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A Beginners Guide to Wine Tasting

August 28th, 2016

Oenophiles (connoisseurs of wines) know that even the shape of a glass and a few degrees’ difference in temperature can influence how a wine tastes. But while an expert — and enthusiastic amateurs — know why swirling is important and why you don’t have to spend a fortune on a delicious bottle, beginners need some basic tips to get the most of every glass.

Here’s how to enjoy your next glass of wine even more:

Start Sweet, and Go Slowly


Who cares if your current favorite wine is a sweet white zinfandel or Grenache? Everyone has to start somewhere. Sweet wines are easier on a new palate. Next time you open a bottle, try a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc and then progress to a Chardonnay.

Interested in reds? Start with a pinot noir and work your way toward Zinfandel, Barolo or Syrah. Pay attention to every sip, and go slowly. Wine Folly recommends swishing every sip around your mouth before swallowing to maximize flavor. Don’t gulp. Instead, take the time to notice how it smells before you drink, and pay attention to what happens after you swallow. The “finish” is often the best part.

Hold and Fill Your Glass Properly


Because the size and shape of your glass both influence how the wine you drink tastes, choose wisely. Never fill a wine glass to the top. Instead, fill it about one-third of the way and swish it a few times around the glass. This aerates the wine, releases its aroma and lets you see its “legs.” Always hold wine by the stem, and never the cup. That’s because the heat of your hands warms the contents of the glass. Although that’s not such as big deal with certain reds, it’s a real problem for whites.

See If You Can Pick Out Flavors


You’ll be surprised at the flavors and aromas you’ll find in each sip, and how they differ between one another. You might find that your favorite white yields citrusy or fruity notes, or that you smell spices or flowers. This takes some practice. The next time you go to buy wine, read some reviews first — and then see if you can pick out the flavors in the taste and aroma when you drink.

It’s All About the Food


Wine, although delicious on its own, is meant to be enjoyed alongside a meal. The good news is that every meal doesn’t have to meet gourmet standards to quaff your favorite beverage. But choose the wrong wine with your steak or fish and you’ll find out just how jarring an inappropriate pairing can be. And although white-with-fish and red-with-steak are solid rules of thumb, how will you handle turkey? What about chicken, lobster or vegetables? You might be surprised.

For example, although raw vegetables complement a dry white such as Chardonnay perfectly, roasted vegetables often pair better with a bold red. Shellfish works wonders alongside a light red such as pinot noir. Sweet whites such as Riesling are delicious with cured meats. Looking for a basic pairing chart? Check one out here.

Drink What You Like


Most importantly, however, remember to drink what you like! There are plenty of wine snobs in the world, and they all have their own views. But we can all agree that how it tastes to you is the most important factor.