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Monday, May 18, 2009

How to taste wine in public

Snobby wine tasting

Are you planning to visit a tasting room? Over to a friends for some wine? Going to a wine event?

First, you don't have to be any kind of expert. We can't all be Robert Parker -- and if you don't know who he is all the better. :)

A little more casual wine tasting

Most importantly it's whatever you like, not what one of the "experts" says you should like.

Almost all you get out of a wine is via your nose, not your mouth. If you have a cold or your sinuses are otherwise not up to the task you can't make good choices. Likewise, if you have some overriding "flavor" in your mouth like something spicy or even toothpaste you'll have the same judgement problem.

Palate fatigue is real after too much wine. By the time your on your 20th wine of the day you can't make sound judgements.

Don't get drunk.

The temperature of the wine makes a huge difference. If a wine is too cold you won't get much flavor. It's best to taste any wine, red or white, close to a cool room temp. to get the full flavors.

Ask how long a bottle has been open. If it was just opened give it a good swirl to aerate. If it's been open awhile smell for oxidation (a bit of a vinegar or sherry-like smell).

Put a wine in it's place. That is, in what setting are you likely to serve a wine like this if you were to buy it? Big reds are probably going with a meal; soft whites might be by a before dinner drink. Age you going to let the wine set for a year or drink in the coming weeks like most?

A Pinot Gris and a Cabernet Sauvignon are not used the same way. Think of other shopping you do. If you're buying clothes do you just pick whatever you like best, do you just pick what is cheapest, or are you shopping for some specific event--like for work, do gardening, jog, weekend casual, etc? Shop for wine the same way. I've had people say things like, "Whenever I go wine tasting I always buy reds. Then when I get home and want a white I have to go to the grocery store."

Last, but not least, I can't say this enough: It's up to your nose and palate as to what you'll like.