Friday, August 21, 2009
The 5 S's of the wine ritual.
My beautiful bottles of red and white are waiting for me to open them. I have ordered more, and think that my first tastings and writings will be rather random. I imagine as time goes by that I will get settled into writing about flights and types and matching wine and food - ah, I am already looking forward to having a basic understanding of what tastes good and what I like. I am already looking towards the day when a wine list won't be so intimidating. Where I can pick out a wine that tastes good at a dinner party and be confident of my choice.
But just to be totally honest, I am intimidated now. So as to not be completely ignorant, I have been researching the history of wine, along with the appropriate way to taste wine along with the hows and whys. It doesn't sound so difficult, to taste wine. But there is more than one step in the ritual, and each step engages your senses. Almost like tasting wine really requires your eyes, nose, and mouth - not just your taste buds.
Basically, the five really simple steps are to See, Swirl, Smell, Swish, and Swallow. The more I read and learn, the more I realize that I could write a complete entry about each of these. In fact, many people have. And knowing me, I have to be honest with you - soon, I will too. After all, this is wine through my perspective, right? But not today. Today, I need to go down and put some white wine in the refrigerator and open a bottle of some yummy red. So for now, how about high level?
First, we See.
Pour a quarter glass of some wine that make you happy. Pick up the glass and hold it at an angle, looking down on it against a white background (tablecloth, floor). The wine should be beautiful to look at, clear and sediment free. Next, look at the color and depth of the wine. According to the learned, young red wines are more purplish at the edge where the wine meets the glass, while more mature red wines have a redder rim. Even older red wines may have a darker reddish brown or even brick tone. White wines vary from pale greenish yellow to deep gold. The older whites run to the golden tones. One expert I listened to explained that red wines lose color as they age (dark red to brick, for example), while white wines gain (clear blond to warmer gold, for example).
Next, we Swirl.
Swirling the wine around in the glass a little bit will release the aroma and give the wine a chance to mix it up, disperse a bit into the air, relax. This sets things up perfectly for the next step by allowing the aroma to release, and you can also see some "tears" or "legs" of the wine beading around the glass. The bigger the legs, the more residual sugar in the wine, the more lush and viscous. Interesting, no?
Now, the big Sniff.
You read all those entries about wine, comments about the smell of cherries, chocolate, peaches, and gingerale. Really? Can you smell all of that in a sniff from a wine glass? Well, it turns out that there are enough variables (more than 300 different organic chemical compounds) in the making of wine to create some pretty complex sniffs. So you smell the wine, and think about what it reminds you of - strong, fruity smell, earthy, spicy? Do you smell wood, smoke, toast, vanilla? Currents, blackberries, dark fruits? Greenish, young? It might be good, I am thinking, to jot down some notes about now. Go ahead, give it a try. We can compare next time.
Next, a nice Swish.
Move a nice sized sip of wine across your tongue. (After all, you need to get enough to taste it!) I understand that you will taste sweetness with the front of your tongue, then tannins on the side and cheeks, then the alcohol in the back of your throat. Wow. Taste it. What does it taste like?
The wine should provide a lingering aftertaste, and it should taste good. I understand that the length of finish will be longer for more complex full bodied wines, while a simple finish probably indicates a wine that should be drank while young.
There you have the high level. I don't know if I can keep all the details in my head just yet. After all, I have heard them before and they didn't stick. Could that be because I was drinking wine? Hm. But I think I can recall the See Swirl Sniff Swish Swallow. The 5 S's of the wine ritual.
I am off to practice.