We’ve all been there before – someone we believe to be more knowledgable than us starts spouting terms and descriptors about the wine we are drinking and we nod along as if understanding. We are actually thinking “what the heck are they talking about?” or “I’m not tasting that at all!”. You need to remember everyone’s palate is subjective and every level of experience is different. They have trained their palate to pick out these flavors which enhances their drinking experience and you can too!
When I started drinking wine it was entry-level and anything priced above $10 was lost on me. That’s not to say there aren’t good wines below that price point but, some of the nuances can be traded for drinkability and price point.
A simple technique that can add pleasure to what’s in your glass is: Swirl, Sniff and Sip. Pour a small amount of wine in your glass as not to spill when you Swirl. This is done to release the aromas so that when you Sniff you will be able to pick out some of the flavors. This is sometimes called the “bouquet” or “the nose”. Then, Sip; here is where you taste the subtleties of the wine. You may even chew on the wine or pull it through your teeth. You’ve probably seen (and heard) people pulling air into their mouth with the wine. It sounds a bit like slurping. Again, the air releases the nuances in the wine. I’ve tried this several times only to dribble down my chin…..kinda embarrassing, so if I feel the need to aerate in my mouth I pull and chew.
A Chardonnay could have stone fruit, apple, citrus, melon, along with, butter, honey and toasty oak.
A Sauvignon Blanc could have grapefruit, lime, grass, bell pepper and green melon.
A Pinot Noir could have roses, cocoa cola, black or red cherry, cherry pie, raspberry, currants or plum. Can have a pleasant earthy taste.
A Merlot could have berry, plum, black cherry, chocolate, all on soft, light notes.
Zinfandels can be sweet and jammy or taste of blackberry with peppery notes.
Cabernet Sauvignon– cherry, dark berry and mocha.
Here are a few terms you may have heard:
- Wines that are high in tannins have a mouthfeel similar to eating walnuts or drinking strong black tea.
- A wine that under goes malolactic fermentation has a softer, creamy mouthfeel. This is when malic acid (which is strong) is converted to lactic acid which is lighter.
- Body is the feeling of weight in your mouth when you drink a glass of wine. So a light bodied wine would be like skim milk and a full-bodied wine would be like whole milk.
- Palate refers to the way a wine feels and tastes on your tongue.
- Finish is the sense and perception of the wine after it has been swallowed.
Over the last couple of years we’ve discovered some resources that make wine sense to us. Among them are:
- Wine Notes which is a free iPhone app that allows you to log the details of wine as you are drinking it. It is user-friendly and has pictures of flavors you tap on to describe.
- The Snooth Wine app is also a great resource if you want details about wine on the go. It shows nearby wine stores and allows you to look up wines by color, price, country, flavor and varietal.
- Hubby loves the Cor.kz Wine Info app. It allows him log every wine in our cellar as well as search the database on over 1 million wines and do side by side comparisons which comes in handy when you are out and about.
- Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast are both great in print and online resources.
- Where I live, World Market has tastings Saturday afternoons and Total Wine has tastings on weekends. You can also sign up for the email list of your favorite local wine shop – they often have free or low-cost tastings and offer great recommendations for off the beaten path wines.
- Another great resource is Costco. They have some of the lowest prices I’ve seen and the larger stores often have a knowledgable wine staff. Additionally, check out the Costco wine blog.
So there you have it, the basics in a nutshell. Be sure to experiment and try your new favorite wines with and without food…..it can enhance the qualities you love about your favorite varietal. So remember, drink what you love but don’t be afraid to try new wines. Most of all enjoy yourself and don’t take this too seriously; it’s supposed to be fun!
Until next time, Cheers to you!