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Get the Most out of Your Wine Tasting Experience



Wines are evaluated by appearance, aroma, and flavor.


No matter what color it is, wine should be free of cloudiness or sediment.  The color should be correct for the wine – straw, medium, or deep for white wines (with the deepest gold colors appropriate for rich dessert wines), and clear pink without orange or brown tinges for roses.  A brown tinge in a white or rose wine indicates that it’s been badly stored or is just “over the hill”.  Red wines can show a violet tinge when young, and an amber tone when they’re well aged, but a definite brown color is a flaw in reds.  Paleness is also a flaw, except for pinot noir.  It’s ok for an aged red wine to have sediment, but it should be settled in a decanter, not your glass.


What is the point of all that swirling and smelling?  Swirling oxygenates the wine and helps to release the aromas and flavors.  As you may remember from the experiment where you smelled an onion while eating an apple (the apple tastes like onion), smell is a very important component of taste.  Aroma may be a wine’s most important attribute.  The aroma may be simple or complex, but it should always be clean and pleasing.  You may notice aromas like apricot, peach, melons, honey, and wildflowers in whites, and black pepper, cherry, violet or cedar in reds.


Wines also have texture, from light to thick.  How does the wine feel in your mouth?  All wine also has acid, which is necessary to balance the fruitiness.  Acidity should be tasted but not smelled (if it smells acidic, that means it has started turning into vinegar).  Notice the sugar content of the wine.  A dinner wine should be less sugary than a dessert wine.  Last but not least, evaluate the wine’s overall appeal.  Do you enjoy it?  Wines are as varied as the tastes of individuals.  You may love a wine that others in your group don’t care for, and that’s fine!  Wine is to be enjoyed, so find out what you like, and enjoy it!


Elements of Wine


Wine has five basic elements: fruit, acid, alcohol, sugar, and tannin.  The interaction between all of these elements determines the quality of the wine.  Good wine is balanced; that is, one element does not overwhelm the others, nor is any one element missing or deficient.  All elements are present in the proper amounts, and harmonize well together.


Slight differences in the combinations of elements, as well as differences in the taste of the grapes, are what make wines so varied and complex.  For example, red wines have less residual sugar and more tannins than white wines.  White wines sometimes have stronger fruit flavors than reds.


Washington’s more northerly location provides a longer growing season.  When the grapes are able to stay on the vine longer, they develop more tannins, which increase flavor and character in the fully ripened grapes.  The contrast of warm days and cool nights in Washington help the grapes ripen more fully, which preserves acids.


Wine glasses


What is the purpose of all those different shaped wine glasses?  Does it really matter which glass you use for which wine?  Ultimately, an excellent wine is an excellent wine whether it’s enjoyed from the finest crystal, or in a paper cup!  However, choosing the right glass can enhance your enjoyment of fine wine and champagne.


Broader glasses are usually used for red wine.  The larger surface area increases the oxidation of the wine and helps to bring out its bouquet and flavors.  A narrower glass helps to concentrate the more delicate aromas of white wines.  Champagne is traditionally served in a tall, fluted glass so that you can enjoy the bubbles.   

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