Over the years, I’ve written a number of articles on improving our wine tasting skills, including Fine Tuning Your Wine Tasting Skills. One of the most important things I’ve learned is how critical it is to slow down. And I mean really slow down. We go so fast in our daily lives that we barely know which end is up. Today we’re going to explore improving our wine tasting skills once again, this time with a focus on slowing down the tasting process.
Start Your Tasting with a Food Experiment
Split your wine tasting group into twosomes. Give each twosome a blindfold. Take turns blindfolding each other trying out foods that might be a little challenging to tell the difference between. For example:
- An apple, a Bosc pear and a cooked potato at room temperature
- A sliced blackberry and a sliced raspberry
- A peach and an apricot
- A date and a prune
You can play this game in several ways:
- You can give people an item to try and have them identify what they’re tasting.
- You can tell people that they’re trying a date and a prune, and you can ask them to tell you which is which.
- You might want to remind people to smell what they’re tasting.
Switch to Wine
The food tasting experiment is great for two reasons:
- It reminds people that identifying tastes isn’t always easy.
- It gets people into a slow mode, since they need to concentrate really hard to figure out what they’re tasting.
Once they’re in slow mode, they’re ready to try wine.
Because our focus is on improving our wine tasting skills, taste wines that have good tasting notes. That can be a bit subjective. But avoid tasting notes that are overly colorful. You want a heavy focus on the flavors and aromas. Here’s an example from one of WineShop At Home’s wines: “The nose is very complex and displays ripe dark fruit like blackberry, cherry and black currant. The second nose reveals maturity with black licorice, toasted oak, vanilla and black pepper flavors. The toast of the oak barrels provides coffee and dark chocolate characters.”
Don’t Forget to Swirl Your Wine
Swirling your glass allows the wine to aerate, which really helps the aromas come to life. If you’re new to swirling, put your glass on a flat surface and draw circles with your glass.
Use the Aroma Wheel
The Aroma Wheel, which was created at UC Davis in the 1970s, provides a list of smells and tastes to look for.
Start at the center of the wheel where the major categories are (e.g., fruit, vegetable, floral), and then work your way out as you narrow in on the details, such as “citrus” vs. “tropical,” for example.
There are now a number of aroma wheels available. Any of them will be very helpful.
Improving Our Wine Tasting Skills
So we slowed down the tasting process by starting with a blind food tasting. We applied our slow, deep concentration that we used to taste food to our tasting of wine. This caused us to be far more attentive to the wine than we’ve ever been before. We swirled the wine to make sure the aromas were pronounced. We used an aroma wheel to help identify what we were tasting.
Did all of this help us improve our wine tasting skills? I think so.
If you try this experiment, I would love to hear about your experience. Thanks.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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