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Wine Tasting 101

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

glass of white wine

Tasting wine can be confusing, how do you know you’re getting the best out of your glass? Do you sip before you swirl? Swirl before you sniff? Who knows? Well... Pete our Winemaker does! We quiz him yet again (lucky Pete), and share some helpful tips he's discovered along the way so you guys can look like Wine Masters too – from the comfort of your couch or a wine tasting sesh with the crew.

Plain Palate

In the same way an artist starts with a blank canvas, our palate for wine tasting is best unaltered. If you want to get super fussy this means no food, coffee, gum, tobacco, etc. at least an hour before tasting any wine (toothpaste and Chardonnay doesn't taste too flash together!). Otherwise, chewing on a piece of bread can help remove any lingering flavours. 

“A good palate cleanser can also be a crisp, cold lager – just saying - within moderation, of course. Plain crackers are good if you need a break between wines. You don’t need to get too serious about food, just stay away from any heavy spice, acidic sweet or strong flavoured foods prior to tasting. It does help to have an appetite as you begin tasting so your taste buds are on alert. Remember though that wine is also meant to be fun and enjoyed with food. You will find well matched food can unleash new aromas and flavours in both the wine and the food.” - Pete.

More Than Meets the Eye

Have you ever wondered why people hold their wine up to the light and intensely inspect the colour? There’s a good reason for that! Wine colour can tell you a lot about the condition of the wine; most importantly how fresh it is. If you’re tasting a bottle you’ve had in your wine cellar, a quick colour assessment won’t hurt.

"It is said that people drink with their eyes. While colour may not necessarily have any direct indication as to how a wine will smell or taste, it often does, and colour is important. Just like you shouldn’t eat yellow snow, you don’t have to drink white or rose wines that look brown either. (Yes, natural and orange wines are an exception, Hipsters!)” - Pete. 

description of wine
To make things easy, we've put together a colour chart that indicates what stage your wine is at.

Nice on The Nose

This is the part everyone ‘nose’ about, not much beats taking in the aromas of a beautiful wine after a long day! To release and intensify the aromas, swirl the wine gently in your glass and breathe in the goodness. Healthy wine should give off gentle but distinct aromas, think vanilla, flowers, spices, oak, etc. If your wine isn’t too happy, it may give off an unpleasant pungent or ‘musty wine’ smell. This can indicate cork taint or that your wine is past its best by drinking date. This is where you can have some fun and come up with some crazy hints you detect in the wine! We’ve heard it all; leather, green bell pepper, toast, sultana even cat pee?!

"Back labels can give you some interesting background on a wine but sometimes contain a lot of waffle. Don’t get too hung up on whether you can smell Tahitian Lime, Mexican or Kaffir Lime. Life is too short and there are too many wines to taste!” - Pete.

description of wine
Expand your descriptive vocab - pinch a few ideas from us with our aroma cheat sheet.

Simple Sipping

The part we’ve all been waiting for! Tasting wine is an extremely unique experience for everyone, perhaps why it never gets old (that or the warm fuzzies you get!). When assessing the characteristics of wine, use your palate to assess sugar levels, acidity, bitterness, etc. and your nose to assess flavour, vanilla, smoked wood, etc. To ensure you gain the clearest possible impression of the wine; take a small sip, swish the wine around gently in your mouth, and draw in air through your lips (not a time to wear white, in case you dribble!). This will cover all parts of your mouth and tongue to elevate the intensity of the vapours, carrying them back up to your nose.

“People often don’t know what they like in a wine, just that they like it! This is fine, but if you start to learn what it is you like or dislike, this will open up a whole world of new wines to you. And it will mean less disappointing purchases of dud wines and more stunners discovered!” - Pete.

Big Bodied

The grand finale of the wine plays a big part in its quality. A balanced, pleasant finish where the flavours and mouthfeel linger for a few seconds after swallowing indicates a high quality wine. For lower quality wines, the flavours will disappear almost instantly leaving no lingering impression. High quality wines will also have multiple flavours, levels of aromas and sensations when you sip, creating an intense yet pleasurable mouthfeel.

“At the end of the day, the best test of quality is whether you want a second glass or not!” - Pete.

Now you're a wine tasting pro!

The Hunting Lodge x

For more helpful tips & tricks, find us on Instagram & Facebook

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