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Wine Part II - Tasting Wine and Wine Tastings

Posted by David Collinge on

Tasting Wine

 tasting wine

A wine’s profile consists of visual, aromatic, and taste components. You may think it pretentious to hold the wine up to a light, swirl it, sniff it, and swish it around in your mouth, but there is a reason that all of those elements contribute to your understanding and appreciation of the wine. For instance, if you don’t look at the wine under a light, how will you know its true color, or even how bright it is? If you don’t know both of those things, then you are not learning about wine. Same thing goes for beer too - it’s not snobbish, it’s just part of getting to really understand the product.


So even if you don’t think of yourself as a “wine person”, at least make an attempt to learn by approaching wine the right way. Here’s how:


  1. Sight - check out the wine by looking at it. You will eventually be able to see the difference in color between a Pinot Noir (bright red) and a Syrah (deep purple). You will also be able to see the difference between a young wine (bright at the edges) and an older wine (brick/brown at edges).
  2. Smell - don’t let yourself get frustrated by trying to pin down a specific smell. Start broadly - do you smell fruit? Yes? Is it blue fruit (blueberry, blackberry, plum), red fruit (raspberry, strawberry), green fruit (grape, kiwi, green apple, lime), orange fruit (orange, lemon, mango, peach), etc. Or is it more herbal, or perhaps more floral? Once you’ve narrowed that down, think about other smells, like chemical, nutty, yeasty, spicy, or vanilla (which would indicate oak aging). It is here that you may discover flaws in the wine, such as a smell of cork, which would indicate that the wine is spoiled.
  3. Taste - your tongue can detect salty, sour, sweet, and bitter - which ones are in this wine? Beyond that, you can feel if the wine is full or thin in your mouth, and whether or not the aftertaste lingers (and is pleasant). 

Wine Tastings

 wine tasting

One way to really get to know your wines - and also to show that you are the consummate Backyard Bartender - is to host an informal wine tasting. You have several different approaches from which to choose, but I would expect that a vertical tasting (same wine from different vintages) is probably beyond the budget of most Backyard Bartenders. So let’s focus on two that make sense:


Varietal - wines from the same grape, but different regions.

Horizontal - wines from the same grape, and the same region (hopefully the same vintage).


Some guidelines for the tasting:

  • No more than eight tasters.
  • No more than four wines for the tasting.
  • Serve at the correct temperature.
  • Bottles should be wrapped so the tasters can’t see which is which.
  • Glasses should be identical, clear glass, and hold at least 8 ounces.
  • Pour 2 ounces per glass.
  • Table or bar should be covered in white tablecloth so the color of the wine can be easily seen.
  • Serve crusty bread or neutral crackers to cleanse the palate between wines.
  • Provide simple scoresheets with room to make notes.


Have fun!

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