Grape Expectations- Wine tasting tips

10 minute read.

Would you class yourself as a bit of a wine buff or, do you just like drinking wine! Do you know your Beaujolais from your Cheval-Blanc – or is it just red or white?

The very word, ‘wine’ has something of a cultured air about it. It oozes class, sophistication, a certain grown-up-ness. A good bottle of red, a delicious meal and intelligent company is often thought of as the height of refined living, but actually, what should be a very straight-forward evening with friends can come with its own first world problems – particularly if you are dining in a restaurant.

Picture the scene. You are about to order a delightful meal in your favourite eatery when your waiter appears and requests the drinks order. So far so good. 

A conversation ensues:
“Wine? Who wants wine? Shall we order wine? Red or White? Who wants what? Shall we order a bottle? Yes, might as well, we can all have some then.” So, it is agreed that a bottle shall be ordered…

“What shall we have? Chardonnay?” 
No, I don’t like white wine” someone says, 

“The Malbec then? Or the Shiraz? Oooh there’s a nice Rioja on the menu – shall we go for that one?”

This is getting complicated! 
And so, follows a series of nods and enthusiastic agreement as the Rioja is ordered – and 4 glasses. 

But the truth is, in most cases, not one guest sat around the table really knows whether a good choice of wine has been made or not.

Things worsen when the wine is brought to the table and duly uncorked with extra flourish by the waiter, because then comes the question: “Would Sir or Madam like to try the wine?”

At this point in the proceedings, every guest usually looks anywhere but at the waiter or the wine, finding huge interest in the tablecloth, and so it falls to the unfortunate person nearest the waiter to give their professional opinion on whether the wine is acceptable. 

As the rest of the guests look on, the designated temporary sommelier awkwardly takes the tiniest of sips of wine, pretends to swirl it around his mouth – he may even stick his nose into the glass first and take a little sniff in an attempt to appear authentic - swallows loudly and then utters those immortal words:
“Yes. It’s fine. Thank you.” or worse. “Yes, it’s definitely wine.” followed by immense guffawing from the rest of the table and eyes raised to heaven and a stony smile from the waiter.

Awkward but true and terribly anticlimactic too!

Now, imagine a whole different scenario where at least one dinner companion knows how to taste wine properly and is qualified to give a proper opinion, simultaneously stunning and impressing the waiter and his fellow guests.
We’re not talking about leaping from the table, arms wide, causing a hush to fall over the restaurant before commencing a Shakespeare worthy performance detailing the undertones of blackcurrant and hint of chilli and chocolate; just a little more understanding of why wine should be tasted, what to look for when tasting and ultimately how to do it well!

The point of wine tasting is simply to find wines that are enjoyable rather than just wines that are chosen and ‘drunk’ because one doesn’t know any better. 

So, with this in mind these five basic tips that can be practised at home (what a fantastic hobby) are key to becoming a wine tasting wonder in time for that next evening out with friends!

  • Pour: 
    Grab a clean wine glass and pour around an inch of wine.
  • Shine a light:  
    It’s the colour that provides clues to the age of a wine. So, young red wines are more deep red in colour whilst older red wines are more of a tawny brown in colour. White wines tend to gain colour as they age. Apart from anything else, the varying colours of wines are quite fun to see!
  • Swirl and sniff: 
    This aerates the wine and releases the vapours, so pop a nose over the rim of the glass and breathe it all in. The more experience with the swirl and sniff part of the process, the easier it will be to identify different aromas and tell if the wine is pleasing. Every wine is different, and this is where a true connoisseur will sense little hints of berries, peaches, vanilla, chocolate and even grass or smokiness in an aroma.
  • Taste: 
    Don’t take a giant glug (the bottle is for sharing remember!) just take a dainty sip and let the wine slide around the mouth. How sweet is it? How acidic is it? How strong is the alcohol? Is it fruity? Is it smooth or rough? And the important question: is it nice?
  • Swallow: 
    If you are in a restaurant you should now swallow the wine as the waiter will not appreciate you spitting it out into his apron pocket.

And that really is all there is to it. A good wine should always give you pleasure. It should smell good, taste fabulous and be smooth and satisfying. 

Follow these tips and you will never be embarrassed or feel awkward when asked to taste wine in public again!

Drink responsibly!