7 things you should keep in mind to enjoy wine tastings
Attending a wine show can be an amazing experience for professionals, but also for the general customer. Here you have a few tips to get the most out of wine tastings, especially if you are not an expert.
Thanks to wine, I often travel to many different places. Tastings, shows and dinners are the main events where I meet experienced winelovers, but these are also the moments when I have the opportunity to talk to people who don’t know much about wine, and are curious to learn more.
Meeting the winemaker, understanding his work and philosophy, learning about the terroir he or she works with is a great way to look deeper into the values of a wine culture that has been distilled throughout the centuries - and to have a great time with friends.
You don't need to be a pro to enjoy a wine tasting: follow these simple rules, and you will get the most out of it.
1) Don’t be scared by technical slang
Winemakers and wine pros often use a weird language while talking to each other, and that's ok. The problem is that they often use the same slang while talking with any person they meet.
You are not a wine geek? There is nothing wrong with that! Ask for clear descriptions and simple explanations. Wine is everything but complicated, it is a natural product made with fruit, and humans have practiced winemaking long before technology, organoleptic descriptions and even winemakers were invented.
2) Always adopt a correct smell code
No, I am not talking about having a compulsory shower before being stuck with a lot of people in a small room :) The problem is that your new patchouli fragrance will overwhelm the wine aromas, and it will certainly bother your tasting as well as others'.
If you - and your friends - want to enjoy wine, don't smell more than what's in your glass.
3) Be curious
I often meet people who feel safe to stay in their comfort zone, and more than often I hear statements like: I am a red wine person - or - I don't like rosé - or - I drink Anything But Chardonnay (or Merlot, or Whatever).
The fact is, there are millions of wines that you haven't tasted yet, and thousands of grape varieties that you have never heard of. Even if you are familiar with a certain grape, another wine made with that grape will taste differently if it comes from a different area, because it will reflect not only the grape's character, but also terroir, the producer's style and personality.
Any wine can offer either a wonderful experience or a very bad one depending on many factors: your personal taste, the food you are eating, your mood of the day, but you will never know how you will feel about any of them until you have tried.
So, why missing the opportunity to experiment something new and to broaden your horizon?
4) Always give wine a second chance
So now, you have a wonderful new world of wines to discover, and you are offered a tasting of a wine you already know and don't like. You are tempted to decline, aren't you?
Here is my suggestion: unless you are the World's Best Sommelier Competition winner, always give a wine a second chance. Wine changes throughout time: the same wine bottle will taste different after aging, and high quality wines will often taste better after a few months or even years.
Furthermore, a different vintage of the same wine will give you different feelings. Especially in case of craft, natural, biodyn or organic wines, you should not expect consistency from vintage to vintage: local weather variations and imperceptible changes in the vineyards’ microcosm have an enormous impact on the grapes character that any artisanal winemaker commits not to alter or manipulate.
5) Avoid the clichés
Making things too simple often means missing the details, the place where the devil - or the magic, or the surprising - hides.
Let us put it this way. Wine is made mostly of water, from 12 to 14% of alcohol (rarely a little more), and a bare 1-2% of solid parts, acids and other detectable substances. Sum all of that until you reach the 99% of the whole thing. In the 1% that is left, there lays the magic of wine.
All descriptions you read on magazines or online will necessarily sum up and simplify the taster's opinion about that wine, and he/she will probably try to trace his/her detailed impressions back to broader categories, in order to make them intelligible for readers. Categories such as fruity, dry, earthy, crisp and so on give a few indications on wine's quality, but they can never describe its whole personality, nor its real essence.
My tip: whatever you taste always look for that 1% of magic, and break the rules every once in a while – especially in the wine & food match. You will be surprised!
6) Listen to everybody, trust your palate
Ratings and reviews are important: they provide you with relevant information about what you can expect from a wine bottle, especially if you are about to buy an expensive one.
But, there is always a but, every palate is different. The most eminent wine guru may give you good advice, but he/ she should never tell you what you should or shouldn’t like. More than once I have found my favorite wines in the 78-88 points range, and rarely have I been disappointed by wines that have no ratings at all.
Your palate is king: please it most of the times, educate it with patience and perseverance, and don’t forget to upset it sometimes. It will become your most influential and trustworthy guide.
You have bought a bottle that you don’t like? You have wasted one full day going to a wine show that you haven’t enjoyed? You are disappointed by your friend’s suggestion and now you have no wine to match with your delicious dinner?
No worries: it’s just wine!