Last week’s TTT&T discussed the mechanics of tasting, but this week’s is more about the mental part of what to do as you swirl, sip, swish, and swallow (or spit). So, to finish out the tips on “how to taste” wine, I want to emphasize that wine tasting is all about repetition. If you’re new to tasting, don’t be afraid to swirl, sip, and swish over and over again until you feel that you have gotten as much as you can from the tasting experience. It may be awkward at first, but the more you practice following a tasting routine, the easier it will become, so don’t feel rushed and don’t feel silly.
As you go through the process of swirling, sipping, swishing, and swallowing, remember that the flavors you taste will be similar to the aromas discussed in previous TTT&Ts—white or red wines, oaked or unoaked wines, flawed wines, etc. The key is being able to identify one of these flavors and then move on to the next one.
One of my WSET instructors equated wine tasting to the scene in the 2002 20th Century Fox movie Minority Report when Tom Cruise looks at a document, puts his hands on the screen once he’s processed the picture, and then moves the information aside to clear the way for the next document. That is exactly what I do when identifying tastes in wine. For example, if I swirl, sip, and swish (inhaling through my mouth and exhaling through my nose before swallowing) to discover that green pepper flavors dominate a Cabernet Sauvignon. Once I’ve identified the green pepper, I take that flavor, think about it, enjoy it, and then file it away in my mind, so that I can focus on another flavor when I take the next sip. Continuing to focus on the green peppers, no matter how intense the flavors may be, takes away from finding other flavors that are just as important, even if those flavors may be more subtle.
With that, I think we’ve covered the basics of tasting wine, so future TTT&Ts will be more about tips than technique, unless there are questions about technique that come up.