Julie Harrison - Wine Tasting

Publish Date
Friday, 4 September 2015, 2:16PM
By Julie Harrison

The best way to learn about wine is to taste it. There are a number of different ways of going about a wine tasting depending on what you want to focus on.

Sometimes it is good to go back to basics. Whilst it might not sound that appealing, tasting a glass of water with various combinations of acid and sugar added is a good way to understand how these wine components work together. Add a teaspoon of tartaric acid (found in baking section in the supermarket) to 5 glasses of water. Leave one glass with no sugar and then add a teaspoon of sugar into the second glass, 2 teaspoons into the 3rd and so on. You can see how the sugar eventually balances out the acidity. If you want something a bit more interesting, then Riesling is the perfect wine to demonstrate how wine acids and sugar work together. Try to find 5 or 6 Rieslings ranging from very dry to very sweet and see how the wines go from very tart and mouth tingling, through to luscious and round. If possible use wines from the same vintage. Riesling is also a great wine to use at a tasting to see how time in the bottle affects taste and aroma. Some people will enjoy a fresh, young Riesling with others preferring the increasingly complex flavours that develop as Riesling ages.

If you are a wine beginner then it might be useful to taste a range of wine varieties to get a general understanding of the obvious differences between them. With any wine tasting you should not try too many wines in one go; 5 or 6 being about right. Try the wines side by side and look for unique flavours and aromas. It is not cheating to refer to books or magazines to get clues about what to expect from a particular wine.

Once you have a bit of an idea about the characteristics of different varieties you can look at differences within the varieties you enjoy. One thing to examine is the variation you get in a wine between areas. You can do this at a global level; for example with Shiraz/Syrah from Australia, New Zealand and France. Or look at regional variation within a country. New Zealand Pinot Noir is perfect for this as you see some definite differences between regions and even sub-regional variation when it comes to Central Otago.

Blind tastings are a fun and very objective way to look at wine. One good tasting idea is to look at a single variety across a range of price points, just don’t worry if you like the cheap one the best.   It is also a good way to test your tasting skills over a range of wines with no “varietal ” or “country” bias.   I have had non-Chardonnay drinkers love Chardonnay in a blind tasting as well as people who “never drink French wine” loving a French Bordeaux.

Just remember don’t be worried if you get it wrong and call a Merlot a Shiraz, it is all part of the fun and don’t be scared to say what you think about a wine and the flavours and aromas you find.

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