Everyone knows that you’re supposed to taste wine in a pretty strict, classical order: White to red. Light to heavy. Dry to sweet. There’s lots of variety within this prescripted hierarchy. But overall, we rarely challenge the common wisdom of this wine tasting order. Well, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love to challenge conventional wine knowledge. And if you’re new to my blog, I hope I can open your mind to some new wine rules (in my mind, rules are guidelines).
As with wine and food pairing, when it comes to wine tasting order, rules are meant to be broken, whether intuitively or intentionally.
We were well through our hearty meal, way past the white-wine-with-appetizers phase, when I noticed one of my guests reaching for a white. I asked her why she was drinking white again, after having drunk a few different reds. Her answer, which surprised me before I saw that it was completely intuitive, was, “I want to cleanse my palate.” Hmm. Makes sense, right?
Another reason to up-end the traditional wine tasting order — intentionally — comes from WallaFaces.com. While they get the “normal” wine tasting progression (prevent tannin taste exhaustion by drinking the heaviest reds last, drink sweeter wines last so a dry wine won’t taste sour after a sweet wine), if you have a particular sweet white wine you want to showcase, go ahead and progress through your reds (in proper order), possibly skipping other whites altogether. Then at the end of the tasting, especially with a good dessert-type pairing, pop the Sauterne, Eiswein or other sweet wine for a really tremendous taste sensation.
Have no fear. Nine times out of 10, you’ll stick to a traditional tasting where you’ll go from light to heavy, white to red, and dry to sweet. If you’re doing a tasting for a group that is relatively new to wine, I recommend choosing three fairly common whites and three fairly common reds. Options are: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling or Pinot Grigio for whites, and Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Barbera for the reds. Read the labels very carefully before selecting your final six, because many of these wines, especially the whites, can vary greatly from dry to sweet even within their varietals.
Begin with the whites, going from dry to sweet, then bring in the reds, going from light to heavy. As the leader, you might want to do a pre-taste sip test before pouring each wine to make sure the order you thought was right is right. You may be surprised to find out that the order you envisioned isn’t quite right.
At the end of the day, whether you follow the traditional tasting order or a more creative order, please follow my one universal rule: Drink what you like, with food you like, and have fun with wine! Wine rules are meant to be broken.