CapeTownMagazine.com

A Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting

Unwrapping Cape Town with you.
Also engage with our other channels
to find something you don't want to miss.
 
www.capetownmagazine.com/subscribe
CapeTownMag
CapeTownMagazine.com
capetownmag

A Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting

A step-by-step walkthrough to get you clued-up on the ins and outs of a sip-and-swirl session

We’ve all seen it before: a bespectacled wine connoisseur sipping, sniffing and swirling a glass of vino, considering each step like it may contain the answer to the meaning of life, only to eventually spit out the liquid like it has left a bad taste on the palate.  And if you, like so many, have asked yourself, “what does it all mean?”, well that’s where we come in.

With the help of Wine Flies tour guide and vino expert Riaan Renke, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to wine tasting. After all, a sip-and-swirl session is one the most popular things to do in and around Cape Town. 

Why learn more about the ins and outs of wine? Well, the more refined your sensory abilities, the better you’re able to understand and enjoy the nuances possessed by great wines.  Not to mention, knowledge is power, and the more you know about vino, the easier it will be to suss out what kind of wine you enjoy the most. 

Pre-guide tip:  Always hold the glass by the stem and not by the bowl during a session.  Doing the latter might heat the wine, disrupt its optimal temperature and therefore alter your experience of it.

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO WINE TASTING FOR BEGINNERS

The look
Hold the glass directly in front of your face and tilt it slightly.  This will enable you do look at the colour of the core as well as the hues of the rim.  If possible, do so in front of a white background to get an objective, clear view.  You are looking for clarity (haziness or cloudiness can either indicate an unfiltered or faulty wine) and intensity of the colour. Why? Well, as Riaan clarifies: “The colour of the wine depicts its age”.  A lighter liquid indicates that the wine is fairly young, while a deeper, richer colour means that the vino is older.  Do note that the colour in older red wines changes to a brownish red.

Next you can give the wine a gentle swirl - make sure the contents get swished around the entire bowl.  When you spin your wine you create a thin film of wine on the inside of the glass and will see droplets, or so-called “legs”, running down the sides.  The aptly named legs are used to determine a red or white wine’s body:  thin legs equal a light body and thicker legs imply a fuller body. These are terms used to describe the general weight or texture of a wine in your mouth. Full-bodied wines are bold and powerful. In contrast, light-bodied wines are more delicate and refined. Furthermore, wines with high alcohol levels collect more droplets on the sides of the glass than those with lower levels.
Riaan’s swirl tip: “Swirl the wine in your glass by rotating your wrist. This takes a little practice. Most people have trouble at first because they are moving their entire arm to swirl the glass. The key is in the wrist.”

The aroma or “nose”
To experience the full aromatic spectrum of a wine, a good swirl is essential.  Letting the wine dance in the glass increases its interaction with oxygen, which will release fragrant molecules and enrich the tasting experience.  “Place your nose just over the edge of the wine glass,” explains Riaan. “Keep your mouth open. The aromas should bounce off this edge straight up the nostrils. Take a very deep sniff. Identify any familiar smells. Repeat, but rest your sense of smell a few seconds before you inhale again”.  Do this to glean your first impressions of the aromas of the wine. Try to identify families of scents rather than specific ones: words like "fruity" or "floral" are sufficient at this stage. The more advanced sommelier will be able to pick up specifics like guava and rose, for example.
If the aroma is cardboard-y or musty, then it could be “corked”.  This means that the liquid has been contaminated with 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA), an airborne fungus that infiltrates the cork and consequently masks the normal/ intended aroma(s) of the vino.  The fungus is harmless to humans, but the smell – and therefore the taste - can be very off-putting. 
Riaan’s advice: “You must remember that your sense of smell can be subjective, so hazard a guess at what your nose picks up. If you get really funny looks from the wine tasting assistant and the majority of your group because you mentioned dung beetle or bathroom floor, consider making an appointment with an ear, throat and nose specialist before your next wine tasting trip. Or just ignore them and carry on with your bizarre descriptions, because after all, it is what you smell.”

The taste or “palate”
We know what you are thinking: Finally!  But, before you get too excited, there is some technique that needs to be applied to this stage of the process as well.  For starters, your first sip should be accompanied by an intake of air (this is a little tricky, but you will get the hang of it), which will once again aerate the wine and release more aromas. This is called “trilling”, if you really want to be fancy about it.   “Roll the wine over your tongue for several seconds before swallowing.  Exhale through your nose as you swallow. Your taste buds and sense of smell will work together,” adds Riaan.  Next you have to “chew” the wine. Yes, chew.  This is basically swishing the wine like you would a mouthwash, which will help coat your entire mouth.  At the back of the mouth, there is a passageway that leads directly to the spot high in the nasal cavity that contains the smell receptors that inform your brain.  This effect of smelling through your mouth is called retro-olfaction. The idea is to then compare the scents and aromas you discovered with your nose with those you experience with your mouth.  The taste of a wine comprises two basic elements: flavour and structure.  The former will be something like blackberry, chocolate or lemon and the latter indicates the level of sweetness, alcohol, acidity, and tannin.

