Whether you’re at home savoring a single bottle, at a wine bar, or at a special wine event where hundreds of wines can be sampled, here are some tips to get the most enjoyment from that glass of vino.
When you pour a glass of wine at home, or get a taste at a bar or event, only fill the glass slightly less than one-third full. You’ll be able to make a visual examination better, where you can see the clarity, color, and age of the wine. Tip the glass at a 45 degree angle, it will let more light illuminate the wine so you can see the color, and better yet, hold it against a white or light surface so you can see it better. Is it greenish yellow vs. gold, or a youthful purple vs. reddish brown? This can tell you is it’s a young white wine fermented in stainless steel, with it’s intense fruit and flowers vs. a white wine aged in oak, with its riper fruit and the vanilla or butterscotch aromas that come from oak. Maybe it’s a young red wine, almost purple in its youthful glory, with it’s intense black fruits, or the transparent brick red of an aged red wine that hints of complexity, an ethereal bouquet of smells you can’t quite identify, because they’ve melded together over time.
Grab the stem of the glass between your fingers (either your thumb and index finger or the index and middle finger) and draw small circles with the glass in hand, swirling the wine vigorously, which brings oxygen into contact with the wine, releasing it’s aromas. The glass will collect the aromas, so that when you stick your nose into the glass, you can inhale it’s heavenly smells. Those descriptors that wine writers use: fruit (cherry, blackberry, apple, pear, lime, lemon, etc.), vegetal (green pepper, grass, etc.), floral (white flowers, violets, roses, etc.), spice (black pepper, nutmeg, ginger, etc.), herbs, licorice, chocolate, honey, nuts (almond, hazelnut, etc.), lead pencil, tobacco or cigar box, yeast, the list can go on and on. It doesn’t mean there are actually peaches in your wine, just that your brain recognizes the smell as peach-like.
All those aromas come from the grape varietal, region, climate, and winemaking. A more complex wine will yield different aromas every time you take a whiff, painting an almost limitless tapestry of smells. A simpler wine will often yield the fruity and floral aromas of its youth, charming in its freshness and immediacy. Without your sense of smell, you can’t enjoy wine (or food for that matter), since taste and smell are so interconnected, that what you taste is actually the aromas, what your olfactory bulb is relaying to your palate. Just like when you have a cold, and your nose is stuffed up, you can’t taste anything if you can’t smell.
continued in Part 2