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How to Become an Expert Wine Taster

The following information is presented without warranty of any kind  :)
Professional wine tasters (sommeliers) may act and speak in mysterious ways, but it's not really hard to learn. You can train your palate and become a wine expert, too.

Expert wine tasters utilize three senses when tasting wines - vision, taste and smell. Their procedure is first to let the wine air, then observe the viscosity and color of the wine, then smell it and finally taste it. Notice that the first three steps are "in-glass," and only the fourth is "in-mouth."

The first step in wine tasting is to aerate the wine. Swirling it around in the glass oxygenates the wine and helps release its fragrances. (If you wish to to sound like an expert, call it "the nose.")

Step two is to look at the wine and observe its appearance. Hold the glass up in front of a light background, swirl it around, and note the intensity in color of the wine and its viscosity or density (streaks called legs or tears). Darker wines, those with more intense color, are likely to have more intense flavors.

The third step toward analyzing a wine is to note its bouquet, the combination of fragrances that provide the majority of the "flavor" that we attribute to the wine. Inhale from the wine glass and try to detect and name the various components of the bouquet. You can repeat this numerous times, perhaps writing down the various notes that you find. Practice makes perfect on this exercise, as does reading reviews to see what other reviewers have written about the wine.

The final step is to actually put some of the wine in your mouth. And, you should spit (expectorate) it if you plan to sample other wines in the same tasting flight (session). Various taste buds (and olfactory cells) will send their signals to your brain, and you need to note as many of these as you can. Note the acidity, the bitterness and sweetness. Tannin gives a cotton-mouth feel. How do taste buds in the back of your mouth react, compared to those in the front? Which tastes linger and which fade quickly? Again, reading reviews by other wine tasters will help you put names on what you sense.

The optimal temperature for serving wines varies. This information is excerpted from Jancis Robinson:
    * Light bodied sweet dessert wines: 41-50°F (5-10°C)
    * White sparkling wines: 43-50°F (6-10°C)
    * Aromatic, light bodied white: 46-54°F (8-12°C)
    * Red sparkling wines: 50-54°F (10-12°C)
    * Medium bodied whites: 50-54°F (10-12°C)
    * Full bodied dessert wines: 46-54°F (8-12°C)
    * Light bodied red wines: 50-54°F (10-12°C)
    * Full bodied white wines: 54-61°F (12-16°C)
    * Medium bodied red wines: 57-63°F (14-17°C)
    * Full bodied red wines: 59-64°F (15-18°C)

In order to maintain cred with your friends, you will need to toss out some of the terminology used by professional wine testers. Be sure to use these words as you discuss wines being tested:

Acidity
Aftertaste
Aromatics
Barrel fermentation
Blind tasting
Body
Bouquet
Brettanomyces
Character
Clarity
Complex / Complexity
Connectedness
Cork taint
Deep
Dry
Expressiveness
Faulty
Flight
Fresh
Grand cru
Grape varieties
Harmony
Honeyed
Horizontal tasting
Integration
Intense
Legs
Lively
Malolactic fermentation
Mouthfeel
Nose (of the wine)
Oxidation
Palate (of the wine)
Projection
Region
Round
Short
Sparkling
Spicy
Sommelier
Supple
Tannin
Tears
Tulip
Varietal
Vertical tasting
Vintage
Weight
Woody
Yeast contamination

Practice makes perfect in wine tasting, and a few weeks of disciplined study will give you credibility that will cause your friends to marvel at your expertise and ask your advice before they buy wine.

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