tasting red wine

Wine 101

Basic Principles of Wine Appreciation

The world of wine can be an intimidating place to one who is just beginning their journey, but fear not wine newbies, for in the world of wine there are some basic principles you can master to enjoy your wine experience more. Relying on your senses is the key to true wine appreciation and enjoyment. In future issues we will dive deeper into the nuances of each of these and much more.


Begin with the visual impression of Color, Clarity, and Halo. Your first impression is the visual look of the wine. We literally taste with our eyes first. Examine the color whether it is red or white. Is it bright in color, clear, sparkling or is it dull or cloudy? The intensity of the color of a wine intimates the intensity in flavor you will experience when tasting the wine.


If you’re just getting started in your swirling technique, try leaving the glass on the table and gently swirl it either direction. Once you’ve conquered the table technique, move off the table and try swirling. Use your wrist and try not to spin it like a centrifuge. Just gradually swirl until you feel comfortable.

Why, you ask, is there any real purpose in this swirling thing? Besides looking cool and impressing everyone, you accomplish two things. Oxygenating (the more important of the two) and getting a look at the Legs. Oh yeah, wine drinking is sexy too!

· Oxygenating is the practice of getting oxygen back into the wine. After all it’s been sealed in the bottle for years and it needs resuscitation. The air allows the aromas to more freely release into the air

Legs (the droplets of wine running down the inside of the glass after swirling) help to evaluate the body of the wine. Body = alcohol content = weight of wine. So, when you say a wine is big bodied, you are referring to the alcohol content. If they are fast moving and large then high alcohol, thick and slow may be sweeter wine with lower alcohol.


The aroma is the most important of the senses when it comes to wine. The human nose can differentiate thousands of smells while the mouth can only differentiate the four characteristics of salt, sweet, bitter and sour. So we really smell things more than we taste them.


Finally! First, take only enough wine into your mouth to cover your tongue from front to rear. Slosh the wine around in your mouth taking small amounts of air in at the same time. Don’t gargle with it. Move the air over the wine so that you will pick up some more of the aroma of the wine. Then spit it out…wait…then try it again. The chemistry in your mouth will change or adjust. If you go off the first impression here you will miss a lot of the distinctive characteristics of the wine. Now, if you want to swallow it’s okay, but before you pass judgment, wait for the next step.


This is when you determine the length and balance of the wine. Length is how long the flavors stay in your mouth. Balance is just that, does it weigh equally throughout the mouth and how does it feel in the mouth. What is the texture?

Now, don’t get caught up in this routine so much that you forget the most important aspect of having a glass of wine, that’s to ENJOY it and share it with friends and family.


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