I swear, California is one big winery! No matter the direction, if your summer plans have you driving this way or that way, chances are, you'll pass right by a winery. And you know what that means: wine tasting!
To get you on the right track with this, here is PART 1 of a three-part series of wine tasting. This won't teach you about vintages or how to be a snob; this is just to get your feet wet and solid in the game of tasting wines. You don't want to look like an awkward newbie!
For starters, you want to hold the glass correctly. This means NOT HOLDING the vessel part. Instead, grip the stem as this will prevent excess heat from your hands from distorting the flavor profile of the wine.
First whiffs. As soon as the wine is poured you want to take in some immediate whiffs. You're not necessarily 'smelling' the wine at this point. Instead, you're checking for odors. 'Off' odors can indicate whether or not the wine was bottled or handled correctly. It's also a good indication of whether the wine is spoiled or not.
Avoid whiffs of odors that are:
Musty, mildew, or attic-like
Tip the glass gently at an angle. This is going to bring a wider surface area to the wine, allowing it to breathe. But you also do this to catch a better glimpse of the coloration of the wine. Compare the outer edges of the wine to the bodied wine at the center. Note the hues.
So what are you looking for exactly? Color and clarity. While color isn't a true marker of quality, you want to see how it's aged because older wines lose the red and turn brownish. Also, when it comes to clarity, you want to avoid hazy or murky wines. It should be clear.
If you notice what appears to be debris at the bottom of the glass, do not panic. It's natural sediment and commonly occurs with red wines. It's not a bad sign.
Gently swirl the wine in the glass. Don't go nuts, be gentle. The process is aerating to get as much flavor developed by bringing it to the surface. Wine takes a moment to open up after it's been poured. This is the blooming period.
Holding the glass a few inches from your nose, begin to sniff the wine. Gradually bring your nose close enough that it's inside the glass without touching. The smell of the wine at this point is pointed at taste. So, if it smells good, you'll most likely enjoy the taste. If the smell is off-putting, you can bet it's going to be a rough glass of wine.
So what are you looking for? Think logically. Think about fruits, nuts, earth....
For more wine tasting click here for Part 2: Tasting the wine.