There actually is a difference between drinking wine and tasting wine. I am all for dialing down the snob factor when it comes to the wine culture, but the steps you see people take when they are actually tasting wine make a big difference.
The ‘swirl, sniff, swish’ gets abused and has become a cliché. But, if you are going to compare wines and discuss them with your wine buddies, you will fast run out of things to say unless you take a few minutes and follow a few steps.
First, just look. I know you’re excited to try that wine, but there can be big differences from one wine to the next just in colour and clarity. Some red wines are almost purple and others almost tan. The whites can be a caramel colour or almost green. Some are nearly clear. Some bottles have junk in the bottom. Just look and notice what you see.
The swirl is all about legs, body and weight. Swirl it around and watch what it does in the glass. Some wines stick to the edges and others don’t. Some seem watery and some seem almost thick. Take note of that, too.
Now, smell. It’s good to smell after the swirl as you really have everything flowing now.
Like scratch-and-sniff stickers you want a little action before you engage your nose. The ‘nose,’ as it’s known in wine circles, is a really big deal. Your friends will have lots to talk about at this point. It blows my mind how different some wines smell from how they taste. Some smell exactly like apple juice, others like men’s cologne. Some smell like buttered popcorn or road tar.
Now, go ahead and taste it. But don’t just swallow. How amateur of you! Let it sit in your mouth. Take a big sip. Move it around and then swallow. Now try it again. Did you taste what you smelled? What did you taste? You should have lots of observations.
And finally, just wait a minute. Do you taste that? At Burger King it’s called aftertaste. At a winery it is called finish. What is left after you taste the wine is a pretty big deal in some circles.
Now you are practically a wine snob. Go buy some fancy clothes to go with that!
Bonnie Bischoff is a Kamloops resident and wine enthusiast whose column appears Fridays in The Daily News. For more of her explorations, visit her blog, Sips in the City, at sipsinthecity.wordpress.com.