How to Taste Wine
The act of tasting wine itself can look a bit strange to the newcomer, so we’ve put together this handy beginner’s guide to wine tasting, so you can look like an expert on your visit to the tasting room should you so desire!
Step 1 - Select Your Wines
Typically the host will explain what is available for tasting and ask you which ones you’d like to try. Most Okanagan wineries will allow up to 5 tastings.
To maximize your experience, it’s usually recommended to start with the lighter wines and move to the heavier ones, as the heavier ones will have a dominating effect on your palate which would make tasting a lighter wine more difficult should it be done the other way around.
So typically it’s advised to taste from white to red, and within those two categories from light to heavy, or dry to sweet. Most tasting room menus are ordered in this way, so simply following from top to bottom on the list will usually suffice.
Step 2 - Swirl Glass
You’ll notice people swirling their glasses. Unless you’ve developed impeccable wrist twirling technique, it’s best to do this by placing the base of the glass on the counter and moving it in a circular motion. The purpose of this is to aerate the wine. The wine has been trapped in a bottle sometimes for a couple of years, so it needs to “breathe” a little to reach its optimum flavour.
Step 3 - Sniff
Stick your nose right in the glass, close your mouth, and breathe in giving the wine a good sniff. Take the glass away and think about what it might smell like. The scents that you pick up might remind you of cherries, raspberries, tobacco, chocolate, or leather in a red wine; while in a white wine you may detect citrus fruit like lime or grapefruit, stone fruits like peaches and apricots, grass, and honey.
What you pick up here is entirely about you. Don’t be swayed by what other people think, and feel free to come up with your own observations. If you smell waffle cones and butterscotch then that is what you smell. Everyone has a different point of reference when it comes to tasting wine.
Step 4 - Repeat Steps 2 & 3
It’s ideal to take another run at the swirl and sniff as often you’ll pick up more the second time around.
Step 5 - Sip Wine
Take a little sip from the glass and hold it in your mouth for a couple of seconds. Some people will take air in at the same time making a little gurgling noise. This is for the same reason as step 2. Otherwise give the wine a little swish in your mouth, and take note of the flavours. Often what you taste initially on the tip of your tongue will be a bit different than what you taste mid-tongue, or mid-palate after the wine has lingered a moment. Spit or swallow the wine as you desire, and then think about the flavour or aftertaste that remains in your mouth. This is described as “the finish.” Does the flavour linger for a long time, or does it disappear quickly? What does it taste like. If you breathe back into your mouth what flavours remain?
A wine could have a smoky finish, or some nice caramel on the finish. Repeat the process a second time or until the wine is gone.
Step 6 - Pontificate
Many people find it fun to think about the wine and share observations about it after. This can be educational, interesting, and sometimes even downright hilarious. Again, serious tasters will have very seasoned palates and astute observations, but this should not turn you off as wine is different for everyone. Try to form your own opinion, and remember that it’s okay to start with whether or not you like it. This is probably the most relevant piece of the puzzle.
Step 7 - Buy Wine
While you certainly don’t have to purchase wine after a tasting, if you do like one, some, or all of the wines it may be nice to bring some home for dinner that night, or to take some home to enjoy at a later date.
We welcome you in the tasting room Monday through Sunday from 11am -5pm, May through October.
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars's Tasting Room/Wine Shop.