Saturday, August 2, 2008

Swirl Girl 201: Cyber Wine Tasting

Another AWESOME Wine Lesson brought to you by Swirl Girl:

Wine 201: Cyber Wine Tasting
This month, we will be learning how to taste wine. Really taste it. Tasting is no more than concentrating on what’s in the glass. Paying attention to your own senses is the only way to discover your true taste in wine, and YOUR taste is the only thing that matters.
First, get yourself some wine. Go ahead…I’ll wait. There. Now, pull out the cork, unscrew the cap, or unplug the tap – and pour it into your glass. I have no issue with the vessel in which the wine is stored and poured, but I do think it is important to drink out of a real glass. You don’t want to taste plastic, do you?

So- now you’ve poured the glass of wine. Be it white, red or pink, bubbly or still – it’s in your glass. Now, give it a SWIRL. Why - you ask? We SWIRL to release aroma. That wine has been sitting in a bottle for some time. It has traveled many countless miles for many countless days. It needs to stretch; to catch some air and awaken from its slumber. Re-introducing air into the wine by banging it around the sides of your glass will help re-oxygenate and release the grapey goodness or aroma. Aroma refers to the wines natural grape scent.

Second, put your nose to the edge of the glass and take in a sniff. This is your first real taste of that wine. That’s right folks; our primary sense of taste is in our noses. Your taste buds can only discern 5 basic ‘tastes’(sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory) but your nose can detect virtually thousands of ‘flavors’. Flavor is the combination of taste and smell. Your sense of smell is also a powerful trigger to your memory and emotions.

Just think, when you have a cold and are all stuffed up – nothing really tastes that good, does it? A bowl of hot steamy bowl of chicken soup with rich savory broth is just about the only thing that works, right? You probably can’t remember what Grandma’s Chicken Soup tastes like, but you can remember the feeling of warmth and goodness that came from it. Right? I thought so. One of my favorite aromas is Thanksgiving. If you are like me, all I have to do is say the word Thanksgiving and you smell roasted turkey, pecan pie and sweet yams right now, don’t you?

Okay, we have SWIRL’d . We will now try to identify bouquet. Bouquet differs from aroma in that aroma is the scent of the grape and bouquet is the scent of the finished wine. Can you identify any aromas? Do you smell apples, lemon, strawberries, yeast, florals, spices? Bouquet isn’t just classified as one element, but rather a combination of elements.
For example: Floral (jasmine, rose, violet..)
Fruit ( cherry, raspberry, peach, apple, lemon, fig…)
Spice (clove, cinnamon, pepper, licorice, mint…)
Vegetable (mushroom, tea, straw, bell pepper…)
Earthy ( smokey, dried, coffee, hay, leather…)

Wines that are considered complex, have one or more of these aromas combined to define its bouquet. Do you recognize any particulars aromas in your glass of wine? And yes, yummy can be considered an aroma in my book! More importantly do these aromas remind you of anything in particular? Do the aromas trigger any emotional response?
Now look at appearance of the wine itself. There is a wide range of colors of for red, whites and rose wines. The important thing here is that the color of the wine and its clarity should be appropriate to the type of wine it is and the age of it the wine. If you have a red wine that is tinged with brown and is murky or cloudy - you may have a suspiciously old wine that may have past its prime.

Now on to the tasting part; although you’ve already had your first taste with your nose. If you can, try to inhale just a little before you swallow your taste to further aerate it. Let the wine wash over your tongue and linger a bit.
Take a mental note of a few key things about your taste:
• Body: the weight of the wine on the palate. Wines are typically described as ranging from light- bodied to full-bodied. Like as in a ‘2% is different than skim is different than whole milk’ kind of way.

• Acidity: The amount of crispness or tartness in the wine. Think lemon. Think citrus. Think clean and refreshing.

• Fruitiness: Yes, grapes are fruit. But the amount of fruitiness in a wine is an indication that the flavors are derived from the grapes themselves as opposed to the winemaking process or the barrels in which the wine was aged. And what kind of fruit do you taste? And to what level of sweetness is its intensity?

