Updated: Apr 4
Like a lot of people, I’ve had quite a lot of time to think and reflect over the last few weeks on any number of topics. But for me, wine has been front of mind. Maybe it’s that my neighbors and I have been sharing bottles from my cellar and trading thoughts on the wine, trying to bring a sense of normalcy to our days, with proper safety protocols in place of course.
As we’re tasting, the first words that come out of our mouths aren’t about the bouquet of the wine or whether we can smell green peppers and tobacco. The words that fly out of our mouths are “che buono questo vino!” (this wine is great!) or “mi piace” (I like it) and every so often “ho piaciuto l’altra bottiglia meglio” (I liked the other bottle better).
It got me thinking about wine tasting and wine in general.
Over the last year, I’ve become convinced the world of wine has too many people feeling like outsiders, like they don’t know enough about wine to make comments about what they’re drinking. People tell me all the time they don’t know anything about wine, they just know how to drink it. "I only know if I like the wine, so I really comment on the wine." But isn’t this the fundamental key - to know whether you like the wine or not?
You hear about all the rules for wine tasting that are supposed to help you know if you’re enjoying a wine or not, but it’s started to seem like these very rules have taken the fun out of the very thing we all like the most: actually drinking wine!
This hit me squarely in the face last week as I was sampling a wine I was considering for the wine club. I opened the bottle, smelled the cork to get some initial aromas and make sure the bottle wasn’t corked. Up to now, we’re all good, but here’s where it went sideways. I poured the wine into my glass and was intensely focused on smelling the wine to distinguish which fruits I could detect, were there any earthy sensations? Was there wood? I identified the smells, and went on to taste the wine, taking a sip, swirling it in my mouth and thinking about what flavors I could pick up more than if I actually liked the wine. At the moment I realized this, I knew I’d jumped the shark.
Shouldn’t the most important question be if I actually like the wine? It feels like that should be the actual first thing we’re asking ourselves instead of going through a detailed laundry list of tasting questions that the “experts” have devised. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t like the wine, does it matter if you can taste the faint hints of elderberry or smell rubber garden hose? We drink wine to be happy, to relax and enjoy the work of art in a bottle that the winemakers have painstakingly created for us. Which is why I’ve reworked my routine for wine tasting to prioritize one thing above all else: my enjoyment of the wine.
Wine Tasting for Enjoyment
What follows are my steps to help keep the focus on the wine and keep things fun. Hope you’ll enjoy - and if you don’t - throw it all out the window and do what makes YOU happy. That’s what this post is all about.
Open the bottle: smell the cork to make sure the bottle hasn’t gone bad. If the bottle is corked (bad), you’d notice an acidic smell. If you’re bottle is good, pour the wine into your glass.
Smells: inhale the aromas of the wine if you like, if not, go straight to tasting.
Tasting & Drinking: Either let the wine sit in your mouth and examine the flavors, or drink the wine and think, “Do I like this wine?” Do you need a second sip? I usually do. Take it. If you like the wine, keep drinking it! If not, try another bottle. Or share the bottle you’re not crazy about with neighbors who might want to try it out. Everyone’s palate is different after all. And at this point, if you want to think through some tasting notes and flavors, go for it..
The whole point of this is to encourage you not to overthink wine. It shouldn’t be a chore, which is the tragedy I started experiencing last week with my overly detailed approach to tasting. So for me, I’m making these changes. The point is to do what makes YOU feel best and make that how you approach this joyful thing we call drinking wine.
You don’t have to follow any set of rules to enjoy wine, just do what makes you happy. We’ll cheers to that!
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