Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wine Tasting 101

This is going to be a very sketchy intro to wine tasting, no pun intended. I'm writing this off the cuff, since I forgot to spit yesterday (more about that later) and I didn't drink the requisite glasses of water required between tastings.. In otherwards I was a bad and I'm a bit hung over today. Hmmm... German Rieslings are just too damn delicious in my opinion and I'm a complete sucker for sweet wines anyway. Lord knows how I did that painting this morning? I fell dead asleep when I got home and missed watercolor class last night :(
After they've let you into the tasting, take a good look around at the scene. A whole lot of chatting goin' on. It doesn't hurt to review your Riesling notes or whatever wine you are tasting before you go. It's always nice to make intelligent conversation with the winemaker or owner pouring, as in:
What grape varieties are in this wine? or What percentage of alcohol or sugar etc? How was the harvest this year? Get ready for the full weather report BTW. The point is, you do not run up to the table, shove your glass in, get a slug and then run off. At least pretend to be interested!
First things first. Go and get a fresh glass. This will be your glass for the event. It's specially sized for that particular wine type. Some events they let you take them home. I have quite a collection of odd sizes... OK, you're at a wine table. Take a look down. There will be a ton of information to help you out. Wine notes or fact sheets on each wine, so you'll know what to expect in terms of flavors, vintage, ratings, etc. Like clip notes, they'll help you out in the conversation area.
Maps are big in the wine world. The chocolate world needs maps too. Heck! I love maps of anything...You're ready to begin. Start with the left-hand bottle. Usually you'll taste from dry to sweet and there's also a price factor involved. Lesser to more expensive. It's polite to do the whole range rather than rushing to the most expensive wine first thing. It will give you a better picture of that particular vineyard.
With Rieslings, you start with the dry light Kabinett (pronounced like "kitchen cabinet" I was told yesterday :) You'll work through the Spatlese and Auslese, getting to the Eiswein if they have it and you're lucky.
Mind you, this process is repeated and repeated over again. This is where the spit buckets come in and the pitchers of water. If you really want to do justice to a tasting you need to spit like a pro or learn to. A quite famous wine person revealed that she practiced for hours while in the bathtub... The water pitchers are there to clean out your glass between tastings and to cleanse your palate and to keep you vertical!
Before you take that first wonderful taste you want to check the color of the wine, usually against the note book they gave you to write your personal wine thoughts in. At least pretend to scribble something, even if you haven't a clue. It'll look good. Swirl the glass a bit without spilling. Then "nose" the wine to get it's full aromas. Yep, you put the whole nose into the glass, not just a partial sniff puleeze. With Rieslings you can expect crisp green apple, peaches, apricots, all fresh fruit, honey, black pepper aromas, on and on. They're famed for their drinkability = they go well with most cuisines and they're climbing in popularity rapidly. Try a bottle.Don't forget the nosh at tastings, usually cheesy and fruity things to clear your palate and refresh you and keep you going. If I got anything right here, it's because I took Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Wine School a number of times. First as a volunteer cracker server. I was not allowed to pour...hmmm... I have a Spanish wine + tapis tasting next week. Hasta luego


  1. OH MY! What an education first thing this morning!! I ADORE your wine watercolor -- tipsy or not -- it's awesome! And all that wonderful information -- WOWZA!

  2. Anonymous1:10 PM

    Lucky you! To get to taste all those yummy wines. That cheese doesn't look too bad either..
    Wino wannabee

  3. Anonymous2:03 PM

    The painting is pretty good though :-) And a chocolate map is the most perfect idea.

  4. Love the photo's. I almost feel I was there .... *hick-up*.. Your watercolor looks great. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. Anonymous6:56 PM

    Oh Carol!
    I love Rieslings - If I had been there there would have been two hungover people the next morning! I love the painting!

  6. Anonymous7:15 PM

    Another GOODIE ...about the "goodies" you indulge in, and create. WADALIFE!!!

  7. Anonymous7:54 PM

    This reminds me of a 'wine tasting' class I took in collage. It was quite a few years ago, so my memory of what we drank is dim. I do remember though that the teacher forgot to tell us to 'spit' and was drunk within the hour. I was not impressed as I really did come to learn something and not just drink... Now I buy by label - meaning I pick a price and then find the prettiest label to let me decide what to try. Guess I should try another class some day...

  8. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Your latest blog blab is the only thing that made me smile today!!! I like to drink wine, but tasting would be lost on me. My sense of smell died (olfactory nerve virus I'm told).

  9. sounds like fun. But I don't get the whole spit thing. What's that all about? Why can't you swallow the water?


  10. OK Good question Luis.
    You need to taste the wine and then spit it out. Then take a gulpe of water or two. This you can swallow - no problem. Just if you swallow all the wines your tasting, you'll never make to even 1/2 the tables..well I wouldn't. I'll go into this more after next week's tasting..good point to clear up. THANKS

  11. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Rieslings Rock. End of story. Thanks for the wine party tips. :)

  12. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Oh, the color of the wine in the glass is genius. Sheer genius.

  13. Anonymous7:14 AM

    Ack, it's only 8am and I want a glass of wine! Wonderful read.

  14. I too spent many wonderful moments in Paris attending the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts .. and spent a wonderful week in Venice last year - (I had a painting exhibition in Germany) .. Your paintings have the great combination of passion and skill..and you have stirred a longing in me for Paris ... once again. Keep up the most wonderful writings about Paris, Venice .... and all of beautiful Europe ... I think I'll make a cup of coffee and put on the soundtrack to French Kiss .... Merci Beaucoup!!!

  15. Anonymous2:52 PM

    In the small world mode, the day I looked at your Riesling adventure, I went
    to a tasting of really lovely Rieslings and a few other Germans/ The older I
    get, the more I like German wines/purely elegant, well shaped wines. You did
    fine, by the way, on your Riesling notes and It's understandable tha tyou
    forgot to spit. Riesling doesn't invite spitting. It's an old story and you have
    probably heard it, but in some war or the other, some famous German general,
    who's name I can't remember, was startled to come to the dinner table and find
    French wines being served. He asked why and was told that the German wine
    shipment had not arrived and all they had was French. To which he replied, "Well,
    if there are no ladies available, then we must dance with the whores."
    L.W./Wines & Vines


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