Wine Tasting - The Basics: A Quick Guide To Wine Tasting and Wine Sampling

By Ryan Loose

The other week we discussed how to properly serve wine in your restaurant. But, what if you also want to offer wine tastings, or throw a wine tasting party at your establishment, to attract new customers and get your name circulating throughout the community? Today, we´ll look at some of the basic principles and steps involved in wine tasting, so you and your staff can help expertly educate customers when the time comes.

Sight, smell, and taste are primarily used to determine the complexity and character of wine. These are also the three steps in the wine tasting process. During your wine tasting, you and your staff will need to walk customers through each step, and let them know what aspects of the wine they should be paying attention to.

Sight - After pouring a small amount of wine into each glass, have your customers hold the glass at an angle, preferably against a white background like a wall or table cloth, and examine the wine´s color and clarity. The difference between a red, white, and blush wine is simple to tell, however, each type also has subtle differences that can help you determine quality and age. Examine the wine´s color both in the middle of the bowl, and at the edges. White wines start their life pale and darken with age. Red wines start out as a deep, bright purple and gradually turn shades of ruby, maroon, garnet, or red with age. Your customers should also examine the clarity of the wine. Good wine should be clear and vibrant, not hazy, cloudy, and murky. Have them give the glass a swirl as well, and then check for sediment or bits of cork, which should not be present.

Smell - Swirling the wine in their glass also helps vaporize some of the alcohol in the wine, which releases its true aroma, or "nose." Once your customers have swirled the wine for approximately 10 to 12 seconds, have them stick their nose into the glass and inhale deeply. Smelling the wine in this way helps your customers understand the wine´s character. They may smell undertones of berry, citrus fruits, oak and wood, or even flowers. Let your customers know that there are no wrong answers, as each wine can make an impact on a person differently, however, what they smell will also effect how they taste the wine because both senses are incredibly interconnected.

Taste - Finally, have your customers take a small sip of the wine while breathing in through their mouth. This helps aerate the wine which in turn releases even more flavor. Advise your customers to make sure to swirl the wine over every part of their mouth, including the gums, soft palate, and all areas of the tongue. Taste buds in the mouth will register different reactions to the wine as it moves from the front of the tongue to the back, so it is important to make sure the wine touches every area before the customer swallows the wine. At this point you should offer your customers comment cards with the name of each wine listed, because they will probably want to make notes about their experiences. You may want to recommend they comment on the wine´s finish, or how long the flavor impression lingered after swallowed, any aftertastes, and the wine´s consistency, or body. Was it watery, smooth like milk, or thick like cream for example. This will help them determine which styles were their favorites, what they would like to have with dinner, (and how many bottles they might want to take home with them at the end of the evening).

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