Wine Tasting at Home from The Oxford Wine School
Here's an evening activity for wine lovers to do at home. You don't need a special venue or any equipment beyond a corkscrew and a glass to start wine tasting in your own house.
You may have been to one of our tasting events and been intrigued by the pronouncements of the experts. Or you may be thinking: 'I know I like wine generally and some wines more than others, but how do these wine professionals identify the differences between styles and how is it that they seem to find something to enjoy about a wider variety of wines than I do?' Well if you think you're missing something then maybe you are! Here are a few tips to the uninitiated to help you find even more to enjoy in a glass of wine.
The basic blueprint for professional wine tasting is to consider the three key facets of a wine: Appearance, Aroma, Flavour. Or perhaps an easier formula to remember: Swirl, Sniff, Slurp, Spit.
Once poured take a moment to study the wine and swirl it in the glass.
Does it look rich in colour or more insipid?
Not all white wines are pale lemon in colour, they vary through to gold and even a deep amber. Reds can be a light purple or ruby or a deeper, garnet red turning to rust or tawny when aged. The intensity and shade of colour can be a guide to the youth or maturity of a wine.
See? You can get an idea of the taste just by looking at it!
The aromas of wine are the very essence of the tasting experience. Get the full benefit by swirling the wine some more to release those vapours then put your nose deep into the glass and take a deep sniff.
Few people usually sniff their wine before tasting but doing so brings a big reward. Ask yourself 'what can I smell?' Alcohol? probably. Fruit aromas? Yes but which fruit? Curiously, very few wines actually smell of grapes. You may be reminded of lemon, lime, peaches or pineapple in white wines.
Red wines can give aromas of blackcurrants, raspberries, cherries or plums. If red wines have been aged in oak barrels you may detect hints of vanilla, spice or coconut. Aged white wines can smell of toast, brioche or nutmeg.
There are a myriad of possible reminders that make sniffing and savouring the aromas of wine almost as pleasurable as tasting it!
Never feel the need to apologise for making any sounds necessary to fully appreciate the joys of wine on your palate.
Suck in air as you sip to aerate and amplify the flavours. Wash, rinse and gargle so that the wine covers all the inner surfaces of your mouth and tongue and reaches all the nerves that detect the different components of taste: Sweetness, acidity, saltiness, bitterness, even the drying effect of tannin on the gums in red wine.
All these sensations can be found when you look for them. The fruits that you were reminded of in the aromas may well re-appear as flavours on the palate. There may also be new flavour reminders and sensations as all your senses of taste and smell are stimulated. There are often many flavours apart from fruit to be found in wine. They may be more savoury or spicy or herbaceous.
A wine without these facets would be one-dimensional and boring, so look out for all the fun parts!
Spit or Swallow
Take a few moments to consider how long-lasting the flavours are.
Do they immediately disappear? Or do you find those fruits and that mouth-watering acidity lingering in the mouth? This is the Length or Finish that is often the mark of a good wine.
Spitting out is what the professionals (or those who are driving) may do into a spittoon at a Wine Tasting. Don't be fooled, though. Most tasters will admit to allowing themselves a small swallow, especially when they encounter a wine they find appealing. It's your choice!