I love being invited to speak to book clubs. One club in Austin, Texas
read Forgive Me and had a South African wine tasting. I thought this
was a great idea, so I contacted Greg at Good Taste Reports
gave me the following advice:
WHAT YOU NEED
Explore and experiment! See sidebar for details.
The marriage of food & wine is a glorious thing. Everything is affected by everything. Tannin, acidity, and sweetness, mixed with different ingredients and preparation methods will bring out different taste sensations with the same bottle of wine. It's nice to have a contrast of various cheeses, olives, crackers. Stay away from artichokes, asparagus, yogurt, and vinegar, as these are not as food-friendly and tend to create friction with wine. Contrary to common conversation, I think chocolate is not generally great for pairing either.
Glasses can change the flavor of the wine. Be sure to have red and white glasses on hand.
To rinse glass out or to take a water break, should some choose to.
Pens & Paper
To write thoughts down about wines.
Brown wine bags for red wine/Aluminum Foil Wrap for white wine
Should you decide to do a blind tasting.
To identify your glass. Lots of designs.
If doing a white wine tasting.
Stay away from cigarettes & cigars.
Super conflict with wine tasting!
"No perfumes or colognes, please!
"Tell your guests ahead of time
Both red and white wines should be served between 60 and 64 degrees.
If you aren't hosting a blind tasting, a general rule of thumb is to follow the following tasting order: whites to reds, lighter-bodied to heavier-bodied, and dry to sweet wines. Sometimes you just have to guess using your best judgment. Before trying the wines, assess order by appearance and nose alone. Heavier wines tend to be deeper in color and generally more intense on the nose (smelling the wine). Sweeter wines, generally denser, tend to leave thick viscous ‘legs' down the inside of a glass upon swirling.
Tasting is what it's all about. We use the same terminology to describe completely contrasting experiences.
Most folks' taste buds are able to detect sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors. Like food, wine is a subjective subject. Pour small, but enough to get the idea. Folks may want to revisit the wine later in the tasting.
When tasting wine, swirl the wine in the glass to allow some air to get the aroma to come out and play. Swish the wine around in your mouth, allowing all of your taste buds to take part. Does the color of the wine give an indication on its age? Is it ruby red or tawny brown? How easy is it to see through? A pale white might mean you've poured a youthful, light-bodied and crisp treat, while straw-colored or golden hues might point at a fuller-bodied or even an older over-the-hill wine. Young red wines can be dark and opaque purple while an older wine can sometimes be suspect due to a red brick or amber hue, especially at the rim of the glass. Wine is a living thing that evolves. It has youth. It has maturity. It has death.
When smelling the wine, how intense is the aroma? Does it remind you of something? Grandma frying up smoked-bacon in the kitchen when you were a kid? Chocolate chip cookies? Filet Mignon? Work your brain to dig into those old memory files to locate definitions of what you are smelling. Your ability to identify different aromas will become stronger the more you try. As do chefs, most experienced wine tasters will tell stories of how their senses became more sensitive after regularly tasting/drinking wine, especially the sense of smell. The aroma of the wine is one of the most important aspects. Does it smell different than it tastes in the mouth? It becomes an entirely new experience.
Wines can come across with the structure of a 14th century European Castle that lasts throughout the ages. Wines can come across as cookie-cutter suburban grid homes that fall apart within the first year of completion. Is the acidity off balance? Does the wine make your mouth pucker (tannin)? Is the wine light-bodied or heavy-bodied? Is it sweet? Does the alcohol seem off balance and burn your nose like a straight vodka? Does any part of the wine appear to be screaming for your attention (off-balance)? Is it friendly to you or does it require special attention? Does it linger in your mouth after you swallow or disappear like a power outage? Most importantly, do YOU like the wine? Would you buy it again?
Experience. Experience. Experience.
This is how one becomes a better taster and more educated with wine.
You have to taste, taste, and taste some more.