How To...

Hold Your Own Wine Tasting

A blind tasting is a great way to have a fun and entertaining evening with your friends. Depending on your wine knowledge, you can taste a Flight of Noble grape varieties to a more advanced flight of a single variety. Once you’ve decided the theme of your party, you may want to pair your wine with cheese or appetizers that will work well with each wine. Traditional Wine Pairings are always a sure bet, but have fun and see what works for you. Check out Shareaglass’s Not So Traditional Wine Pairings if you’re up for being a little adventurous.

Below are a few guidelines, as well as the wine tasting steps that will ensure your success at throwing a wine tasting party.

Serving temperature
For a tasting, still wines should be served at between 16 and 18°C (60 and 64°F). At this temperature, the aromas and flavours of the wine are believed to be most easily detectable. It also ensures that the wines can be judged in a standardised way.

The exception to this convention is sparkling wine, which is usually tasted chilled. The thinking behind this is that many sparkling wines can be unpleasant in the mouth when they are warm (think warm soda pop).

The shape of a wineglass can have a subtle impact on the perception of wine, especially its bouquet. Typically, the ideal shape is considered to be wider toward the bottom, with a narrower top (’egg’, or perhaps, ‘beaker’ shaped). ‘Tulip’-shaped glasses, which are widest at the top are considered the least ideal. Many wine tastings use egg-shaped glasses. These glasses can be found at wine accessory stores; they generally come in a box of six for a very reasonable price. If you are planning a true tasting, ask your friends to bring there own glasses or suggest they buy tasting glasses for future parties.

Order of tasting
Tasting order is very important, as heavy or sweet wines can dominate lighter wines and skew the taster’s assessment of those wines. As such, wines should be tasted in the following order: sparkling wines; light whites, then heavy whites; roses; light reds; heavy reds; sweet wines.

Wine tasting process
There are five basic steps in tasting wine: look, twirl, sniff, sip, meneuver and spit out. During this process, a taster must look for varietal character, integration, expressiveness, complexity, and connectedness; try to figure out specific nuances about a grape variety that will allow you to pick up on at your next tasting.

The wine tasting steps
A wine’s color is better judged by putting it against a white background, so, white tablecloths are ideal for this party, but if you are unable to purchase a white tablecloth, ensure there are white napkins. Colors can give you clues to grape varieties, place of origin, and age. Wine is twirled to allow more oxygen into the wine (by increasing its surface area), which releases its aromas.

Sniffing is, likely, the most important step in a blind tasting, that is why a lot of emphasis is placed on it. An aroma wheel is a fabulous way of distinguishing what you are smelling and will guide you through the process; click here if you’re interested in checking out Shareaglass’s aroma wheel; better yet, grab a glass of wine and test your nose right now.

Tongue ChartThe next step is the mouthfeel of the wine when you sip. Although the surface area of the mouth has little sensitivity to flavors, it does react to acid and sugar together. Click on the image to the right to see a diagram indicating which areas on your tongue will react to the different characteristics of the wine.

The tip of the tongue tells how sweet a wine is and the upper edges tell its acidity. Wine’s aromatics are further released when exposed to the temperatures inside the mouth. Since there are taste buds all over the mouth, wine tasters maneuver the wine around their mouth to reach all of the taste buds.

Thus, the tasting process is a combination of the aroma of the wine, perceived by the nose, and its mouthfeel.

Writing notes is an excellent way to learn your grape varieties, so bringing a journal or even a voice recorder are great for learning, and it ensures you remember that fabulous wine that you tasted if you’ve forgotten to spit a few times.

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