With the Barossa Valley Gourmet Weekend just gone, our region saw a lot of wine tasting over this past weekend, which reminded me of a story I heard the first time our winemaker Jo Irvine spoke at our annual members’ event. Jo talked about what it was like growing up in her dad Jim Irvine’s winery, learning to taste wine from a very young age and how she started simply with the yuk / yum method. Love it!
So, whether you enjoy wine simply because it ‘tastes like grapes’ as one of our long-time wine members so eloquently puts it, or you’re on a journey of discovery, keen to learn all you can about this delicious nectar of the gods, read our top tips on the art of wine tasting, to make you look like a pro the next time you head out for a glass of wine!
How to wine taste like a boss:
Wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine.
For some, wine tasting comes like second nature after years of training, experience and enjoyment. For others, it can be daunting and seem like unattainable knowledge, and when articles and blogs read more like an essay in a foreign wine-language than a simple how-to guide, it’s easy to give up.
However, we don’t think it should be that complex. Yes, there is a definite art to wine tasting, but understanding the basics should be easy and most of all… FUN!
So, here’s our introductory Brockenchack tips on how to wine taste like a boss (or at least look like you know what you’re doing):
- Visual inspection
First things first, take a good look at the wine. Pour the wine into a suitable wine glass and then check out the color, clarity, and what’s known as ‘viscosity’ (the thickness/wine legs). A few tips when checking out the wine;
- Sediment can indicate an older wine
- Red wines are darker when they are young and lose color as they age
- White wines start out lighter in color and become more gold or brown as they get older
- Higher viscosity (indicated by thicker legs or tears on the sides of the glass) tells you that a wine has high alcohol or has a high sugar content
Don’t overthink this stage though, only spend about five seconds assessing the appearance of the wine.
- Take a good sniff
When you first smell the wine, think big to small. Meaning, think first of broad categories like what fruit characteristics can you smell? For whites it could be citrus, orchard, or tropical fruits or for reds it might be red fruits, blue fruits, or black fruits. Don’t get tied down looking for specific notes, this can get super frustrating.
Generally, you can divide the smell of a wine into three main categories:
- Grape derived smells that include fruits, herbs, and floral notes
- Secondary smells that come from the actual winemaking process. The most common aromas are from the influence of yeast and are easiest to smell in white wines.
- The third category of smells come from aging, usually in bottle, but also from the winemaking process if it’s been aged in oak. These smells can be described as roasted nuts, baking spices, vanilla, autumn leaves, old tobacco, cured leather, cedar, and even coconut.
Swirling the wine around in your glass helps to aerate it and allows all these beautiful aromas to lift out of the glass more. It can take a little practice to master the swirl action… might we suggest not practicing over white carpet initially 🙂
- Time to taste
As you taste the wine, breathing in air through your mouth at the same time will help to further bring out its true character. Our tongues can detect salty, sour, sweet, and bitter. All wines are going to have some element of sour due to the natural acidity of grapes. This varies with climate and grape type.
Wines have four basic components: taste, tannins, alcohol, and acidity. Each of these components range in intensity in different wines and will affect whether you like a certain wine or not.
It’s important not only to focus on the taste but also the texture of the wine. Texture in wine is related to a few factors, but an increase in texture often happens in a higher-alcohol and riper wine.
The quality of the wine can generally be understood by how long the flavors last in your mouth, also known as the finish. A wine’s complexity can also help you determine its age and quality. Older wines and higher quality wines tend to have more layers of flavour.
- Evaluate your experience
Did the wine taste balanced or unbalanced? This could be in the form of being too acidic, too alcoholic or too much tannin. Did you personally like the wine? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you?
Our tip: you can always read the label on the bottle to get the winemakers impressions of the wine and what characteristics you should be looking out for.
And most importantly, remember to enjoy the experience and enjoy the wine!
When next in the Barossa, we invite you to drop into the Brockenchack Cellar Door on Fridays to Sunday between 11:00am and 4:00pm, and we will happily walk you through one of our wine tasting flights and answer any questions you might have.