There are times in life when a glass of wine is simply a means to an end. On a first date, it’s the perfect way to relax into convivial conversation with a potential second date or, alternatively, to fill in those awkward pauses during a chemistry-free encounter. And after a long day at the office making sure other people are doing their jobs so you can do yours, there is no better way to kick back and unwind at home.
Then there are those moments that wine is a much more meaningful experience, more elevated, more revelatory. Maybe someone’s opened a special bottle of red wine to be enjoyed amongst good friends, or perhaps you find yourself in a mood to taste and appreciate all the artisanal sensuality of the pinot noir that’s living inside that bottle. If you’ve been feeling the latter as of late, but don’t know how to put all those wine feelings into words, we know exactly how you feel. And we’re here to help.
So you can get to know and describe the personalities of the wines you love with a bit more alacrity, we’ve assembled a wine tasting primer–which is pretty simple, really. Just take a moment to focus your attention on the wine in your glass, then engage your senses in the tastes and flavors they’re picking up–in three easy pieces.
1. SEE THE WINE
Hold your wine up, preferably against a white background. Consider its shade.
For white wines, the spectrum runs from a very light, nearly clear hue to a much more hearty and flame-like yellow. The lighter shade is telling you that the wine you’re about to taste be much brighter and lighter, while a darker tone will have a much heavier and fuller taste.
The same standard holds true for red. A lighter red wine will taste more refreshing, like a picnic on a warm afternoon, while a darker color is the kind of wine one normally associates with red: hearty and earthy like it’s arm-wrestled you to the ground and won.
2. SMELL THE WINE
Stick your nose deep into that glass and get a good nostril-full. Observe its aromas.
You’re into the dance like no one’s watching part of wine tasting. Don’t worry about it. Just go with it! You’re beginning to appreciate a living art, and to do so, you must be present with all those incendiary smells. So what is your nose telling you that you’re smelling? (There is no right answer here, as everyone’s chemical make-up is going to tell them each something different!) Reds are usually earthier, while whites are a little more ethereal. See what you can detect. When you’re finished, time to move on to the part you’ve been waiting for. Drinking.
3. SIP THE WINE
Finally! The part you’ve been waiting for. Take a medium-sized sip and let the wine roll around in your mouth or just sit a moment. Think about how it tastes.
Does the wine get you swaying from side to side (like Aziz) or does it leave you feeling kind of meh? What are some of the flavors you’re detecting? Do any of the aromas you just picked up also resonate with your mouth? Is it dry or sweet? Robust or refreshing? Does it make you think of an over-heated café where two older, well-dressed gentlmen sit in old-timey caps, maybe a sawed-off shotgun in the corner? Then maybe you’ve got a Sicilian wine in your hand.
There is no right or wrong here. Tipple with confidence!