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A 10-point guide to wine drinking

So you are at this amazing party where the who’s who of the city are rubbing shoulders. You blend in like fine wine and soon everyone’s cracking up at your jokes and hanging on to your every word. But then the Sauvignon Blanc arrives and suddenly you are wary. You love sipping wine and sure you can tell a red from a white and probably a Shiraz from a Merlot, but can you swirl your drink? Do you know how to make the wine breathe to let the aromas open up? Can you aspirate it so that it tastes so much better from the second sip onwards? Fret not. There’s always a next time.


Representational Picture

Getting ready: Look at the glass. It should be with long stem and have a big enough bowl to enable swirling without spilling. Incidentally, for serious tasting, no smoking and perfumes please as they interfere in identifying or enjoying aromas, a key ingredient in wine.

The look: Look into the glass. The liquid should be clear and brilliant as we call it. There should be no cloudiness. Colour can tell you a lot about the wine, especially if a white wine is slightly brownish or orang-ish, it might have been oxidised and gone bad. An old wine would be turning slightly brownish in colour.

The feel: Touching the glass will tell you somewhat about the temperature of the wine. Red wine should be at 16-18°C. An air-conditioned room is about 20-22°C. So the glass should give you the feel of coolness. White and Rose wine should be chilled at 10-12°C, sparkling wines and lighter whites even less at 6-8°C. Think of a chilled coke in summer.

Subhash Arora
Subhash Arora

The nose: Gently press the lip of the glass between upper lip and the nose without touching it. Keep your eyes closed or open but take a smooth and deep breath -- then move the glass away and hold. What sort of aromas do you get? It’s a clean wine if there are no off or unpleasant smells. Think of fruit, vegetables, flowers, or even an interesting situation in your memory that it reminds you of. Now gently swirl the glass so that the liquid moves in gentle waves. Make sure, it does not spill out. Initially, practice at home with water if not comfortable. Practice keeping the glass on the table and slowly rotating it with the axis of the glass not moving much. You will notice the aromas getting more intense. Think what they remind you of -- floral and fruity aromas are more common.

The sip: Take a small sip -- enough for the wine to go around your mouth as you swish it around. Notice the flavours as it goes through your palate -- the initial senses are the front attack; then there is the middle attack which is where most wine is tasted. Let it touch all sides and notice if the flavours persist at the back of the tasting (wine is still in your mouth). A fine wine will have changing flavours at all three steps inside. After enjoying the sip, let it slowly trickle down your gullet (in a tasting -- you will spit it out). Feel the texture, the sugar, acidity, alcohol (does it feel warm, for instance), the astringency (in a red wine) and the balance in the
wine-smoothness.

The after-taste: What impression did the sip leave? Was it pleasant, dry, long or very short like a coke or an entry level wine? A fine wine will have an after-taste (end) that could last for even a minute or more. Is it complex or one dimensional? It is not bad etiquette to do all these things in public drinking. In order for the wine to get faster oxygenation, we swirl it in our mouths and open the teeth and lips a bit to let it come in touch with air but initially you could let it pass and try at home. Wine taste is a matter of personal choice. But any good wine would seduce you to take another sip soon. A fine wine would make you want to refill the glass instantly and when the bottle finishes, you wish you had opened another bottle.

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