Vintage, tannin, tone, palate, finish, start, tobacco, dry, sweet blaaaaaaaah!! Too much pressure!
Unless you are THE Winemaster, wine tasting is not rocket science. The only question is, do you like it or do you not?
It’s important to understand that different wine will taste different to everyone! It all depends on the, yes, I’m going to say it… palate!! Interesting term don’t you think? Palate. According to the dictionary is a (noun) – meaning, a persons ability to distinguish between and appreciate different flavours. Then we have the “Colour Palette”. Pronounced the same but with different meaning and different spelling. Palate is non visual (taste,) and palette is visual (sight). You are probably wondering, what on earth is she going on about!
Consider a palette of paint. You have your primary colours. Red, Blue, Yellow. They are right there, in your face. You cannot escape these primary colours, unless of course you are colour blind. You see yellow, and think of the yellow things you are familiar with. You see red, and you feel the warmth or visualise strawberries. You see blue, you think of the sky, water, or coolness. We relate these colours to the things we already know.
In our early years we only know a few colours. Then we learn that mixing colours changes the the original colour. The colour can change completely or it can change just slightly in tone. The colour becomes more complex, changing your perception of the original colour. This colour change causes you to think more deeply about it. You may not like this new colour at first, or even be able to put your finger on the actual colour it has become. Sometimes it will grow on you and sometimes it won’t. After some time, you can finally put a name to this new colour. You learn which colours can be mixed to change a colour and compliment another. For example, orange when mixed with blue, will become brown. It now looks chocolaty and warm rather cool and peppery. Well, At least, it does to me!
Sometimes, though we get in a rut. We like what we like, we rush through life wearing the colours we always wear. We eat the same food and drink the same beverages we always have. Some of us never give ourselves the opportunity to develop (That’s another story)!
The point is, from infancy, we are developing. We are raw and immature. We identify firstly with colours and flavours that are familiar to us. As we mature; experience life, colours, textures, flavours, our palette/palate matures.
Do we need to be a Vigneron, or Fashion Designer to enjoy/like fashion or wine? No! We can trust the professionals to make our wine and our clothing. All that we need to do is try it on, taste that wine, whirl, swirl and decide. Is it for me?
Your wine palate is as mature as your colour palette at first. Your (taste) palate will tell you what you like and don’t like in a wine. Your opinion will be heightened by the conscious thought you put into your tastings. Wine appreciation requires you to be present. Your palate will develop and change over time as you continue to try different wines. Newbies will generally enjoy sweeter tasting wines. Those that drink wine (any type) for the hell of it and without really thinking, will not be able to differentiate between wines, except for the fact that they are red, white, sweet or dry.
So, Here are my no frill rules to wine tasting:-
Take your time and be present
Look, smell, swirl, look, smell swirl. Taste. Breath in the aroma as you take a sip. Swish and swallow. Sit and wait.
Close your eyes. Take notice of the different sensations that are provoked in your mouth. What memories did it provoke? How long did the flavour linger? What did it make your tongue feel like? Did the tip of your tongue tingle? Did it dry your mouth out, or did it make your mouth water?
Stay honest to yourself
Did it remind you of caramel, grass, spices, perfume, ash, dirt, chocolate, dirty socks? Could you imagine eating it with a juicy steak, cheese platter or dark chocolate? Perhaps it would sit perfectly with your favourite Kransky, hot mustard and cheese. But in all honesty, did it provoke good thoughts and feelings?
Sum it up
Did you like it? Well, did you? If not, don’t give up on tasting wine! Keep experimenting! The wine varieties will taste different to you all the time. Not only will the year (vintage) play a part, but so will the wine growing climate and the one million other elements that only the Vigneron (winemaker) needs to know. Importantly, your interpretation of the wine will not only depend on your wine tasting journey to date, it will also depend on what you have just eaten or what you are eating with your wine at the time of your tasting and how present you are during the tasting. This is as normal as learning to identify and relate to your first colours as an infant.
So, as you can see now, there is no right or wrong. You have no need to feel under qualified, inadequate, or stupid when you go on your next winery tour, or tasting. Wine appreciation is a journey. It is about you, your style and taste. Take your time though, as this is the first step in wine appreciation. In the end, If you want to describe your tasting as “fairies dancing on your tongue, with a hint of zesty lemon crumbs and a horse hair” you are quite right! For you, that is the truth.
God Bless Winemakers everywhere!