If you’ve ever read the back of a wine bottle, you’ve seen wine descriptions: cherry, peach, ripe pear. It’s pretty easy to take a sip of red wine and detect that sweet cherry flavor, or take a sip of white wine and pinpoint that peachy taste. But when it comes to flavor descriptions such as cedar, herbs, leather and tobacco (yes, tobacco!), how many people can actually say they easily taste these elements? Of course they’re out there, swirling and twirling their glasses, excercising their highly unusual and highly acute taste buds, and while I wish I was one of them, alas, I’m not.
Now, I love my wine. Whether I’m drinking a glass of red or white, with food or without, I love the stuff. From the day I turned 21…and maybe a few times before then (hey, I studied abroad in Italy, okay?)…I have drunk a glass or two on a fairly regular basis. Perhaps a bit of me is trying to reach “I taste smoky tar” status, but for the most part, I’m still just a gal who drinks wine for the sheer pleasure of that incredible flavor. Despite my long love affair with the grape, I relate more to Jack in “Sideways” than I do Miles. I’m the one at the tasting counter taking a sip of wine and saying “It tastes pretty good to me” while my co-tasters are detecting cheese and asparagus on the nose. (For the record, this is the only way I relate to Jack.)
A co-worker of mine recently gave me a lesson on the best way to taste wine, and once it was over, it was like I had seen the light for the very first time. I found myself smellng things like banana in our Riesling, smoke in our Zinfandel and chocolate-cherry in our Petite Syrah. I actually tasted a little pepper in our Sangiovese, golden raisins in our Sherry and sweet smokiness in our Beverino! The tasting tips I learned are basic, and they really do make a difference. So grab a pen and write down these tips and remember to take them with you the next time you come to taste at Ponte.
- Sniff: take a big whiff and think of the things you are smelling
- Sniff again: notice the difference between this sniff and the last now that the bouquet has been released
- Drink, swirling it around your whole mouth, touching the front and the back of your tongue
- Drink, notice the difference in taste this time, now that your taste buds have adjusted to the flavor
You should know right away if you like the wine. If so, the next step is to finish the glass and buy a bottle to take home. You can now impress all your friends by teaching them how to taste…and impress them even more by noting all of the aromas and flavors you point out. If you don’t like the wine, dump the rest in one of the buckets on the counter, choose another wine on the list and repeat the tasting process until you find one you like.