Even though I love wine and drink it regularly, I don’t know much about wine tasting and I never pretended to do so to impress my date or anyone for that sake. When I am out and the waiter pours a small sample for me to taste, I would just ask him to fill up the glass.
Of course you learn with time to appreciate good wine bottles and distinguish them from cheap and commercial wines, but wine tasting is a whole different story and that’s what I realized at one of the tasting sessions that were held at La Cave De Joel Robuchon in Beirut Souks last week. I’ve had short and prompt wine tasting sessions before but this one was a long and thorough one and I absolutely loved it.
We basically sat on the bar and were given a brief overview on wine as a whole and then were taught the five basic steps to a proper wine tasting (Color, Swirl, Smell, Taste, Savor). We skipped the last step “Savor” as it’s a step you do after you become accustomed with the first four steps. Savoring the wine basically means talking about the wine and sharing it with friends, getting to know it better and evaluating the harmony between its various aspects.
1- Look at the wine:
You basically tilt the glass and try to figure out the wine’s true color. It’s not as easy as it seems and you should hold the glass in front of a napkin or any white background. White wines tend to become deeper as they age while red wines tend to lose their intensity and their color gets a bit brownish. Once you know this rule, you could tell if you’re dealing with an old or young wine bottle.
2- Swirl the wine
Swirling the wine determines how much alcohol is in the wine, based on the “legs” formed inside. If you don’t know how to swirl (I don’t) and want to avoid spilling, place the glass on the table, hold it from the stem and make small circles. Look at the legs being formed and you’ll know how alcoholic is your wine. This has nothing to do with the wine’s quality though.
3- Sniff the wine
Swirling the wine is also useful in releasing the aromas and helping you smell it properly. There are two ways to smell the wine. You could either swirl it then stick your nose deep and take a big sniff, or hold your nose some 10-15cm away then let it go into the glass. That’s the trickiest part in the tasting for me as I couldn’t really identify the aromas I was smelling. In fact, it could vary from a grapefruit, green apples to dark chocolate, soil, cow or even poop smells.
4- Taste the wine
Once we got to the tasting part, I asked the person teaching us whether we had to spit the wine or not (I remembered one of Frasier’s episodes where he’s getting ready for a blind wine tasting competition and start spitting the wine after taking a sip). You don’t need to spit but professionals do that just so they don’t get drunk lol!
Anyway, the proper way to taste a wine is take a small sip, let the wine warm in your mouth for a few seconds, and try to figure out if what you’re tasting is a sweet, salty, bitter, meaty or earthy etc. You could also draw some air into your mouth, which would help liberate the aromas of the wine that you would detect with your nose. I found this useful link for those of you who are interested in knowing more about [Tasting].
We tasted one type of white wine and one type of red wine.
If you are interested in wine and want to know more about Lebanon’s best wines, I recommend you get the book “Zawaq“. They also post updates on new wines on their Facebook page that are worth checking.