I can’t tell you the number of times in a week that I have a conversation with someone about the flavors in wine. People either don’t believe that I taste the things that I do, or they want to know how to get better at it themselves.
Usually, the discussion falls to the person thinking that my B.S. factor is just really high. Which it is. However, the flavors are real. Otherwise I wouldn’t write them.
So, how do you learn to taste wines to figure out what the flavors are? My pat answer is to take a wine tasting class. The one that I took a few years ago at Walla Walla Community College’s Enology School was absolutely amazing. It was so intense that I didn’t even want to drink wine for the next few weeks afterward.
I wouldn’t expect just anyone to take a class like that. It is expensive, and bent very hard toward people who make a living in the wine industry. The common, everyday wine lover just wants to be able to taste their wines better. Not be able to taste that the “cellar rat’s” hands weren’t washed when he left the bathroom during racking.
With a professional wine tasting class out of the question, I would strongly suggest that you create your own wine tasting class in the comfort of your kitchen. Buy some inexpensive base wine in white or red. I suggest buying Franzia or Vella box wine in a Chablis for the white, and Merlot for the red.
Next, look through different wine notes that you read either by me or by others in the industry. On white wines, you might hear frequently mineral, citrus, lemon, butter, and many others. For the reds you might start with strawberries, berry jam, cherries, vanilla, and black pepper.
Buy some of these mentioned flavor ingredients and put a dash of them into glasses along with the base wine one at a time. Cover the glasses with cellophane.
Now, spend time swirling each glass, lifting the cellophane, and smelling the wine. I suggest doing this with each wine over and over again until eventually you can correctly identify the odor even when your eyes are closed and you’ve mixed all the glasses up.
Do this with different ingredients. Go crazy! Use your whole spice box, and everything in your refrigerator and garden until you think you can identify as many smells as possible.
By the way. Don’t drink these wines! Only smell them. They are not for consumption. I would hate the thought of reading a news article in the next few weeks where somebody tasted diesel at my suggestion.
When you think you are pretty good at this smells identification game go and buy a nice bottle of wine. Red or white. Take your time swirling the glass and smelling it over and over until you can identify all of the smells.
Now reward yourself with a sip of the wine. Does it taste like it smells? If not, what are the new tastes? I have personally found that I enjoy smelling wine as much, if not more than actually tasting it.
Once you have reached this point I welcome you to your wine awakening my friends.