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How to taste wine (and where to do so in Annapolis)

Oct 21, 2010 07:45PM ● By Anonymous



Truthfully, no one will judge you if you’re not tasting “correctly,” but beginners often want to look and feel like they know what they’re doing. Here are a few tips on how to taste wine and some upcoming events to put your skills to the test.

—    What does swirling the glass do? One of the first steps in tasting wine is taking in the wine’s “aroma” (yes, that’s the technical term for it). Swirling allows oxygen into the wine, so you can smell it better.

—    And smelling it? Next you stick your nose deep into the glass (don’t be shy!) to smell it. As you get to know wines, you’ll be able to determine different types of scents. This is really subjective, so there’s no right or wrong answer.


—    How long do I keep the wine in my mouth? Now it’s time to actually TASTE the wine. Don’t just throw it back, though. Take some time to swish it around in your mouth, run it over your taste buds, and really get a feel for the wine. After you’ve ever swallowed or spit out the wine, take notice of what tastes linger on your mouth. You might refer to this as the “aftertaste,” but it’s known as the “finish” in the wine-tasting world.

—    What’s with all the spitting? Sometimes people who taste wine decide to spit it out. This is mostly so they don’t get too intoxicated to actually evaluate the wines they taste later in the session. Whether or not you spit out the wine is your own decision; I can honestly say I’ve never done so. Then again, I’m not there to professionally rate the wine—I’m just there to taste different varieties and brands. I just make sure I’ve eaten and have someone else around to drive me home, especially if I taste a lot of wines.


Some upcoming wine tastings in the area:


—    Crush Wine House will host The Annapolis Wine & Cheese Emporium from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday (with additional dates on Nov. 20, Dec. 4, and Dec. 18). This series is a joint venture with Tastings Gourmet Market, and there will be plenty of cheese to taste with paired wines. Additionally, small plate lunch specials from Chef Jon Rosa will be available for purchase.


—      The Italian Market offers a free wine tasting every Thursday (that’s tonight!) from 6-9 p.m. at its wine and cheese bar. The Italian Market is located at 126 Defense Highway in Annapolis.


—      Bin 201 Wine Sellers also does tastings every Thursday from 6-8 p.m. Today’s tasting features cabernet sauvignon, while next Thursday, Oct. 28, will feature Argentinean and Chilean wines. The tasting is free, but you must call 410-571-2011 to reserve your glass.


Be in the know: Some terms you might come across when tasting with serious wine drinkers:


—      Aroma: This is also known as the “nose” or “bouquet” of the wine. It’s what you smell when you stick your nose into the glass.


—      Body: This describes the feeling of the wine in your mouth. A light-bodied wine will glide over your palate softly, while a full-bodied wine will feel heavy and big.


—      Closed: When a wine is described as “closed,” it means it’s too young for tasting or hasn’t opened up its flavors very much.


—     Dry: This is a phrase you’ll hear often. It means that the wine has no residual sugar, so it’s the opposite of a sweet wine.


—      Floral: This term describes a wine that has flower-like aromas or flavors.


—      Oaky: A common term, this describes a wine with obvious oak flavors or aromas. A subtle oaky flavor is desirable; an overwhelming oaky flavor is not.


—     Tannic: The compound found in grape skins and stems is tannin, which can create a drying, slightly astringent taste in your mouth. This is more common in red wines than white. 

— Kelsey Collins,