Wine Tasting 101
Does wine taste like grapes to you? Well, it should. It is grapes!
Ever try a wine with a friend to hear it smells like gun smoke and tastes like sandalwood? And you still taste, well, grapes?
Yea, we have all been there too, and we have the cheat code for you to never feel unarmed in a tasting or over a new glass with a friend. There are three easy steps to follow to understand what you taste when it comes to wine. The rest is all just refining and developing your palate. Here they are:
1. Does it taste like red fruit or black fruit?
Grapes are fruit and will taste like fruit. Depending on the climate they come from and the soil they are grown in, they will either be juicy and plump or sugary and raisin-like. They will be sour or sweet. All these characteristics are similar of other fruits, so you can never be wrong in comparing. The easiest way to differentiate a wine is to understand if tastes like red fruits or black fruits – so just say you first reaction. You have 50 / 50 shot to get it right, just go for it. If it is red fruit, there is an easy cheat sheet to follow:
Cranberries and Cherries –more tart than sweet
Strawberries and Raspberries – sweeter than tart
Jam – the sweetest, and also thick and sticky
If it is a black fruit, maybe harder to dial in, but another easy cheat sheet is:
Plums – more tart than sweet
Blackcurrant – we don’t really know what it is either
Blackberries – mix of sweet and tart
Blueberries – sweetest
And if you don’t want to delve into the actual fruit taste, remember, black or red always works!
2. Is it dry or sweet?
This is a bit of a tricky one. Wine is wet, so how can it be dry? Dry is not a taste, it is a sensation! The opposite of sweet is tart? So what the f*ck is going on here! Am I taking crazy pills?
No you are not!
Dry is a technical term meaning low in sugar, it is not a sensation you have in your mouth. When grapes turn into wine, the sugar of the grapes become alcohol. Sometimes very little sugar remains after the alcohol fermentation, and sometimes a lot remains. This is all nerdy technical crap, and all you need to know is that dry means less sugar. So when you taste it, if it is sweet, it is sweet – easy enough. And if it is not sweet, it is dry. There is always a scale, so you can fall back on the terms less sweet or less dry. And if you get real classy, if it sweet, you can say it has a rich mouthfeel!
3. Light, Medium or Full Bodied
Once we know red or black fruit, and the ridiculous difference between dry or sweet, a final easy way to understand wine is to know the body. And while there are some vinofiles that throw out the term sexy, body is referring to the weight of the wine in your mouth. Just like the example of milk – skim feels lighter than whole or full fat milk. Same with wine – light bodied wine is, well, lighter than full bodied wine. And the best part, if you can’t tell, it is probably because you guessed it, it’s medium! And again, like being dry or sweet, this is a scale. If you are unsure, just say less full-bodied, more full-bodied, light to medium, medium to full, etc. And don’t be afraid to add the “to-me” to the end of your opinions because nobody can tell you what you taste!
With these three rules, you are now fully equipped to go out in the world and drink wine! And remember, we drink wine because it tastes good and is enjoyed with good company. There is no point in having a drink if you don’t like it or the people around you are d*cks.
Practice always makes perfect, and none truer than with wine. A refined palate comes with time, so keep trying and tasting – try with beginners and experts alike, try with and without food, try side by side with other wines, keep trying! And join us for a Bevvies wine tasting every Thursday at Miss Fitz Kitchen + Bar or Roxy Bar located at the Sail at Marina Bay.
Enjoy your bevvies!