Do you love tasting wine but have a hard time distinguishing good from bad ones? Gone are the days of college where you picked up the cheapest bottle (or box) in the corner store and ran to the party. You’re an adult now and it’s time that you treat yourself to learning a little bit more about wine, so you can enjoy it even more.
You probably know that there is much more to learn than just the difference between red and white wine. Heck, you may be reading this to expand your knowledge in hopes of impressing that wine lover in your life by stocking up on some quality wines and being able to throw a few fancy buzz words around. Don’t worry. We can help.
Wine Tasting 101
While you probably don’t need help seeing or tasting the difference between the two main types of wine (red and white), knowing what makes them different can be a good foundation to build on.
Tannins are perhaps the most widely used keyword at wine tastings and it’s essential to know the role they play. The difference between red and white wine is whether or not the grape skins were kept for some time during the fermenting process. Tannins are a naturally occurring substance in the skins of grapes, other fruits, and plants. A wine that is produced with little or no contact with tannins turns out to be pink or white in color and wines that are allowed to ferment long periods of time with the skins end up red and have a much higher concentration of tannins.
Based on this fact, you can probably guess that red grapes have more tannins than white because of the color of the skins — good job! But a fun fact for you to showcase your knowledge is that white wine can be made from red grapes because all grapes are white on the inside.
It’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this, you no longer are asking, “what does wine taste like?” But now, you should be asking, “what are the differences in taste between various wines?”
How do Tannins affect the taste of wine?
Once you get tasting, you’ll learn that wines that have tannins in them produce a bitter taste that causes a dry and puckery feeling in the mouth.
Some common taste words that are used to describe various levels of tannins in red wines are:
White wines can have some tannins but not enough to overshadow and taste or mouthfeel. Some common words used to describe white wines are:
How to Taste Wine: 3 Basic Tips
Let’s be honest – wine tastings can be a bit intimidating because you’ll be surrounded by people talking about tasting “essence of oak” and “impressive tannins.” With these wine tasting tips, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a sommelier as you’ve always dreamed of.
Swirl and Smell
Yes, we want you to smell your wine before you drink. This is because nearly 50% of taste comes from the scent and its interaction with our taste buds. While you may not be able to smell any unique aromas that others might call out, taking a strong smell of your wine will increase the quality of taste that you get and overall, the pleasure of drinking wine will increase. When you swirl it, this allows oxygen to enter the wine and become more aromatic.
To spit or not to spit?
This is an extremely popular question for those that find themselves at a wine tasting. The answer to this question ultimately depends on the goal you have in mind for the wine tasting itself. If you want to discover some new details to wine and try to develop a more sensitive taste, then we suggest spitting more than you consume. If your goal is to have fun, maybe catch a little buzz and buy some “good” wine, then, by all means, drink up but to get the most out of the experience, swish it a time or two. The whole notion of rinsing and spitting the wine outcomes from those wishing to remain sober throughout the entire tasting or competition.
Ask Questions and Take Notes
Just like school, how do you expect to learn as much as you can? Don’t be shy; no one will judge if you ask questions even if you think they may be too obvious. Those who run wine tastings are in the business to be your wine tasting guide and to make sure everyone has an enjoyable experience and to sell wine. If you know more about the wine that you like, you will probably be more inclined to purchase some for later. Ask about food pairings as well because you don’t always drink wine by itself.
We hope that this information prepared you a bit for that wine tasting Groupon that you bought with some friends. If all this wine tasting and tannins business seem like too much work, we suggest grabbing a few bottles of Zonin Prosecco from your neighborhood grocery or liquor store and enjoying your summer afternoon sipping on some delicious cocktails!