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Wine Tasting - The Sense of Smell

There are a few very important things to note when we "nose" a wine. It is suggested to first smell the wine before swirling, noticing the delicate aromas. Next, swirl the wine and smell again after it is at rest. Depending on the bouquet, you may then notice a profound difference in the odors emerging. Aroma is a smell that originates from the actual grape, with very clear cut characteristics. Aroma is most prevalent in young wines. The bouquet of a wine refers to smells generated as a result of aging; smells found particularly in mature wines that were aged in a bottle. The bouquet generally has much softer and complex characteristics than aromas. Identifying what you smell is usually the most challenging part in wine tasting. Although there are many smell categories used to describe characteristics of wine, none have been exclusively agreed upon.

Wine Tasting - The Sense of Taste

After observing your wine using the sense of sight and smell, it is then time to use your palate to identify tastes. This is far more detailed than simply tasting as we would any other beverage. We must remember to note the characteristics of the wine on all sensory areas of the tongue. Sweetness is detected on the very tip of the tongue, while bitter tastes are sensed in the extreme rear. Saltiness is sensed on the front, upper sides of the tongue, and the acidity-sour taste is sensed mainly on the sides. Some suggest focusing your attention on one sensation at a time in order to be more efficient in your taste. Try taking a sip of wine and swallowing immediately. Then try another sip, this time letting the wine work well around the palate into these sensory areas before swallowing. You will recognize a noticeable difference in the intensity of flavors!

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Wine Tasting - The Sense of Sight

Wine tasting basics begin with knowing how to use your senses to understand, interpret, and enjoy the wine. The ability to recognize what you see, and furthermore describe it in clear terms, is a very important wine tasting skill.

Although some may say the appearance of the wine is the least important aspect with regard to the senses, it is still worth noting. When examining appearance, we are looking for clarity and color. We want the wine to be free of any sediment, leaving it clear and brilliant. Red wines tend to lose their color as they mature, while white wines tend to grow darker with age. A good quality wine generally will be intense in color. The "legs" seen running down the sides of a glass after being swirled, are an indication of flavor density. It is best to use a plain white background, and tilt the glass slightly as you observe clarity and color.

Wine Tasting - The Sense of Touch

Touch is an important category of taste sensation. This is where we try to feel the wine on the palate. Here we seek to find impressions of such things as texture, body, temperature, and astringency. The aftertaste, finish, and length of a wine are all things we feel on our palate. We are looking for how the wine feels in weight (light, medium, full) and texture (silky, coarse, velvety). Try to observe how long the sensations last in your mouth. Most will tell you the longer it lasts, the better the wine!


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Storing, Serving, and Preserving Wine

Storing Wine
You don't need a fancy wine cellar to store wine. The basic requirements are a cool, dry, dark space (closet, crawl space, compartment under a stairway, or portion of a garage or basement) that’s shielded from direct sunlight and vibration and maintains a steady temperature (55 to 65 degrees Farenheit is ideal). Wine Storage

If you plan on becoming a serious wine collector, including wines requiring long-term aging, you may want to invest in a fully outfitted wine cellar. A variety of companies offer the building blocks of cellars, such as wine racks, refrigeration units, humidifiers, etc.

Serving Temperatures
As a rule, white and sparkling wines are best served well-chilled (40 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit), with sparkling wines and lighter whites at the lower range of the scale and fuller-bodied, richer whites, such as Chardonnay, at the upper range. An hour in the refrigerator, a half-hour in the freezer, or fifteen minutes in a ice bucket with water and ice, does the trick. Avoid over-chilling, especially with high-quality whites, because it will blunt the complexity of the wine's aromas and flavors. (Conversely, cheap whites are best-served well-chilled.

Red wines should be served at cool room temperature (55 to 65 F.), with lighter, fruitier reds (e.g., Beaujolais and Pinot Noir), at the lower range and fuller-bodied varieties ( e.g., Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah, at the upper range.

Certain conditions may dictate exceptions to these rules. On a hot days, for example, it's a good idea to slightly chill a full-bodied red to mitigate its alcoholic "heat," which is more evident when the ambient temperature is high. Conversely, it may be advisable to serve an especially rich white wine at close to room temperature to ensure its complex aromas and flavors can be fully appreciated.

