Want to up your tasting game?
Wine tasting shouldn’t be daunting or complicated, it should be fun. So, to get you sorted we thought we’d ask a few of our winemakers for their tips, tricks and inside trade secrets.
Firstly, opening and pouring wine. A simple task surely? Well, yes, but there are a few little nuances that can make opening and pouring wine that much more fluid such as leaving the wine glass on the table and pouring the right amount. And as Scion Chief Winemaker Rowly Milhinch says ‘invest in great glassware, it really does make a difference.’
Now smell the wine.
Jen Pfeiffer, Chief Winemaker at Pfeiffer says that 70% of what you taste comes from the aroma. So, the first thing to do when you are about to enjoy a wine, is to pour a little into a clean and clear glass and then give it a really good twirl around and around. The faster you twirl, the less likely you are to spill anything and waste a precious drop.
Over at Buller Wines Chief Winemaker Dave Whyte agrees. ‘Most of what we taste is actually smell. The flavour of a wine is in its aroma, and smelling wine is an important part of drinking it. Taking in a series of short sharp sniffs with your nose hovering over the top of the wine glass builds anticipation and makes your mouth water while letting you experience the different nuances and interesting notes hidden inside the glass.’
And Scion’s Milhinch says to take it slow and spend more time that you usually would smelling the wine. Swish it about, have a sniff, repeat. Much of the wine experience is aromatic and tells us a lot about what we’re about to taste.
On to the next step. Tasting the wine.
The moment is finally here! Once you’ve immersed yourself in the ritual of opening, pouring, gazing at and smelling your wine, you’re ready to complete the experience by letting it roll onto your tongue. There are three things to consider when tasting wine: taste, texture and length.
Taste sensations are sweet (front of tongue); salty and bitter (sides of tongue); sour (cheeks) and umami explains Buller’s Whyte. Once it’s on your tongue go through the five sensations and grade them for intensity. Then aerate the wine on your tongue to release the flavours, grade what they are, and their intensity continues Whyte.
Pfeiffer’s Chief Winemaker Jen Pfeiffer insists ‘let the wine slide over your tongue, around the inside of your cheeks, before finally swallowing. If you do this, you will have just savoured 100% of the taste of your wine.’
Whilst over at Warrabilla it’s all about spitting. ‘It’s never OK to drink on the job so for me, it’s all about spitting! Don’t want it to dribble down your chin? Practice by taking little mouthfuls of water in the shower. Aim for the drain and pew!’ offers Winemaker Amy Sutherland Smith.
Moving on to texture – this is the way the wine feels in your mouth. This can be whether the wine is rich, smooth or dry and is often caused by the tannins which can make your tongue feel rough or smooth. And finally, to length. This is a tasting term to describe how long the taste of a wine persists or lingers on your palate after you have swallowed the wine.
Wendy Killeen from Stanton & Killeen surmises ‘stick to the five tasting rules of colour, aroma, palate, balance and finish and you can’t go wrong. Think about what you are tasting and try to relate it to something you’ve drunk or eaten. Keep in mind the balance of the wine. Does it have good acidity? Is it in balance? Does it have length and a long finish?’
But it’s not all about the physical act of tasting and drinking wine. Mindset can also play an important role in tasting like a pro. Jules Campbell, Chief Winemaker at Campbells always tastes with an open mind, trying not to prejudge or double guess the wines before tasting. Be decisive and trust your first thoughts, they are often the best. ‘I try to blind taste where possible, especially when looking at the little final touches for a blend’ adds Campbell.
‘The key to tasting like a winemaker is all in the memory and training’ adds Whyte from Buller Wines. This echoed by Killeen from Stanton & Killeen who proffers that memory is one the greatest assets in tasting wine.
Another good fact to know according to Jen Pfeiffer from Pfeiffer is if you have some wine while you prepare dinner, during your meal and finish off after your meal, it is like having three individual tastes of wine from the very same bottle.
While learning to taste can seem a tad daunting, keep in mind above all we drink wine to have fun, so feel free to break with tradition.
Milhinch from Scion sums it up perfectly…‘don’t worry what anyone else thinks about your opinion of what you’re tasting! Subjective opinion is the name of the game – people even make a living from having one! Be confident that no one has the same palate as you, therefore you’re never incorrect!’