Wine tasting (often, in wine circles, simply tasting) is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. While the practice of wine tasting is as ancient as its production, a more formalized methodology has slowly become established from the 14th century onwards. Modern, professional wine tasters (such as sommeliers or buyers for retailers) use a constantly evolving formal terminology which is used to describe the range of perceived flavors, aromas and general characteristics of a wine. More informal, recreational tasting may use similar terminology, usually involving a much less analytical process for a more general, personal appreciation.
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Step 1- See
While most of us think of wine as two basic colors, white and red, looking at it closely you will see many variations of these colors. The proper way to (see) wine is to tilt the glass with an inch or less of wine in it, and look down through it against a white surface. Next, notice the depth of color. The darker it is, the more intense the flavor will be. See if it is clear and free of cork or sediment. This will give you a hint as to the age of the wine you taste. As wine ages, it tends to brown which is a natural sign of oxidation. White wines tend to appear amber, yellow or gold as it ages, whereas reds will vary from mahogany to brick red in color.
Always hold the wine glass by the stem and not on the bowl of the glass, as your hand will tend to warm the wine quickly.
Step 2- Swirl
The purpose of swirling the wine is to prepare it for sniffing. Swirling allows oxygen to penetrate the wine and it will release vapors so you can get a good smell of the wine.
If you are not used to swirling your glass in the air, don't worry. It can be properly done on a flat surface. Firmly hold the stem of the wine glass and gently swirl in tiny circles for 20 seconds, or until you can smell the wine's bouquet of vapors being emitted.
Step 3- Sniff
The purpose of sniffing wine before tasting is to give you a preview of what is to come when sipping. Smell is an integral part of tasting as it is more precise and acute. There is no right or wrong way to sniff wine. Some prefer one long inhalation while others may wish to smell in several series of sniffs. Tip the glass up to your face and place your nose down in it, inhale and take in the full range of the wine's bouquet of aromas.
Step 4- Sip/Swish
Finally, it's time to take a sip of the wine you've been (seeing, swirling and smelling)! Take an ample sip, take in a bit of air and let it roll over your tongue, swishing it around to experience the texture and body of the wine. The tongue has different taste sensitivities on different parts of it. The tip of the tongue detects sweetness, the inner sides detect sourness and acidity, the outer sides detect saltiness, and the back detects bitterness and/or alcohol. By swirling or slurping the wine over the tongue, you will experience the maximum impact of the wine you taste.
Professional wine tasters usually don't swallow wine after tasting, but spit it out. This is not necessary, but is recommended if you are attending a wine tasting where you will be trying several different wines. Spitting is the best way to clean your palate after each tasting.
Be sure in this last step to assess the finish! Notice if the aftertaste of wine in your mouth is pleasant, or whether lingers with you for awhile. Depending on the wine, you may pucker or even salivate after spitting or swallowing the wine.
There you have it, the 5 steps to properly taste and experience wine. You have learned to taste wine like a pro!