Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wine Tasting For Beginners: How To Develop Your Wine Palate

The tricks to tasting wine are to start in a room without other odor or scents in it (e.g. no perfume, flowers, food).  If you concentrate better in silence then have the room be silent if you need background sound then do that, but don't try to carry on a conversation and identify flavors/scents at the same time.

Of course, the most important thing is to have a well developed palate and the best way to get that is practice, practice, practice.  You should practice with fresh produce, spices from a spice rack, flowers, and everything you eat.  Try to focus on smells and flavors when you are consuming them.  When the aroma of blossoms on your neighbor's tree wafts by try to retain that scent in your memory.  There are also kits that contain extracts of various scents associated with wine.  These are powerful tools, but very expensive (I've only seen them at colleges).  They really help because its one thing to identify the scents when the object is in front of you, but just having a vial of clear liquid makes your brain focus what the olfactory is picking up.

Then there is practicing actually tasting the wine and separating the flavors and scents and putting those into words.  For help with this I recommend taking a wine tasting class at a community college.  I know SRJC has two great classes Basic Wine Tasting and Wine Judging.  Both of which I highly recommend to everyone.  Check your local schools to see if they have extended education classes.  If you don't have that available, then simply tasting with others can be great.  When you do this you want to taste, write up your notes, and then compare with the other people.  If you taste and start spouting off what you are tasting to each other right away, then you will influence the other peoples tasting and they might miss a component that you didn't notice.  Now you both missed it.

This only helps with the flavors and scents.  The mouth feel, balance, ability to age, food pairing suggestions and all the other bits and pieces of tasting notes comes with experience and practice.  There are few things I'd rather be practicing than tasting wine.  The world of wine is huge and the tastes and styles are quite numerous.  So have fun out there!

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