Wine tasting is not drinking. Although wine is made to drink and enjoy, there are also times when it has to be judged and assessed. Mastering the art of tasting is essential in order to get the most out of your wine drinking.
To the uninitiated, the thought of attending a wine tasting can seem
daunting. We are used to drinking our wine with meals, usually in a
relaxed and convivial setting. The thought of joining the professionals
as they sip and spit and talk about bouquets that bring to mind tar and
rotting compost may be a bit off-putting. But mastering the art of
tasting is essential in order to get the most out of your wine drinking.
The good news is that not all tasting sessions are taken as seriously as
you might think, and that the essential elements of tasting are easy to
learn and will help you to learn about what kinds of wines you enjoy –
or dislike – and why. As time goes by and you gain more experience, you
will grow more confident in your assessment of the wines you taste. Some
people have a remarkably good memory for tastes, and can sometimes even
pinpoint the origin of a wine as well as the variety of grapes that
have been used to make it.
The important thing to remember is that anyone can be a good taster, as
long as they have an unimpaired sense of smell and taste, and are
prepared to concentrate.
While the majority of tastings – which take place on a daily basis all
over the world – are for professionals, there are plenty of
opportunities for enthusiastioc amateurs to taste wines. In their
efforts to attract and keep customers, many supermarkets now run
tastings. In doing so, of course, they are following in the footsteps of
the more established wine merchants like Oddbins or Majestic – who
often provide their customers with the option to try something new
before they buy.
Another alternative is to join your nearest wine society – have a look
in the local newspaper. Visits to wine regions the world over also
provide plenty of opportunities to sample the products of the individual
winemakers on site. This is a great, if biased, way to taste, as the
producers are often keen to give detailed information about their wines
to any visitor who shows a modicum of interest. Finally, you could get a
group of like-minded friends together and start regular wine tasting
sessions. Although these evenings tend to be fairly unstructured,
they’re also great fun.
The ideal conditions for tasting are easy – a quiet room and good
lighting. The glasses should, of course, be clean, and of the correct
shape to allow you to indulge fully in both the aroma and taste of the
Keep notes as you taste – this will provide you with an invaluable
source of reference when it comes to buying wines. Professional tasters
keep their notes for years – Bordeaux expert David Peppercorn has
tasting notes going back to the late 1950s.