There's no substitute, when learning about wine you need to open bottles of wine and taste the wine. But where to start? Like most wine lovers - we've got the books about wine, most of which are great - well how can you not appreciate Oz Clark or Janis Robinson or Hugh Johnson, they know their wines inside, outside & upside down. But....they got that knowledge by drinking wine!
It's great that we're suggesting you not only drink wine - but that you drink a lot of wine! There are proven methods for learning about wine tasting, we'll keep it as simple as possible.
You need a method that will help you remember what you've tasted, how to retain the information gained by your nose and your mouth. You need several wines open at once, but with a common thread such as all from the same grape or all from one region or one producer. This allows you to make comparisons that are meaningful.
To begin - you've chosen your wines, let's say Merlot from France, Chile & South Africa. Open the bottles and pour each taster / guest a glass - do not fill the glass too full.
You now have a Flight of Wines to taste. The order for tasting is : Look, Swirl, Smell then Taste - so
Lift the first glass, tilt over a piece of white paper - you're checking for the age of the wine. If there is a transparent ring at the top - this is a young wine. If it's more dense, it's a more mature wine. Check out the colour, density & life of the wine in your glass - from the start you're looking for something that appeals to you - making choices.
Swirl the wine in the glass - give it a good swirl! This encourages the wine to breathe, which allows the flavours to open up. Stick your nose right into the glass - and take a really good sniff. Think about what you're smelling - spices, flowers, fruits, minerals, smoke, leather. Make notes, it all helps you to remember. Doing this in a group also helps as some people identify what they're smelling quicker - they are just able to put a finger on it straight away. This might help you clarify what you're smelling. After doing this a few times, you'll find that the smells are easier to identify.
Taste - that's take a good sip of the wine, hold it in your mouth for 5 to 10 seconds - sucking the wine through your teeth aerates the wine, which encourages the flavours to develop. You can spit or swallow - you're probably not going to taste a 100 wines - so it doesn't matter. Again make notes.
Then on to the second wine. And - repeat the process. You might want to go back to the first - sniffing and or tasting. Refresh your palate with water or water biscuits.
Your notes should help you identify the smells & tastes that most appeal to you - making it easier to go shopping for a wine you might like. We do regular tastings, not just for wines that we're thinking of buying for D'Arcy Wine Merchants - but also wines from other shops - because we're interested and like trying new wines. Wine tasting should be an on-going discovery of pleasure - but we would say that wouldn't we!!