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Having A Wine Tasting Party

The first step to having a wine tasting party is deciding the theme. Will it be a general survey of wines? Will it be a “vertical tasting,” featuring several vintages of the same wine, such as Château Mouton-Rothschild from 1970-1982? Or will it be a “horizontal tasting,” with wines of a single vintage from several wineries, such as 1990 Barolos? There’s nothing incorrect with setting up a tasting any way you want, but the more structured it is, the more the participants are likely to learn. Wine tasting parties are a wonderful way to experience several wines without bearing a fantastic financial burden. Have each guest bring a bottle and you’re ready to go.

If you’re up for just tasting some different wines, remember these rules:

White wine before red wine.
Light wine before heavy wine.
Dry wine before sweet wine.
Simple wine before complex, rich wine.

For all wine tastings, remember the 7 S’s to help you achieve a full experience.

See-Look at the wine. Is it light, dark, clear, opaque?
Swirl-Rotate the glass, either on the table or in your hand. This helps aerate it and release the flavors and aromas.
Sniff-Place your nose in the glass and inhale. What do you notice? What aromas? Bouquet?
Sip-Take a mouthful and hold it in your mouth. “Chew” on it. What is the mouth feel?
Slurp- Suck some air into your mouth while holding the wine. This often releases subtle aromas detected in your retronasal cavity.
Swish-Go it around in your mouth. What is the body of the wine?
Swallow or Spit-Then exhale slowly through the nose.
Sniff again-Often you will notice something you didn’t the first time.

What is the end? How long do the flavors linger? Talk about it with your fellow tasters. Remember, nobody is incorrect when it comes to tasting wine. As stated in the Choosing Wine article, genetic variation in the human palate is very broad. Some people taste and smell what others don’t.

After you taste the wines, you’ll want to discuss them with your friends. Americans tend to describe wines based on olfactory words such as: fruity, flowery, spicy, earthy, woody, grassy, tobacco. These sensations come from compounds in the wine that are identical or similar to those very things. Many British writers use adjectives such as vigor, power, youthfulness, ripeness, silkiness, dullness, and harshness when describing wines.

The “nose” of the wine referes to the aromas, or individual smells, and the “bouquet” refers to the collection of smells.

The “taste” of the wine reveals itself in the mouth from front to back. Sweet is the first to be detected on the tip of the tongue. While dry may be considered the opposite of sweet, Master of Wine Tim Hanni, suggests using “not sweet” as the opposite of sweet. This is because tannins and astringent compounds that cause physical drying in the mouth can really be present in a sweet wine, and not present in a wine that lacks sweetness. Thus, sweet wines may have a drying effect while so-called dry wines may have no drying effect at all.

Acidity is sensed on the sides of the tongue. White wines have more acidity than reds and rely on it for structure. Acidity can be described as tart, crisp or soft. Acidity can be distinguished from tannins because it makes you salivate in response while tannins don’t.

Tannins are bitter compounds found in the skins of grapes. Giving structure to red wines as acidity does to whites, the drying effects of tannins can be detected on the back of the tongue and the inside of the cheeks. Words to describe tannins in wine are bitter, firm and soft.

Body refers to the feel of the wine in your mouth. Some wines feel fuller in the mouth than others. They have more “weight.” Wines can be light, medium or full-bodied.

Becoming educated in wine requires tasting many wines. Wine tasting parties and festivals are ideal because you can sample numerous wines without having to buy numerous bottles. Often, you will meet people who know about wine and are pleased to share their experience with you.
Pleased tasting!

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