Extracting the Cork
Stoppers formed from the spongy bark of the cork oak tree have been used to seal wine containers for over 2,000 years. Since the 17th century, when glass bottles originated, they have been the vintner's preferred method for protecting wine from air. Today, although there are effective and inexpensive alternatives to cork -- such as metal screwcaps, which require no implement to open -- wine consumers are still attached to the romance and tradition of the cork stopper. Cork Extracting

There are many different kinds of corkscrews, ranging from simple screw devices that require the user to do all the physical work of extraction to high-tech models that, to some degree, replace human exertion with mechanical function.

Popular, inexpensive models include the waiter's corkscrew, so-called because it’s the favorite of waiters around the world. It consists of a plated metal handle about 4" in length with a slender, fold-out screw in the middle and a small knife to cut the cork’s plastic or tin capsule. At one end of the handle is a 2" fold-out attachment that serves as a fulcrum for the extraction of the cork. After inserting the screw into the middle of the cork, place the recessed end of this piece firmly against the lip of the neck of the bottle. Then, using the attachment as a support to put counter-pressure on the bottle neck, pull up to remove the cork. After removing the cork, wipe the lip of the bottle with a damp cloth.

There are other inexpensive corkscrews, but most have one or more weaknesses. For example, some wine cork pullers have overly large screws that tend to shred the cork, while others, like the two-pronged versions, can push loose corks down into the bottle.

If you prefer a more modern, mechanical device, the best choice is probably one of the many models of the Screwpull -- devices with supports that brace themselves against the bottle while the cork comes out with a twist.

Glassware
You can consume wine out of any glass, cup, or tumbler -- or a mug, for that matter. But there are reasons why wine glasses are preferred: the design of the glass helps you see, smell, and taste the wine best.

Wine glasses vary in size, shape and design, but good ones will be clear and unadorned (so you can view the color and clarity of the wine), not too thick (so the glass doesn't obstruct your contact with the wine), and with a stem long enough so you can hold the glass without handling the bowl (which raises the temperature of the liquid).
Most good wine glasses are tulip-shaped (they narrow toward the rim of the glass) to channel the aroma and flavor essences of the wine into the nerve receptors at the rear of your nasal cavity when you sniff the wine. As a rule, the bowls of red wine glasses are larger and wider than those for whites.Champagne Flutes

Most table wines are served in moderately-sized (8-10 oz.) glasses, while dessert wines fare better in smaller (6 oz.) glasses, and sparkling wines require a taller, more slender glass known as a champagne flute, which keeps the bubbles from dissipating. You can buy quality glasses in each of these basic categories for about $5 each.

For true connoisseurs willing to spend more, there are glasses specifically designed to highlight the attributes of different wine types. The most famous producer of such glassware is Georg Riedel, an Austrian whose collections of crystal stemware are favored by restaurateurs and professional wine tasters throughout the world.

Whatever glassware you choose, keep enough glasses on hand to accommodate dinner parties and other social occasions. When pouring, don't fill the glass more than half-full, so the taster can swirl the wine in the bowl to release its aromas, without spilling. Clean glasses by hand-washing them in lukewarm water with a small amount of soap. (Be sure to rinse well!) And don't leave glasses in a dish drainer - they'll wind up broken. Store clean glasses upright on a well ventilated shelf, or better yet, hang them upside down from a wooden glass rack.

Preserving Wine
Exposure to air causes wine to age. If you don't finish a bottle of wine, cork it up tightly to preserve what's left. The less wine left in the bottle, the more air, and the faster the wine will oxidize and lose its freshness.

Unfinished white wines, tightly corked and refrigerated, should maintain their character for up to four days, while reds will begin to degrade after 48 hours. (You can extend this slightly by refrigerating reds too, but then you have to warm them to room temperature before serving.)

There are various ways to extend the life of a wine after it’s opened, most of which involve purging the bottle of oxygen. Two inexpensive devices are the Vacu-Vin®, which pumps air from the bottle and seals it with a rubber gasket and Private Preserve®, a canister of nitrogen you spray into the bottle to displace the oxygen. Both will add a few days to the wine’s life.

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