Friday, July 23, 2010

Wine: Developing a Subtle Swagger

Wine is what you make of it. It can be a hobby or a consuming passion. It can be a person’s lifestyle, and for some (such as myself) can carve out a living in the wine industry. For others, wine can be confusing and intimidating; therefore, less rewarding.

For instance, you might ask, what am I supposed to do with a cork the waiter handed me after opening my wine at the table? Would I know it if I were drinking a “bad” wine? Can I taste things in wine like other people do? Through the appreciation of wine, I have received so many wonderful, enriching life moments involving friendships, conversations, laughter, travels and dining experiences. I even wooed my wife with bottles of wine from my meager wine collection.

Somehow, her preferences seem to run towards the more expensive Burgundy
and Bordeaux wines, which I began to run low on after our first few months of
dating. I knew I had to pop the question before she was given to think I may be as shallow as my wine collection. If you can taste food, if you can smell butter and garlic cooking, you have the ability to enjoy and discuss wine with anyone else on the planet.

Allow me to help you feel more confident and assured about your wine prowess
next time you grab a glass in public. (But wait, don’t GRAB it!)

Hold the wine glass by the stem only.
Do not put your fingers or hands on the bowl of the glass. No matter how clean
your hands are, after a short time you will have unsightly smudges and oils on
the bowl.
Swirl the wine in the glass before your first sip. (and as often as you like after that). Swirling releases aromatics of the wine, allowing you to experiencemore of what the wine has to offer. You will find swirling is easier to do while the base of the glass is on the table. Practice at home.
Breathe in the fragrances. Let your nose hover as close to the top of the glass as you can without getting it wet. Back off and focus for a few seconds. Was there one scent that came at you strongest? Was it fruit, herb, spice or wood? Go down for another whiff, and see if it is different from the first one. Often times the aromas will change as the wine is exposed to air.
Many people actually detect different fragrances from each nostril. One side may be more available to fruit, the other more towards woods and acids, etc. Using the edge of the glass, gently press one of your nostrils (shut) and sniff the wine with the open nostril. Back off and then reverse nostrils. Did you notice a difference?
Take your first sip. Bring in enough wine to thoroughly coat the inside of your mouth. Here is where experts say you should “Trill” the wine, which is actually sucking air through your mouth while wine is still in it. I really don’t do this unless I am thoroughly evaluating a wine for business. Because of the gargling sounds it may create, “trilling” is generally not accepted at the dinner table or around people who are trying to enjoy a civilized social event.
What was that? After you swallow, the flavors of the wine become more expressive in your mouth and olfactory system. So does the texture of the wine.Was it powerful, rich, fruity, viscous, and balanced,or was it acidic, harsh, and watery? I have heard people describe flavors in wine I wasn’t able to detect, but I never consider them wrong. Everyone has unique senses, and wine drinkers give high respect to that.
Get reference material. I taught myself how to taste and enjoy wine before there was any real reference material available: not quite the stone ages, but before the internet. Whenever I had a wine I knew little or nothing of, I read World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson while imbibing. It told me what I needed to know, and I began to get a foundation of wine knowledge that is invaluable to me. I want everyone to enjoy winewho may be so inclined.

-Gary Parker

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