Wine Tasting 101

For most of us, wine tasting goes a little something like this: A quick swirl of the glass, a sniff of the nose and down the hatch it goes. For the greater portion of our readers, this probably will never change which is perfectly fine; but, the next time you find yourself tasting a wine, pause for a minute because this is a chance to really smell what it is you like or dislike about a wine. Some people prefer a wine to smell and taste earthy, herbaceous and spicy. Others prefer a juicy, jammy kind of wine. Smelling and tasting wine can help you to decipher what makes your taste buds dance. . .

When tasting a wine, start out by taking an introductory sniff. Do this before you swirl the wine in your glass to provide your olfactory sense a chance to compare and contrast the wine before and after it has been exposed to air. Next, swirl the wine in your glass a few times – hopefully not more than six times, more than six times and you’re just a show off. Take a deep breath about an inch away from the glass to sense any primary aromas and then go for the gusto and get that little nez in the glass for a second whiff.

Did you know . . . that if you order any type of wine in a restaurant, it is ONLY permissible to send the wine back if it is corked? If you simply don’t like the wine, it’s your fault for ordering something that you were not properly informed about.

When you are smelling a wine, try to detect one of these three components: fruity, vegetative or floral. There are, of course, more components that can be detected in a wine but these three are the most common. Fruity aromas are composed of 6 basic elements: citrus, berry, tree fruit, tropical fruit, dried fruit and artificial fruit. Vegetative aromas consist of a few less elements: fresh veg, canned/cooked veg or dried. The floral component doesn’t necessarily include any elements but breaks off into specific descriptors: Geranium, Violet, Rose, Orange Blossom. * See Below

The Aroma Wheel developed by Dr. Ann C Noble

The aroma wheel is a basic guide to all of the aromas that can be found within a wine. It is not all-encompassing which is particularly mind-boggling considering its immense detail. That just goes to show you that there are so many elements that can come alive within the aroma of a wine. To use this little guy, start from the inside (the components) and work your way out.

Did you know. . . that most aromas in wine actually have the exact same molecular structure as food? So if you smell lemon aroma in a wine, you are actually smelling the molecular structure of a lemon.

Much of what we call taste is actually our sense of smell, so it is no surprise that the aromas of a wine will follow through to your palate. If an aroma that you smelled is not present while the wine is in your mouth, that is usually a clear indicator of a fault. Sometimes you will be able to detect these aromas in your mouth, but only briefly. This usually indicates that the wine could have used a few years ageing.

Did you know. . . that certain people are better at detecting aromas in wine? Historically, women have been better than men at detecting aromas. Youth is also on your side and, surprisingly, ethnicity plays a small role as well. Asians are better at detecting aromas!

If ever you are at some sort of wine tasting event, and you have a slew of wines at your fingertips, your ability to sense aromas will often become skewed. Reset your nose by smelling yourself (your clothes)!  I know this sounds strange but the scent of your own clothes is familiar to you (and your nose) and will help to get rid of any lingering aromas. Finally, when you are tasting upwards of 10 wines it is difficult to keep your palate fresh and the question always is:

In a nutshell, I’ll leave that decision up to you!

This entry was posted in Food and tagged , , , , , , by Kate Lalumiere. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kate Lalumiere

After studying wine and spending years in the food service industry, Kate is nutshell's designated food and wine aficionado. Her posts take on the foodie-sphere one restaurant at a time, exposing some of the hottest spots to satiate the ol' buds ! Her favourite restaurants usually include: innovative menus, sustainable & local produce and unparalleled hospitality. Although Kate has a keen ear for food buzz in the National Capital, you'll also find her weighing in on fashion, music and anything that peaks her interest! ** Favourite Restaurant (Ottawa) : Supply & Demand • Wine of Choice: Every wine • Favourite Band: The National • Bad Habit: Being a backseat driver• Favourite Song: Wild Horses • Fashion Icon: Olivia Palermo • Favourite Movie: The Sandlot • Favourite TV Series: Gossip Girl (sue me!) • Sport: Football (to watch and play) • Team: Arizona Cardinals • Blackberry or Iphone: Iphone • Favourite Book: The Sun Also Rises, The Cat's Table, The Bell Jar, On the Road... • ** To ask Kate a question about food, wine or anything else contact her at :

One thought on “Wine Tasting 101

  1. Pingback: In a Nutshell: The Best of 2011 | inanutshellca

Leave a comment...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s