When a sommelier describes a wine in the most poetic terms, you almost feel a twinge of envy. You wonder how one divines all those notes, and wish in all earnestly to sound just as pro as him.
As the makers of some of the finest Indian wines, we are often asked this question. How does one master the art of wine tasting? While the process of wine tasting is rather straight forward, it takes practice and training of the senses to pick the subtle nuances of aromas and flavours. Our techniques and tips can you get you started.
Wine tasting primarily engages your olfactory system and your taste buds. Training your senses to heightened awareness will help you appreciate the beauty of your wine better.
1. Work on your sense of smell
The sense of smell plays a very crucial role in wine tasting. It doesn’t just come into play when you are taking a whiff of your wine (othronasal olfaction, or breathing through the nose), it also plays a part in the tasting (retronasal olfaction, or breathing with the back of your nose).
To develop your ability to pick various smells, you must expose yourself to them and tuck them away in your memory. Remember, smells have a very strong memory trigger.
So, the next time you’re in a vegetable/fruit market or a spice bazaar, make sure you sneak a sniff at all the wares. Be unapologetic about it. This is the best way to familiarize yourself with unfamiliar smells.
2. Learn to pick aromas in the wine
Before you sniff your wine, give it a gentle swirl. Make sure the glass is filled only to a third. Place it on the table, pinch the stem with your thumb, index finger and middle finger and gently swirl it around. This will help release the aromas by introducing oxygen into the wine. Close your eyes and try to pick out the various aromas.
If you’re a beginner, don’t try to pick apart every minute detail. Start with broader smells. Do you perceive citrusy fragrances? Or something fruity? Or floral? Or herbal? With a little practice, you might be able to pick aromas that were infused at the winemaking stage, like the nutty ones. And with some more time and practice, you might even be able to pick the smells that come with aging, like that of oak, vanilla, etc.
3. Taste it
Our taste buds can pick five flavours – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Wines are either sweet, acidic (sour), or tannic (bitter). What do these flavours feel like?
– Sweet: This one’s the easiest to identify. Imagine drinking a glass of sugary sweet water. It leaves a thick warm feeling in the mouth.
– Sour: When you have a glass of lime juice (without salt or sugar), your saliva feels liquid-y, and there’s a feeling freshness.
– Bitter: This is what over-steeped tea would taste like. Your mouth dries up when you have a few sips of this.
Now you understand these sensations. Go ahead and take a sip of your wine and see what you feel. Swallow it and then savour the retronasal effect.
4. Describe it
Take notes, try more wines, compare them to the ones you’ve had already, and make a profile of all your experiences. With time, polish your language and get more descriptive.
Begin your practice today, and we’ll get into more details as we progress.