6 Tips To Look Like A Pro On A Wine Tour Tasting

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When our GuideAdvisor team went to Napa Valley, we learned that the best way to taste wine is not by swilling it directly out of the bottle. (Nor should you just stick a straw into a barrell and suck, apparently.) Under the guidance of an amazing crew of wine tour guides, we learned the six steps for proper tasting. Here they are:

#1. Spy

Holding your wine glass by the stem, tilt it about 45 degrees, preferably against a white backdrop our towards the light. (Do not drink wine in a dark room.. It makes it harder to cheers.) Note the wine’s clarity and how the colour changes from the centre to the edges. White wines become darker as they age while red wines tend to lose their colour, becoming somewhat brownish. Can you see a small amount of sediment at the bottom of the glass? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as excellent bottles of old wine occasionally succumb to a certain amount of sedimentation.

#2. Swirl

This next step takes a bit of practice. Holding the glass by the stem, rotate your wrist (not your arm) in a clockwise direction until the wine starts swirling up the side of the glass. (Do not swirl too hard or to fast as you’ll just end up soaking someone in it.) By swishing around the contents of the glass, you infuse it with oxygen, which helps aromas open up, and it’s easier to note the wine’s “legs.”

#3. See

After you’ve swirled the glass and there is wine running down the sides (hopefully the inside and not the outside) take a look at how slowly the liquid runs down the side of the glass. This is indicative of the wine’s viscosity or as it’s also known… it’s “legs”. If the liquid runs down the glass slowly, this means it’s more viscous and could indicate a higher alcohol content or that it’s a more full-bodied wine.

#4. Sniff

Do not pull a “Roxanne” and stick your entire nose into the glass! Simply hold it so that the rim is a few centimetres away from your upper lip and then tip the glass towards you until your nose is just slightly past the rim and into the glass. Now sniff (not too loudly). What do you smell? If you catch a whiff of vanilla it could mean the wine was aged in oak barrels. Look at the list below to see other scents that are commonly attributed to certain varieties.

  • Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, melon, lime
  • Chardonnay – apple, peach, pear, citrus fruits
  • Syrah (aka Shiraz) – dark fruits and black pepper
  • Pinot Noir – floral, red fruits
  • Zinfandel – fruit jam, dark spices
  • Merlot – plum, floral, red and dark fruits
  • Cabernet – black currant, cherry

#5. Sip

Take a small sip and “roll” the wine around in your mouth exposing it to all of your taste buds. (Do not swish it around like it’s mouthwash though.) There are more than 10,000 taste buds in your mouth you want to reach in order to detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury. Don’t swallow yet! Now you want to “aspirate through the wine” meaning to introduce some air to it. With your lips pursed as if you were about to whistle, draw a tiny amount of air into your mouth and exhale through your nose. This frees up even more aromas that you weren’t able to detect when it was in the glass.

#6. Swallow

Swallow and savour the flavours. Or, if you’re driving or doing a lot more tasting that day, spit it out instead… look around as there will be spitoons provided somewhere.

And that’s it. You’re ready to hit the wine tour circuit anywhere on the globe. Check out all the cool spots you can head to now to test out all your newly developed skills. Happy sipping. Salud!

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