4 Quick Steps to Becoming A Wine Expert
Categories: Helpful Info
May is Australian Wine Month, and to assist you in honouring this noble harvest, here are our tips to becoming a wine expert. Many people may feel intimidated when it comes to mastering the terminology and techniques for appropriate appreciation of a vintage subtlety. However, we promise that while some are especially endowed with extraordinary olfactory acuity, being proficient and appreciative requires no special gifts—just a nose, a memory, and a willingness to try new things. Here are some handy techniques to help you hone your natural wine sense, and have fun along the way.
Step #1: Learn The Lexicon of the Barrel
You’ve heard it before — the language of the wine taster. But what does it mean for a wine to have a round, oak finish? How can a vintage have a floral nose, and what is a nose in any event? These are examples of the wine tasting lexicon. It incorporates words, colours, textures, foods, fruits, and plant types, that are already familiar to most of us in order to describe what the wine tastes like. However, if you ever wondered how someone could taste dark stone fruits in a glass of Pinot Noir or peaches in a Chardonnay this is a part of that lexicon.
Each term and descriptor means something, although it may not mean the same thing to you and the taster. Learning the lexicon is the first step. There are guides online that can help you to better understand the full range of words and terms that are used to describe the character of wine, and before you can fully embark upon your mastery of wine tasting, you should be familiar with these terms. Having a rough understanding prior to experimentation can help you grasp the significance of the terms. As well, many of these types of terms are also used when describing coffee, liqueur, or chocolate. Once you know them, you’ll see and understand their meaning in other mediums, which can be exciting.
Step #2: Don’t Hesitate to Play
Most wines do have a description provided by a taster. If you’re trying wines at home and don’t have tasting notes at hand, look up your bottle online. Many stores provide a summary of these in the display, which you can jot down once you settle on something you’d like. Be adventurous. The excellent thing about wine is that it need not cost a bomb in order to be delightful. Many of the more affordable wines available are actually spectacular, if unpretentious. Don’t be suckered in by the price of the bottle, but also don’t be shy about splurging every once in a while.
This will help to broaden your palate and provide experience for a future wine tasting tour. Experts will also advise that you put in the time necessary to gain proficiency. This doesn’t mean just having a bottle with dinner. Set up some serious tasting parties where six or seven wines are sampled, swished, and spat, and encourage your guests to take notes about their experience.
Step #3: Understand Terroir and Using Tasting Notes
Terroir is a term often applied to wines, but it can be used for a variety of foods and beverages. It refers to the environment in which the wine or food was grown and produced; the water, air, soil makeup, and climate. All of these factors impact the way a wine tastes. How can you use this to your advantage? Many wine enthusiasts believe that a wine takes up the subtle essences of the environment in which it’s grown (lavender, peaches, flowers) as well as being directly influenced directly by geography, geology, and climatology.
You can use the tasting notes directly to hone your ability to taste the notes described by sommeliers; if your wine has notes of dark cherry and leather, or peaches and shortbread, have these things on hand. Smell them before tasting the wine. Because our sense of taste is mostly also our sense of smell, having the scent of peaches clearly in mind will allow you to pick out the note of peaches. The same goes for the other tasting notes. Make this a part of your tasting parties: a game that serves a definite purpose.
Step #4: Learn About Wine Geography
Experts do note that, while novices gained a decent grasp of the language used to describe wines with only four hours of blind tastings and knowing the correct terms to apply, there are other elements that take time to learn. Each wine-growing region brings its own special characteristics to the table. Remember terroir? Well, in this case, knowing a regional terroir or even that of a single vineyard takes lots of time and practice. Don’t be sad – that means more wine parties.
We suggest that you select wines from a specific region and pair your tastings with a little geography lesson. Learn about what the regional wines offer, how they differ from vineyard to vineyard and why. Present this knowledge to your guests as a preface to tasting. It will enhance the experience of the tasting and make it that much more memorable.
While you can become an expert on the surface in a matter of hours, handling the language of tasting with confidence, it takes longer to truly have a deep understanding. Enjoy this may and begin your wine journey in the vineyards of Australia, learning about the terroir of Australia’s distinctive and delicious wines. Purchase your favourites for future tasting parties, and look forward to a winter wonderland of friends, food, and knowledge; the true gifts of the vine.