One of the greatest qualities of wine tasting in Southern Oregon is its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Unlike the super fancy and intimidating wine rooms you will find in Napa Valley and Sonoma, Southern Oregon wineries offer a place to taste and ask questions without feeling self conscious. While tasting wine in Southern Oregon you will find many “mom and pop” wineries and because of this, there is a good chance you might meet and talk with the actual owners and wine makers. But please don’t let this opportunity intimidate you. If you follow my advice, by reading these basic tips on how to taste wine, I am confident that your next wine tasting experience will make you feel like a pro.
The first things to do when you are poured a taste of wine is too look at the color with your eyes. Tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle and look at the color against a white background. Is the wine brilliant, clear or hazy? Is it pale or intense? White wine colors to look for can be: green tinge, straw, gold, or amber. Red wine colors can be: purple, ruby, garnet, brick, amber, dark, or inky. Many people talk about looking for the legs of a wine. This is the wine that runs down the inside of the glass to the bottom. If the legs are pronounced, this usually means the wine has more alcohol content and a fuller body.
The next step to tasting wine is smelling the wine. Swirl the wine in the glass and then put your nose inside the glass and take two or three sniffs to smell for aromas. Try to smell the wine from the middle of the glass. If you smell from the bottom of the rim you will smell more fruit and from the top more of the alcohol. Are the aromas faint or intense? White wine aromas might smell like: white, yellow, and orange fruits. Red wine aromas might smell like: red and purple fruits. Both red and white wines aromas can share aromas: floral, herbal, mineral and spice. Wine matured in oak can have aromas that smell like: spice, vanilla, smoke, cedar, and of course oak.
Now it’s time to actually taste the wine. First take a small amount of wine into your mouth, then swish the liquid around, bringing it into contact with every part of your mouth. Some people like to suck in a little air while the wine is still in your mouth to let the air “open” the wine and enhance the taste. While you are tasting the wine you can ask yourself, what is the body of the wine like? Does it fill your mouth? Is the wine light, medium, or heavy? Think of fat free milk vs. heavy cream. What are the flavors you are tasting? Do the flavors taste like something you recognize: blueberry, cherry, cola, strawberry, lemon, peach, grapefruit? Does the wine taste rich, thick, sweet, dry, crisp, tart? Do you like the taste?
After you taste the wine you must now decide to swallow or spit. If you are a real pro and have a long day of tasting ahead, spitting might be a good idea. I wouldn’t know, I’m not a pro and always drink the wine. After you have swallowed or spitted it is time to think about or record your overall impressions of the wine. Most importantly, DO YOU LIKE IT? Is this a wine you would buy or not? Do you love it or hate it? People always ask, “How do I know if it’s good wine?” My response is usually, “If you like it then it is good wine!” You can also ask yourself: Do I like the way the wine lasts in my mouth? What kind of flavors lingered after you swallowed? Don’t forget to consider price too. Considering the price, how good is the wine?
I hope these 4 simple steps help you feel more confident the next time you are tasting wine. Of course this is just a simple guide and you can read entire books about wine and the tasting experience. Don’t forget that you are the only person who knows what you like and that is what’s most important. ENJOY!!