Wine tasting is not the same as drinking wine. Although wine is made to drink and enjoy, there are also times when it has to be judged and assessed. Understanding the art of tasting is essential in order to get the most out of your wine consumption.
To the uninitiated, the thought of attending a wine tasting can seem daunting. I experience this in my UNLV wine tasting classes. We are used to often drinking wine with meals, usually in a relaxed and convivial setting. I state that "Wine is Food". The thought of joining the wine professionals, or sommeliers, as they sip and spit and talk about bouquets that bring to mind tar and wet horse blanket may be a bit off-putting, but discovering the art of tasting is essential in order to get the most out of your wine enjoyment.
The good news is that not all tasting sessions are taken as seriously as you might think, and that the essential elements of tasting are not difficult to learn. It will help you to learn about what kinds of wines you do enjoy - or dislike - and why. As time goes by and you gain more experience, you will grow more confident in your assessment of the wines you taste. Many people have a remarkably good memory for tastes, and can sometimes even pinpoint the origin of a wine as well as the variety of grapes that have been used to make it. If you are not one of those it’s okay.
The important thing to remember is that anyone can be a good taster, as long as they have an unimpaired sense of smell and decent taste, and are prepared to concentrate.
While the majority of tastings - which take place on a daily basis all over the world - are for wine professionals, there are plenty of opportunities for enthusiastic amateurs to taste wines. In their efforts to attract and keep customers, many wine shops and even supermarkets now run tastings. In doing so, of course, they are following in the footsteps of the more established wine merchants like Total Wine & More or Lee’s - who often provide their customers with the option to try something new before they buy.
Another alternative is to join your nearest wine society - have a look in the local newspaper. Become familiar with my weekly broadcast of Wines Du Jour radio show. Visits to wine regions the world over also provide plenty of opportunities to sample the products of the individual winemakers on site. This is a great, if biased, way to taste, as the producers are often happy to share detailed information about their wines to any visitor who shows a little bit of interest. Finally, you could get a group of like-minded friends together and RSVP to attend a Wines Du Jour broadcast at an upscale restaurant generally in Las Vegas, and taste good wines paired with good food by the restaurant Chef. This show can be listened to by visiting www.leskincaid.com each Thursday evening "live" at 7:00 PM Pacific.
The ideal conditions for tasting are easy - a quiet room and good lighting. The glasses should, of course, be clean, and of the correct shape to allow you to indulge fully in both the aroma and taste of the wines. Look, smell, taste - starting with your basic senses and expanding from there you will learn how to taste wines like the pros in no time! Keep in mind that you can smell thousands of unique scents, but your taste perception is limited to salty, sweet, sour and bitter. It is the combination of smell and taste that allows you to discern flavor.