You’ve probably been to a dinner and heard someone discussing the tannins of a particular wine or exclaiming that it has a full body and a long finish. While you may have heard of this vocabulary before, it can be awkward not knowing what it means, and you may wish that you could join the conversation.
While a refined palate doesn’t happen overnight, there are certainly some steps you can take to becoming a wine connoisseur and expand your vocabulary.
Here are a few tips from new wine connoisseurs to improve your wine knowledge and participate in the conversation more eloquently.
Learn to Properly Smell Wines
The first step to becoming a wine connoisseur is to learn how to appreciate wines.
Rather than simply drinking it like any other beverage, the first thing you should do is savor the aromas. To smell it properly, hold the glass by the stem and gently swirl it with your wrist. Note that if your glass is more than half full, you will likely spill it, so be sure that it is less than 25 percent full.
Then, sniff it for aromas like apricot, citrus, almonds, black and red berries, and more. When you describe the smell, avoid calling it a “smell.” Instead, refer to it as the wine’s aromas or bouquet.
A pro tip is to avoid an area with food or other scents, as this can distort the wine’s aroma. For example, if you’re sitting near a fruit salad, it may not be the wine that has a blackberry aroma.
Learn to Properly Taste Wines
Once you’ve learned to analyze the aroma of wine properly, taste it mindfully. Rather than gulping it down like a soda allow each sip to linger in your mouth for a few seconds.
Some wines change on the palate and enter with one taste before transforming into something else. Once you do swallow, consider how long the taste lingers in your mouth. This is called the finish, and a long finish simply means that the taste lingered for 45 seconds or more, while a short finish may only linger for up to 20 seconds.
Learn About Winemaking
Once you’ve tried a few wines, take your knowledge to the next level by learning more about winemaking. For example, research the difference between a grape used to make chardonnay and a pinot noir. How the grape is harvested also dramatically impacts the wine’s taste. For example, ice wines are created when the grapes are frozen on the vine, giving them an extra sweet flavor.
Keep a Journal
As a new wine connoisseur, it’s important to keep a journal. When you first begin tasting wines, you’ll find that the difference between the wines is minimal. However, as your palate becomes more refined, you’ll notice more nuances within each wine over time. Keep a journal to reflect on how your palate has changed and to avoid forgetting the wines you’ve tried.
Attend Classes and Tastings
To take your winemaking knowledge to the next level, consider taking classes or attending wine tastings. These experiences will give you an excellent overview of each wine, and an instructor can help you decipher various aromas and tastes. Many of them are free to attend, and you can even attend a virtual class or tasting from the comfort of your home.
Learning about wine not only enables you to join in on wine-related dinner conversations, but you’ll also grow to enjoy wine much more. Take action today to begin your journey as a wine connoisseur.
About the Author
Jon Notarius learned about wine from a young age from his dad, Burton Notarius, the founder of the nationally-recognized store, Premier Wine & Spirits, in Buffalo. In 2002, Jon founded Prestige Wine & Spirits, which quickly became recognized as a market leader amongst wine retailers. In fact, in 2007, Prestige Wine & Spirits received one of the industry’s highest honors — the prestigious “Leaders” award from Market Watch, a trade magazine from the publishers of Wine Spectator.
Following his father’s passing in 2014, Jon returned to Premier Wine & Spirits to manage the store that Burt had founded in 1969, placing considerable emphasis on growing the store’s online business, WineDeals.com. Jon’s extensive travels through many of the world’s wine regions, along with decades of tasting wines, have given him a broad palate. He lists Italy and France as his two favorite places, for both their wine and their food.