Oeno-versity Lesson No. 1
By Joseph Baca
Looking to unlock a wine's full potential? Follow these three imperative points for properly tasting wine.
1) Most importantly, make sure the wine is at the right temperature—45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for most whites and 58 to 65 degrees for most reds. Off-temperatures will dull wines, making them appear off-balance and lacking in acid or fruit. A wine that's too cool hides the flavors; too hot, you'll only taste alcohol. Never serve a white wine that's overly chilled. If you drink your wines within the above temperature guidelines, the aromas—which give wine sensuality and enhance its flavors—will unfold the way they were meant to. (Aromas are odors inherent in the grapes. Bouquet refers to odors developed within the bottle.)
2) Make sure the glasses you use are clean. Impurities like soap residue can taint the wine’s flavor. Pour a small amount of wine into a glass (less than an ounce), and swirl it so the inside of the glass is cleansed. Pour the wine into the next glass and follow the same procedure with however many glasses you’re using. Throw out the rinse. This wine cleansing will remove any flavor contaminants so the only flavors you taste come from the juice in the bottle.
3) Aerate wine by swirling it in your glass. This process will oxygenate the wine, which releases its best aromas and flavors. Make sure you use glassware with a bowl large enough to allow you to swirl the wine without spilling. Fill your glass 1/3 full, then place it on a smooth table surface. Hold the stem between your thumb and index finger at the very base of the glass, while balancing the foot of the glass on the table. Slowly turn it in tiny circles and the wine will swirl. As you perfect your technique, you can swirl midair. Place your nose in the glass and smell the freshly released aromas. Do this constantly as you're drinking. The bouquet of a wine that is’t oxygenated can overwhelm the wine with nasty smells and tastes, drowning subtle aromas and finer flavors. When bottled and shipped, wines can become dull from “bottle shock"—a temporary state when a wine tightens up and won't release its flavors and aromas. Store the wine for a short period, in a cool and quiet place, to coax its characteristics out again.
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