Ever fancied the idea of a wine tasting, but put off by thoughts of slurping and spitting or being tested on your wine knowledge? Then our handy guide on what happens at a wine tasting is for you.
If you don’t that isn’t the end of the world. Most of the time you will, good wine tasting organisers select high quality fine wines for tasting so that you have the highest chance of liking them, but taste is unique. Just as not everyone like yeast based spreads on toast, not everyone likes every style of wine.
Secondly, unless you are tasting lots of wines or driving you don’t have to spit. You can by all means, but you don’t have to. Slurping though does improve the flavour. That’s because the way something tastes is primarily is derived from your nose.
Swilling the wine in the glass releases vapours, which make the aromas more pronounced and the same goes for swilling the wine in your mouth. The idea is to pass air through the wine when it is in your mouth, hence the slurping sound. Take a small amount of wine in your mouth, curl your tongue around it and breathe air back into your throat keeping the wine in place. Then you can swallow. Once you’ve got the technique mastered you are able to discover more layers of flavours in the wines.
The third point covers probably the most common fear. That you are going to be shown up as a wine dunce. Remember, in the ideal tasting you should learn things whatever level you start at. Mostly these will be things about each wine, for example a story of the producer or the techniques they use. In some cases you will learn about general production, for example the differences between cava and champagne production in a sparkling wine tasting. If there is something you don’t know, ask. People who know about wines love to share their knowledge so you are doing them a favour.
Lastly, don’t forget to eat. The dishes served at a wine tasting have been chosen to show off the wines at their best. A lot of wines developed alongside particular dishes as the perfect accompaniment. This means they taste best when eaten with that food. An example is the Loire wine Muscadet Sur Lies and oysters. The wine is made at the Western end of the Loire valley, basically the coastal region, so its no surprise that it matches well with seafood.
It is the addition of the contact with the yeast (the Sur Lies bit on the label indicates this) that gives the wine the right kind of richness to drink with salty, creamy oysters. If you want a match for a flaky white fish you might be better off with another loire valley white: Folle Blanche as it doesnt have yeast contact time and is much lighter and fresher so it won’t drown out the delicate flavours of the fish.
Good wine tastings will take this into account, each wine will be balanced by the food and enhanced by trying it alongside. The best way is to try a little of wine alone, then some of the food and then try a little more wine and see if the taste has changed for you.
Most important at a wine tasting is to have fun. As the wine flows so will the conversation. The night will be over before you know it, you’ll just need to book another one!
Did you know we do wine tastings at our private cellar within The Clerkenwell Collection in Central London? From our take on the Afternoon Tea to a Wine Tour de France, there are lots of ideas to get you started on your journey of wine discovery.
In the meantime, there are some other of our blogs on the more technical aspects of wine tasting here, if you have any top tips for getting the most of a wine tasting experience then post them below.
Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team.