Hello wine lovers! It's Angie, your resident advanced sommelier. With over 15 years in the hospitality industry, I've learned that wine tasting isn't just about having a keen palate - it's a skill you can cultivate. So, for those who've ever thought, "Every wine tastes the same to me!" - this one's for you.
Step One: Go Big Before Going Home
When starting out, focus on wines that have significant differences. Don't pit two Cabernets from the same vineyard against each other; that's too subtle for beginners. Try a sweet, floral German Riesling and a robust, jammy California Zinfandel. The distinct flavors and textures will help your palate become familiar with the broad range of wine profiles.
Step Two: Side by Side Comparisons
Memory is a tricky beast, especially when it comes to recalling sensory experiences. Instead of relying on recollections of past tastings, compare wines in real-time. Lining up your wines and tasting them side by side will give you a more accurate understanding of their similarities and differences.
Step Three: Build Up Your Wine Vocabulary
Articulating what you're smelling and tasting can be challenging at first. It's like learning a new language! To help with this, I highly recommend getting a wine aroma wheel. It's a handy tool that outlines the most common aromas and flavors found in wines, helping you identify and describe what you're experiencing. You can purchase one online or from a wine store.
Also, I recommend reading my previous post, "Five Easy Tips to Help You Talk Confidently About Wine," which will give you the foundation to turn your sensory experiences into words.
Step Four: Gradual Progression
Once you've mastered the art of distinguishing major differences, it's time to explore the subtler nuances:
Level 1: Identifying a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Chardonnay.
Level 2: Comparing a USA Chardonnay to a French Chardonnay.
Level 3: Exploring French Chardonnays from different regions.
Level 4: Diving deep into a specific region to compare wines from different vineyards.
Remember, the journey doesn't stop at level 4. As your palate becomes more refined, you can explore different vintages, producers, and countless other minor differences.
Bonus Tip: Smell Everything!
As an added bonus, I'll let you in on one of my favorite practices: smell everything! Seriously! Engage your senses wherever you go. At the grocery store? Smell the apples, the oranges, the basil. On a hike? Notice the scents of the grass, the trees, the earth. The more you smell and engage with your environment, the more reference points you'll have when tasting wines. This mindful practice will help sharpen your senses and enhance your tasting skills.
Enjoy the Journey
Lastly, remember to enjoy the journey. Wine tasting is about the joy of discovery, not about being perfect or comparing yourself to others. So, let's raise a toast to the art of wine tasting and remember that each new bottle is an opportunity to learn and savor. Cheers! 🍷