To the untrained tongue, wine tasting seems simple. Just pour, sip and savor, right? But if you really want to taste wine like a pro — and you’re planning to try a few of the 50+ wines at Drink The District: Wine Edition — there are five steps to maximizing your mouthfeel.
Eyeball your glass before you tip it to your lips. Revel in the golden tones, the deep rusty reds, or the delicate pinks. Place your glass over a light-colored surface like a tablecloth or napkin to see if there’s any sediment, and notice how the wine’s color might be different when viewed head on or from the side.
Before you move the liquid around in your glass too vigorously, take a sniff to get a sense of the wine’s aroma. Don’t be shy, put your whole nose in there if you can!
Next, you’ll want to swirl the wine in your glass not only to get a better look at the color, but also to open up the bouquet. Infusing air into the wine can completely change the notes you may have picked up on a moment before, so keep using your nose as you aerate. Observe how the liquid moves down the glass as you swish it. Does it have legs? That’s the oily residue that sticks to the side of the glass, and bigger legs usually mean there’s more alcohol content in a particular wine.
After all this foreplay, you’re finally ready for the main event. Take a small sip and suck some air in through your teeth while swishing the wine around in your mouth. Focus on the subtleties of flavor. The taste often changes between the first sip and when the wine hits your mid-palate and the back of your throat, finally coating your entire tongue. What’s the balance between sweetness and acidity? Are there spices, flowers, or wood flavors you can make out? Is there a hint of something you can’t quite put your finger on?
The tasting isn’t truly over until you swallow. Although you can spit out your wine into the provided receptacle (if you’re in a tasting room), you could miss out on those back of the throat taste buds. When you’ve finally swallowed, what’s the aftertaste like? How does it add to or detract from the overall experience of the wine? If you haven’t settled on what this vintage is all about, you can repeat the entire process again — or just take another sip to get a handle on the nuanced flavors.