Seasoned wine lovers have a language all their own (oaky, legs, tannic, what?), and if you’re new to the world of wine, you may feel intimidated merely saying the word sommelier. But if you’re curious about all the hoopla around wine tasting, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your wine knowledge and your sense of taste.
The best place to start is to book a wine tasting tour or participate in a wine tasting event where the wine is the central focus of the experience and taking your time is expected. Having different wines to compare at the same time also helps you learn to distinguish the nuances. And at any wine tasting event, there will be plenty of people around to answer all your questions.
So go for it! Book a wine tour, jump in, and follow these simple wine tasting tips for beginners.
#1. Slow down
You’ve probably noticed (and even rolled your eyes at) the way wine lovers swirl and swish the wine in their glass before sticking their nose in and sniffing. Although this may look like a pretentious move to the untrained eye, it’s actually a way of getting to know the wine by smell before tasting it. To improve your sense of taste and your wine knowledge, you’ll want to slow down and make it a point to get to know the wine you are drinking.
When you’re just starting out, you don’t have to look for anything in particular, just look at the wine in your glasses. How do they compare? Is one deeper in color than the others? Is one more transparent or more opaque? Now look for the “legs,” or the tears that stream down the side of the wine glass after you swirl. The thicker and slower those tears, the more alcohol content the wine has. In the beginning, don’t worry about what all of it means, just note the differences in what you see.
Swirling the wine gets oxygen into it, allowing it to open up and soften. Once you’ve swirled, stick your nose down deep and inhale. What do you notice? Citrusy aromas? Something peppery? Or do you smell something more floral? It’s ok to ask your wine tasting companions what they smell, but keep in mind that you may not smell the same things they do. People have 450 different types of olfactory receptors, and the combination of those stimulated by any given aroma depends on each person’s particular genetic code. In other words, no two people smell the same thing in the same way. So you don’t have to worry about “getting it right.” Just sniff to see what’s there for you. The more you practice, the more tuned your nose will become to the nuances.
When you taste wines at home, you’ll need to make sure they’re at the right temperature and in the right glasses for optimal tasting. But when you’re on a wine tasting tour, you won’t have to worry about any of that because it’s all taken care of for you. You can get straight to the experience of the wine in your mouth. If you’ve started with a sniff, your taste buds will be sufficiently primed to taste the wine. Take a sip and close your eyes. Does it taste sweet? Bitter? Do the flavors change in your mouth or stay the same the whole way through? Are the flavors big, filling your whole mouth? Or do they stay close to the tongue? When tasting wine, you also want to note the texture of the wine (creamy? dry? juicy?) as well as how long it lingers on the tongue after you’ve swallowed it (or spit it into the spittoon). Just like with sniffing, the more wine you taste and savor, the more you’ll learn about the differences—and the closer you’ll get to discovering and understanding your preferences.
#5. Ask questions
Wine people love to talk wine, and when you’re on a wine tasting tour or at a wine tasting event, questions are expected and welcomed. Don’t be afraid to come off as a novice. Wave your newbie flag proudly. The only thing wine lovers love more than experiencing the wines of the world is converting a beginner into one of their own.
Join Temecula Valley Jeep and Wine Tours for a wine tasting adventure!
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to make a day of it, and wine tasting in Temecula Valley wine country is as good as it gets. Join Temecula Valley Jeep and Wine Tours for a ride through wine country in an open air Jeep and a visit to three local wineries to taste their award winning wines. Grab a friend, and book your tour today.