  • Sweetness: This is pretty self- explanatory, but do note that the opposite of a sweet wine is not a dry wine. Dry does not mean the vino is bitter; it simply means it is not sweet.  For example, most red wines are dry.   
  • Alcohol: This describes that fiery feeling that you get at the back of your throat after swallowing some wine. More alcohol equals more heat!
  • Acidity: A good level of acidity will give a wine a good backbone as well as aspects of crispness and freshness.        
  • Tannin:  A highly tannic wine will result in your mouth puckering and drying up.   

If all of the above strike a good balance, i.e. no one element must dominate, then this usually means it is a good quality wine.

The evaluation
Officially, this is the final step in the wine tasting process.  Take one last sip, spit or swallow and as soon as the vino is no longer in your mouth, try and determine how long you can still experience the aromas (not tastes!).  The longer you perceive the aromas, the better the quality of wine.  This is called the persistence of the wine.

Some final thoughts from vino expert Riaan Renke:  “Developing the skill of wine tasting takes practice. The more wines you taste, the better you will become with this entire sensory process."

---

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle and check out our Pinterest boards for updates. Not to mention, subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with what's hip and happening in our pretty city. 

Cape Town Events Calendar
July 2018
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31

The Grey Hotel Win1The Best Staycation Special In The ...

Special offer for you as a reader: 2 nights stay, rooftop drinks, tapas platter, wine and ...

SA IdolsAll the Times Capetonians Entertained ...

Though auditions for 2018 are closed, Cape Town did us proud during SA Idols Season 14

Xplore Cape Town Tours 2Be A Tourist In Your Own Country With ...

From the Cango Caves to the world’s highest bungee bridge, adventure awaits on this ...

Under Oaks 4Have a Turkish-French Affair With This ...

Indulge all your senses by trying the delicious wine and sweet pairing at Under Oaks in ...

Le Bonheur 12Get a 20% Discount on Accommodation at ...

Le Bonheur Reptiles and Adventures offers patrons a 20% discount when they stay at this ...

Arcade Cafe 5Get 2 for 1 Pizza and Cocktails at ...

Save on your lunch and tuck into delicious pizzas and cocktails at this Bree Street ...

Vredenheim 5Picnic Among The Golden Wildebeest on ...

Make use of our 10% discount for a family game drive with a difference at Vredenheim

Mischu 11Get a 30% Discount on Coffee Capsules ...

Save on brewing delicious coffee from the comfort of your own home with a discount on ...

Ubuntu Climbs 365 3How Many Hikes Up Table Mountain Does ...

A hike a day gets the funds raised. This guy is hiking Table Mountain every single day of ...

Arabella Aerial ViewWhich of These 5 Arabella Stay, Play ...

One luxury spa day and four remarkable getaway experience deals to reward yourself with, ...

Battlefield Live SA Laser Tag Team Building Cape TownBattlefield Live SA laser tag ...

Corporates become battalions in this adrenaline-inducing, morale-boosting laser tag ...

Obama Mandela 1Watch: Barack Obama Delivers 16th ...

This free event gives everyone the ability to become part of the event this Centenary ...

Just Like Papa 4Just Like Papa: The Ultimate Place to ...

Finally, there’s a place in Cape Town where you can get exceptional home, camping, ...

whale wine and wors wine flies logoWhale, Wine and Wors Tours with Wine ...

Hop on board a fun-filled minibus and explore the hidden gems of the Western Cape

Cape Town Culinary Tours - 52-For-1 Special with Cape Town Culinary ...

Cape Town Culinary Tours offers you 241TUESDAYS every week until the end of 2018 – use ...

Cape Culinary Tours Valentine's Day InclusionTake a Bite into History with Cape Town ...

Learn about Cape Town’s past while savouring local cuisine with these informative ...

Sgt pepper live musicRam Jam Rock Parties at Sgt Pepper

The head-banging, guitar twanging rockin’ good times are back

Kaapse Stories at The Rockwell TheatreDinner and a Show with Rockwell Theatre

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in Cape Town gets told to your mom, ...

aFREAKaaFREAKa Clothing Kids Onesies

Treat your little ones to a fun and trendy top quality animal or INYE onesie

Boy Girl HairHaircut Special at Boy Girl Hair Salon

Marry a tip-top cut with any of this edgy salon’s other services and save

The Piano Bar Burger and Beer Special in Cape TownBurger and Beer Special at The Piano Bar

Visit this jazzy eatery and bar on any Tuesday for a burger (or pizza) and free beer

Excentric HairTransformation Tuesday at Excentric ...

Receive a complimentary Olaplex treatment when booking a single or double colour process, ...

WeatherGiveawaysTravel Tips

Curious to make exciting discoveries in Cape Town every day? "LIKE" us for a daily hidden gem.