If I’ve learnt anything in my time in this business it’s that everyone is still learning.
It’s time, unfortunately, for me to get up on my high horse and go through the why and how we taste wines.
The “why” is easy and no, it’s not just because it’s fun and we want to sound like we’re doing something important while we drink.
Tasting, be it for quality or interest, is a fundamental part of the wine business. I have the tough job of making sure that a new vintage or new wine we take on is up to snuff.
The best part of this is the rigorous tasting process, much like a muscle the more we taste the more we get out of it.
The use of a new or old oak barrel, vines grown on a different hill or facing another way all have a profound impact on what goes in the glass.
The question I get asked the most is “How do I get better at getting flavours from wine? I know what I’m tasting but I would never be able to put it into words.”
The answer is concentrate, try discern three fruits, three earthy flavours (mushroom, leaves, vegetation etc.), and three oak flavours (vanilla, coffee, chocolate etc.). It’s that simple! You might get one of each or you might get none, but you will get better at it. You’ll be amazed how quickly it will happen.
The following are some quick notes to get you started.
Do me a favour, forget looking for the legs on the bowl of the glass. Swirling the wine creates a centrifuge in the glass allowing for the alcohol to go to the bottom as flavour molecules rise to the top. Tip: Placing your hand over the glass while you swirl then taking it off is a great place to start!
Nosing a glass isn’t just to look like you know what you’re doing! 80% of our sense of taste comes from smell! 80%!!!
Tip: Open your mouth while you smell. This will dramatically increase your perception of aromas.
For me taste is more about mouth feel than anything else. Tannins are what gives a wine structure. A simple indicator of this is dryness in the mouth. Acidity is what carries flavour. All wine has some acidity! You’ll know how acidic by how much the your mouth waters.
There are always open seats on the high horses next to me and you’re all welcome to join!