The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

How To Use Your Senses in Wine Tasting

One-two-three-four senses working overtime

Spitting_1-300x225Tasting wine and learning to verbalize that experience is no different than anything else in life; the only way to get better at it is to practice.  Whether you are tasting wine on a more formal level or just enjoying it with some friends, it’s always important to take a couple of seconds and describe to yourself what you have in front of you. Especially when blind tasting, your ability to recall previously tasted wines is a huge factor, so writing notes and going over them the next day are extremely helpful. Tasting is just like learning to exercise any other “muscle”: the more you work it the bigger it gets.

When you are done, you should be able to tell the type of the wine you tasted by just reading what you have written. Here is how I like to compose my notes (I’m looking specifically at red wine because it’s kind of the default setting for red wine. The process, though not the details, is mostly the same for white wines):

Sight: This might be the least helpful of them all, but it will still give you some clues as to what grape it could be and how old the wine is, especially when tasting red wine. Look at the wine in the glass; then swirl it and see how the legs, or the rivulets that run down the side of the glass look. Red wine starts our purple, then moves to ruby, red, brick and finally brown as it gets older. Also take note of the viscosity as this will help make confirmation of the weight on the palate. Don’t get too hung up on the legs, just take note on how prominent they are.

Smell: This sense is perhaps the most important. We have the ability to distinguish over a thousand aromatic compounds, and certain grapes show specific aromatics, making smell wildly helpful. I always check for the ripeness of the aromatics in every glass that comes close to my nose.  Riper aromas will give a good indication of warmer climates and vice versa. Also, it is important to note the maturity of the fruit.  Are the aromas still primary?  Or have they evolved secondary and tertiary characteristics? Secondary and tertiary characteristics—notes such as leather, cigar tobacco and tar—can indicate an older vintage or a wine that’s mature despite its chronological age.

Spitting_2-300x225Taste: This sense is smell’s conjoined twin. What you taste in your mouth is more or less an extension of what you smell, but despite that closeness in physical processes, the aroma of a wine and the taste of a wine can be very different–or very much the same. See what aromatics get replicated, amplified, or excluded from the wine’s taste. See also whether the taste changes. Many wines start out fruity and end dry, or build from woody to flowery, or undergo some other transformation. Note too how “clean” the flavors are, whether they seem to unfold in the glass or over time, and how long they last.

Feel:  This part, when assessed correctly, is the most helpful part in describing a wine to someone. In your mouth, does it feel more like water or more like cream?  Does the wine feel angular on the palate or round and smooth?  Also take note on how dry the wine is and how much you can feel the alcohol, as these will both give indication as to origin and variety. Now it’s time to look at the structure as this will determine how long a wine can last.  Tannins can either be very prominent or very light.  Are they rough or silky? Green or ripe? Harsh green tannins are never good, but round silky tannins are a sign of balance and maturity.

Conclusion:  The finish of wine might be the most important quality. After all, if you are drinking a $100 bottle, you should let that delicious flavor linger for a while!  You also want to take what you have written down qualitatively and transform it into a brief tasting note.  This is what you will ultimately remember, and it can help you buy wine that you suspect you’ll like even when you’ve never had it before. It’s also fun to impress your friends with your newfound skills.

Join us for one of our wine events to help hone your palate. There’s nothing like experience–delicious, delicious experience.

Saturday Tastings at IWM NYC, Great for Clients, Awesome for Staff

How one IWM Expert uses our tasting series to get to know people–and wine–better

1474605_553876294681000_456219234_nOne of the great things about IWM is our Saturday Public Tasting Series, our weekly wine tasting that follows a different theme each week. For example, last Satyrdat we had a tasting with the wines of Spain and the week before we held a Brunello tasting. These events benefit clients because they present them with a chance to taste and enjoy the finest wines from the most prominent wine-producing regions in the world. It’s not that often that you get to taste Poggio di Sotto, Valdicava, and Cerbaiona (in addition to a few others) all in one tasting, which was the case at the aforementioned Brunello tasting. I mean, honestly, what better way is there to spend a Saturday afternoon than tasting wines with friends? Especially wines of this caliber!

Here’s a secret: these tastings are great not only for our clients, but they’re awesome for IWM staff as well. First, we get an opportunity to interact with our clients, which is supremely important when building personal and long-term relationships. We value people here at IWM, and we base our business philosophy on it. It’s why our clients are loyal to us and trust our opinions when looking for that perfect bottle for a dinner or when choosing wines to add to their cellars.

Second, these tastings help build our own understanding of the wines we carry. It’s important to me to be able to describe wine accurately, to convey its quality, aromas, flavors, and longevity. There’s no better way to learn how to be accurate than to have experienced the wines myself. Knowing what the wines taste like helps me to better match a client’s tastes to the wine. There’s no doubt that wine is like food in that everyone has different tastes and is partial to certain flavors. Dishes that appeal to one person may not appeal to another and the only way to find out what someone likes is to have tried the food yourself to understand what is they liked or disliked about it. Getting to know a wine inside and out helps me put the right bottle in people’s hands, and that’s what it’s all about.

I hope to see you at one of our NYC events. We’ll talk wine, and whether you’re a wine newbie or a huge wine nerd, we’ve got a lot to talk about—and even more to drink!

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