All World Wines

Virginia Wine Tasting

Living the Good Life
By Jim Bogaty- Owner Veramar Vineyard

In Virginia winery tasting rooms, learn “how to taste wine”

A wine tasting tutorial
Do you think people who visit winery-tasting rooms know a lot about wine? Well some do, but most don't. No matter, that's not a hindrance to enjoying wine. The local wine establishments welcome you to visit their tasting rooms. Go out to the winery and meet the winemakers. DO NOT fear visiting a winery. The winery wants you to taste their wine and if they are good, they will do everything they can to make you feel comfortable in their tasting room. Hospitality is everything.

Few things are more intimidating than wine tasting. You may feel that you lack the knowledge and experience to properly taste wines. First thing that any wine taster should do is “relax!” This is a very personal experience. There are few absolutes in wine tasting or few "right" or "wrong" perceptions. The ultimate evaluation of any wine is “Do you like it!” Remember, wine is supposed to be fun.

Here's how it goes at most Virginia local winery tasting rooms: The visitor settles in. A small amount of wine is poured - usually a series of whites to start, then a series of reds. Dry wines to begin, then sweeter wines to finish. For the most part, whites are light and easier to taste. Reds tend to have more complex, heavier flavors; you don't want to overwhelm your taste buds by tasting them first. Drink some water or have a cracker after tasting a wine to cleans your palate in order to better appreciate the next wine.

How do I taste wines? It’s as simple as 1-2-3.

There are three aspects to tasting any wine. 1 Color- 2 Smell - 3 Taste

First color
First step is to look at the wine in the wine glass. OBSERVE color and clarity. Wines should be clear rather than hazy. When you look at a wine it is important to take your time. Disregard everything you have seen in commercials and movies, 99.9% of that is wrong. Lighting is important, because you cannot observe the colors of a wine in a dark room. Bright sunlight is best. Set the glass on the tasting bar on a white napkin. Do not hold your glass up and look from underneath. The colors behind the glass will influence your impression of the wine's color. Look down at a slight angle into the wine glass. Note the subtle colors. Is it a ruby red? A plum red? Is it a pale straw gold color? Does it have hints of green? Taking time to really look at your wine will enhance your pleasure. Wine color is affected most by: the age of the wine, grape variety, whether or not the wine spent time in oak. White wines vary from clear to deep golden brown, and gain color as they age. Red wines range from ruby to brick. As they age, they lose color and begin to brown. Also, observe the body of the wine by the way it coats the sides of the glass. If the "legs" trickle down slowly, it has more body. If it falls down in sheets, it has less body.

Second smell
The second step is to swirl the wine in the wine glass. Swirling the wine increases the surface area exposure to the air and helps release the wine's bouquet or aroma.
What is the very first thing you think of when you smell a wine? Sniffing the wine from the glass will release smells which can be described as Fruity, Savoury, Dairy, Nutty, Spicy, Mineral, Sugary, Woody, Floral, Herbal.Younger wines have a fruity bouquet whereas older wines tend to have a savoury and spicy bouquet. While different people will smell different things in the same wine, there are characteristic smells generally found in specific varieties. Be sure to smell the wine several times. A wine with great complexity will offer different aromas each time, as well as several scents at one time. There are hundreds of smells in wine!

"Off smells" include:
Sherry - the wine has oxidized from age or improper storage.
Vinegar - the wine contains excessive acetic acid.
Cork/Mustiness - a defective or inferior cork has affected the wine.
Sulfur - the wine contains excessive sulfur dioxide.

And third the Taste
The final step in tasting is to actually take a sip of the wine and swirl it in your mouth. Different parts of the tongue register different tastes. Roll the wine across your taste buds, keeping in mind that a balance of the following characteristic is ideal:

Body - Fullness or thinness. A function of both alcohol and glycerols.

Fruitiness - Intensity is a function of the variety, growing conditions and winemaking techniques.

Sweetness is tasted at the tip of the tongue. The wine can be medium, dry or sweet. - Comes from the wine's fruit flavors as well as any fermented grape sugars left in the wine. If there is no perceived sweetness, a wine is "dry".

Acidity is tasted on the sides of the tongue. White wines have more acidity than red wines. Acidity provides tartness to the wine. Gives the wine crispness and freshness, without which the wine is flat and sour.

Tannin is tasted at the back of the tongue and tastes bitter like a strong cup of tea that makes your mouth fur up (that slight 'pucker feeling'.) - The bitterness you taste comes from grape skins and seeds. It is essential to the finish of a wine. Most obvious in reds.

Alcohol is sensed at the back of the throat and gives a warming sensation. The higher the level of sugar in the grapes before fermentation, the higher potential alcohol the wine will have.

After swallowing, notice the aftertaste. EVALUATE THE FINISH - Savoring. Concentrate on the wine's finish (the sensation and flavors left in your mouth after swallowing. Did you like it? Why or why not? What did you notice about the body? How long did the impression/flavor linger? How long does the wine stay in your mouth? Finish is a term that describes the length of time you can taste the wine once you have swallowed. A crisp, clean and lingering finish is a mark of a good wine.

So please go visit the local tasting rooms at the wineries. Here are some for wineries for you to try; Veramar Vineyard, Piedmont, North Mountain or Breaux. Visit Virginia Wine Country on the web at for a complete listing of Virginia wineries.

There you go and there you have it. Go to a local winery tasting room so you can continue your journey in the world of wine with a better understanding of how to taste wine.


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