Wine Tasting Etiquette
A good all purpose wine glass should have four important characteristics:
There are subtle differences between glasses used for red wine and white wine. A traditional red wine glass has a bowl wide enough so that it may be coddled in the hand, allowing the wine to be subtly warmed by your palm. This large bowl also allows you to swirl the wine and sample the bouquet, which is concentrated around the rim of the glass.
White wine glasses have a longer stem and more slender globe than red wine glasses. The longer stem keeps your fingers away from glass so that the wine stays as cool as possible. The slender globe helps maintain the wine’s liveliness.
Champagne and other sparkling wines are served in glasses called “flutes” that have a narrow shape which helps preserve bubbles and direct them up the glass.
Port is served in a small, slim tapered glass. While smaller than a wine glass, this glass is still large enough to swirl the port. Sherry is served in an even smaller narrow, tapered glass.
Full-bodied red wines with heavier tannins are often served in a glass or crystal decanter. A decanter is a cylindrical vessel with a wide, flat bottom and narrow spout. Pouring wine into a decanter prior to serving helps expose the wine to air. This is known as “letting the wine breathe.” Decanting also helps remove any sediment that may have been in the bottle.
Once it is poured into the proper glass, it’s time to evaluate and enjoy the wine. Evaluating wine involves four basic steps – looking, swirling, smelling, and tasting.
Step #1 – Look. Begin by holding the wine glass up against a white background, such as a napkin or table cloth, to evaluate its color and clarity. Red wines should range in color from deep purple to brick red. Red wines generally fade in color with age. White wines should range in color from lemon gold to golden amber. White wines usually darken with age. If the wine is discolored or cloudy, the wine may be bad.
Step #2 – Swirl. Swirl the wine in your glass to aerate it and release its aroma.
Step #3 – Smell. To properly smell your wine, put your nose in the glass and take a deep breath. Pay attention to what the wine smells like. Older wines should have subtler aromas than younger ones. Is the wine fruity? If so, what fruit does it smell like? Is it earthy or spicy?
Step #4 – Taste. To taste the wine, fill your mouth about ½ full and subtly swish the wine around. Moving the wine in your mouth should release its aroma and coat your mouth. Does tasting the wine confirm your interpretation of the wine’s bouquet?
When evaluating wine, you should look for flaws that might make the wine undrinkable. These flaws could be the result of problems in bottling, transporting, or storing the wine.