• Tannin: Found in red wines. That gritty thing that covers your teeth and the inside of your mouth that happens when you drink red wines. Tannins are present in grapes. Next time you’re peeling a few grapes for the kids, take the skins and rub them against your teeth. What you feel is tannin. Red wines are made by leaving the skins of the grape in contact with the white juice that flows from the crushed grapes. If you drink a lot of iced tea or cola, you might be familiar with the sensation of tannins.

• Balance: The ratio of wine’s key components: body, acidity, fruitiness, and tannin and alcoholic strength. A wine is said to be balanced when no one single component stands out against the rest.

So you have SWIRLED, sniffed and tasted. Now what? The best way to know what you like is to experiment. I am an equal opportunity imbiber! I want to know! Here is a little homework for you until next month…

Try a few wines; different varieties – maybe something you’ve never had before. Tell me what you liked about it. Tell me what you ate with it. Tell me how it smelled. Did it evoke any particular memories for you? Tell me what senses were engaged. Tell me about the flavors of the wine. Tell me how it connected you with the people who shared it with you.
If you have any questions or are in need of sharing your wine-gasm immediately, you can email me at or via my blog at

Swirl Girl’s Pearl for Today: When I am just sipping wine for wine’s sake, I usually enjoy light and refreshing white wines. But with meals, I usually see red! You should try Rosenblum Cellars Cuvee XXX Zinfndel. Red zinfandels (yes, the ubiquitous little grape that started folks drinking the pink zin year ago) are zesty, peppery and can be higher in alcohol than other reds. Rosenblum Cuvee XXX , I would classify as light to medium bodied with lots of oomph, but not so much that you need a knife and fork to enjoy it. It can handle a chill , so feel free to keep it in the cooler with the kiddies juice boxes and lemonade.

This zinfandel goes terrifically with picnic food (gazpacho and sandwiches) and BBQ (think ribs and chicken). You can find this little patriotic wine (and I say that because red zinfandel is the only grape variety used to make wine that is 100% indigenous to the US) at your local wine store for about $10.00. Zinfully delicious!


Sherri - KaysvilleMomma said...

I don't drink wine.....but I thought I would pop in and say hello anyway.....

Memarie Lane said...

Another great tutorial, thanks!

Nonna said...

Thanks for the tutorial. Im not a wine drinker either, but you never know!

Jen said...

Well done. I am so sad that my wine rack is empty. It is off to the store for me.

Lula! said...

Another great lesson! I'm loving this, Swirl Girl!

Amy said...

Thanks for all the info :)

Deanna said...

Have you seen the episode of Monk where he takes one sip of wine and is completely drunk? That would probably be me.

greedygrace said...

I'm not reallt a wine drinker either... maybe I can practice with a Corona?

angie said...

This is excellent. THanks for sharing. I read through the whole thing and learned so much despite the fact that I don't drink alcohol! :)

Tiffany said...

This is such great info. I love wine, and now I can sound all fancy..

joanne said...

Finally I have found you! Sisters of the vine. Love wine, love your blog, love it! :-)

Single Girl said...

It's nice to have an excuse to sit and read blogs with a glass of wine in hand! This was great information and next time I go wine tasting hopefully I won't embarass myself. Thanks!!!

Cristin said...

I can't believe it took me this long to get my butt over here!!

I've been a red wine girl forever.. last summer I decided to broaden my horizons and try white... I found on that I absolutely ADORE, and I would love your opinion on it...

Vally Of the Moon Pinot Blanc

It's smooth, not too sweet and I sense some pear action going on... It's a little pricey ($17) for me but sometimes I just have to have it!!

Go find a bottle and tell me what you think!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I knew I didn't know much but I had no idea what I was missing. Thanks!

FarmGirl said...

I enjoy wine...and am blessed that I do not live far from an area of wineries. I have been fortunate to go on a few wine trails, but have never really gotten the basic "jest" of things. Many thanks for the info...I am going to try it out tonite!

Emily said...

My first wine tasting! Thanks! What fun, great blog!