Tasting tips from vintners

Nobody tastes more wines than the people making it, and some of them have shared with me some tips on how any and all of us can became a better taster:

Kim Stare Wallace, Dry Creek Vineyard: “It’s important to really use the nose in wine tasting. I always recommend that Nosepeople not be embarrassed to stick their own schnoz deep into the glass. This, combined with plentiful swirling to aerate the wine and open up the aromatics, is critical in wine tasting.  Frankly, I think smelling the wine is almost more important than tasting it. If you can train your nose to be discerning, the mouth will follow.”

John Shafer, Shafer Vineyards: “The first thing to look for in the aroma is not necessarily the fruit component, but the sharpness, the focus, how well-defined the wine is.”

David Ramey, Ramey Wine Cellars: “You don’t drink aromas. You don’t drink flavor descriptors. You drink texture. Focusing on aromas is like focusing on the perfume your wife is wearing when you’re making love with her. It’s not the main event, folks. It’s like talking about Bananasbananas: Is it green, is it overripe? Texture, balance, harmony. An over-reliance on aromas doesn’t make sense. Put it in your mouth. It’s tactile rather than a bunch of descriptors.”

Thomas Rivers Brown, Rivers Marie, Outpost: “You look for the general first, then try to dial in the specific over time.”

David Graves, Saintsbury: “Pay attention to the mid-palate. It’s the money part of the palate. The tannins can be closed up early, but they should give something in mid-palate.”

Mimi Casteel Hughes, Bethel Heights:  “Give yourself ample time with any wine you are going to taste. I often find that people who are less familiar with wine tasting won’t spend nearly enough time smelling a wine, or holding it in their mouth.  There are textural, aroma and flavor nuances that simply cannot be perceived without adequate time in those sensory zones.”

Ken Wright, Ken Wright Cellars: “Take advantage of any opportunity you have to taste multiple wines at a time by Blind Tastinggetting a group together. The memory is not reliable when tasting. With this, you’re not trying to remember; you’re seeing the difference. And any opportunity you get, taste blind, which strips away any influences [and] makes the other senses a little more acute. Do it ideally with the same varietal or from the same general area.”

Casteel Hughes: “Seek out people whose palates and wine knowledge you respect. In the beginning, it helps a lot to rely on people who have similar palates; it helps you to understand what it is you like about the wines you gravitate toward. However, I feel like I learn much more when I taste with people who appreciate wines that I have not. Often this leads to new discoveries and adds breadth to your tasting repertoire. Finding people with whom you can enjoy a wine that is out of your usual comfort zone can greatly improve your sensory acuity and overall appreciation of the vast differences there are in wines.”

Andy Cutter, Duxoup Wine Works: “If you wanna have fun doing it, find a wine you really like and learn everything you can about it; figure out what you really love about it. Do that with another wine, every two months. And in two years you’ll know everthing you need to know.”

Savor winesStare Wallace: “It sounds cliché, but the most important thing in improving one’s wine tasting skills is drink more wine! It’s really true, wine is an acquired taste, just like stinky cheese. So, the more one tastes, the more one becomes accustomed to the different nuances, aromatics, flavors, varietal characteristics and regional differences in wine types.”

Casteel Hughes: “Remember that in the end, you are the expert about what you like.  Wine makes life better.  Don’t overthink it. Enjoy it.”

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