or a white background (it could be a piece of paper, a napkin, or a table cloth). The wine (of whatever color) ought to be clear, not cloudy. If it’s cloudy, there is a chemical/bacterial problem with the wine. If it’s brown, it’s probably gone bad.

Is the wine light or dark? Dull or brilliant? Clear or cloudy? Can you see sediment or cork floating in the wine?

Smell

Our sense of smell is critical in analyzing and tasting wine. In fact, when we taste anything, what we are really doing is smelling it. Swirling your glass will help expose the wine to oxygen and allow the bouquet of the wine to really come out. It helps if you swirl gently while the base of the glass remains on the table.

Put your entire nose into it – don’t be shy! Inhale deeply and try to smell the different nuances of the wine. Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.

Taste: But don’t swallow yet

Don’t swallow too soon! Let your entire mouth and all your tastebuds get a sense of the different characteristics of the wine.

Get a sense of the initial impressions – sweet or sour? Dry? Alcoholic? Tannic (does it dry out your mouth?)? Acidic? How do the components come together?

How does the wine evolve as it is in your mouth? Does it calm down? Do you taste it evolving? Do you sense subtle fruit or other characteristics? What is coming out (is it an oak monster, as Gary Vaynerchuk calls heavily oaked wine?)

Swallow – slowly, and enjoy the different components. But wait – you’re not done yet. How’s the finish – a.k.a. the aftertaste? Is there a short finish or a long finish? Does it dry your mouth? Is it light bodied or full bodied? Was there a unique flavor component at the end? Think about the overall balance and components of the wine.

And the next step? Drink more wine (hopefully Israeli!) and let your palate evolve and learn more. Practice, practice, practice, and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!