July 19, 2020
Thereʼs nothing more fun than a wine tasting, but the gauntlet has been thrown down in the last 10 years – everyone you meet is a potential expert, well versed in the language of wine. Itʼs really raised the bar in these social scenarios! The detailed etiquette of wine tasting has the dabbler a bit boggled at times, but weʼve developed some handy tips so you can rub shoulders with experts at the cellar door. Donʼt think of it as “fake it til you make it”… think of it as the beginning of your journey to true wine buff status!
Pronunciation Practice makes Perfect
Weʼve all seemingly mastered the basics and know our CAH-BUR-NAY from our SAH-VEEN-YON, but as the industry evolves the names of wines get more obscure, and the opportunity to look like a goose increases! Asking to try a particular wine will often be some of the first words out of your mouth, so spend 10 minutes familiarising yourself. This handy little video by French winemaker and writer Julien Miquel runs you through the top 40 for reference. Youʼll be GAH-VERTS-TRAH-MEANER-ing with the best of them in no time at all!
Pinch The Glass
One thing thatʼll give you away quick smart is how you grab your tasting glass – going straight for the bowl is a no no, for a few key reasons. Number one, your hands on the glass will warm the wine and affect the taste. Number two, fingerprints! Ew! A proper connoisseur wouldnʼt dare. Instead, pinch the stem – itʼll give you the right posture for what comes next.
Get Your Swirl On
You see these characters at the bar, effortlessly whirling a red around a glass with a wrist motion so smooth it echoes the deftness of a tennis pro at Wimbledon. To be honest, it can be a bit much, so we like to keep it understated (and much, MUCH easier) by keeping the glass firmly on the table, laying a hand flat over the base, and moving it in a circular motion. Word to the wise? Give it a crack at home first, with water instead of wine! The most important part of the movement is that it prepares the wine for you to smell – thatʼs next.
Sniff and Sip
Now your holding and swirling your glass like a pro, itʼs time to get down to the business of actually TRYING it. Yes, yes – we know it has been a tedious business and your impatient to have your first sip, but this truly is part of the experience so donʼt miss out! When you smell a wine, youʼre preparing your mind for what youʼre about to taste. So, after a good swirl, stick your nose right in the glass and take a big sniff – what do you smell? Thereʼs no wrong answer! (Except grapes. Donʼt say grapes) Now youʼre ready to drink! Begin with a small sip – nothing says novice like downing the lot. Hold it in your mouth for a moment and see what comes to mind.
Learn the Basic Lingo
The language of wine tasting is anything but simple, but there ARE a few key phrases thatʼll elevate your discussion from “Mmm… spicy!” When it comes to first impressions, you might want to refer to the primary flavour. Get a taste of raspberries, blackberries or cherries? Describe it as “fruit forward”. Getting a hint of spice, beeswax, flint, chalk or chocolate? Suggest it tastes quite “earthy”. Thereʼs a lot more to it, of course, but this is a great way to get the conversation started with the sommelier!
The most important part of a tasting – at home, in a restaurant OR at a cellar door – should 100% still be your enjoyment and exploration of wine. Donʼt be afraid to ask questions! All tips aside, the novice is in the wonderful position of having everything to learn, a blank canvas – sommelierʼs LOVE the opportunity to share their love of the vine. Thatʼs certainly the case here in the Geographe wine region, where there are often opportunities to meet the wine makers themselves!