A 4-step approach to improve your wine-tasting confidence

This post attempt at giving you simple tips to build up on your tasting ability, and ultimately on your enjoyment of wine. I find it sad to hear my friends not daring to speak up about how they like or don’t like such wine, because they are scared to say the wrong thing – scared to sound ridiculous – scared to be seen as gross. There is no big secret about tasting wine, it is like smelling a perfume really, you might just find it yeah! or nay… And sometimes you might be inspired to elaborate a little on what your senses capture. And like anything, senses may require a little practice to develop some level of comfort.

*This picture was taken during a tasting at Chateau Haut-Brion, a beautiful castle with a fantastic winery in the Bordeaux region.

*This picture was taken during a tasting at Chateau Haut-Brion, a beautiful castle with a fantastic winery in the Bordeaux region.

So please keep reading and next thing you will find yourself doing is cracking a couple of bottles, getting a cute notebook and off you go, you have a new hobby!

Your starter kit:

  • Wine at room temperature for red, slightly chilled for white (check the label, they usually provide this info)
  • Real wine glasses
  • A glass of water
  • Bread or crackers to wash your palate (see previous post on wine as for why)
  • A notebook

Now you have open the wine and hopefully it had couple of hours to breath, but if not, this should not refrain you to continue! so let’s go to learn this 4-step approach to wine tasting:  the 4 notes of the wine chord

  • The smell: open your nostril and smell like it is the most extravagant perfume in the world: that mean slowly with your full awareness. And let the images appear… fruits… wood… fall season… moist grass… This is it. Trust your senses and move on. One to three images are just fine. You are building a story.
  • The attack: This is the first sensation your tong receive when you sip the wine. It is to y experience a strong and sharp moment that I compare to biting in a ripe fruit. Again here let the image or the action verb express itself in your mind. Sherry, Strawberry, Honeysuckle… Again here, it is a quick and fugitive impression. Don’t over-think it, and accept that you might just think about .. red wine…
  • The expression: keep the wine in your mouth and take the time to turn the liquid and the air in your mouth. The wine will open up and you will be aware of the texture – viscous, tangy, thick – as well as the underlying flavors that again will bring images or sensations. From my experience, this is the moment where I recall more complex visions like freshly baked bread… woods in early fall at sunrise, cold honey with lemon zest… Let the story continue.
  • The final note: this is the taste that is left in your mouth after you swallowed the wine (or elegantly spit it in a crachoir). At this time, because you have so much oxygen coming in your mouth, the oxidization phenomena brings up a new layer of flavors to the wine, which in my view are more on the low tone, earthy bold type of thing. This is the closure of your story.

VinNotebookIf you apply yourself to practice these four steps, it will really change your approach of wine. I do use a notebook and record the flavors, images or sensations I capture during a tasting. After a while, I find it very interesting to refer to it, and it can help me to chose a good wine to match a dish I want to serve at dinner for my guests.

Share your experience! there is no wrong answer, only the pleasure of the senses…


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