Tips for wine tasting at home

Here are some tips you can use at your next party.

Tips on swirling and tasting

  • Smell before you swirl
  • Then swirl and smell again
  • Don't just stick your nose in the glass; move the glass around - alcohol and fruit aromas will collect in different areas in and around the glass
  • Smell gently. Better to take small gentle sniffs like a bunny rabbit, rather than one big snort
  • Set up sensory stations featuring different aromas that can be found in the wine; for chardonnay use apples and for cabernet use cassis and cedar, etc.

Tips on decanting

  • You can decant wines more than you think.
  • Older wines must be decanted to remove the sediment from the wine; decanting younger wines allows them to open up and soften the tannins
  • Some white wines benefit from decanting, it helps them open up
  • Don't buy a decanter just because it looks beautiful , when purchasing a decanter ask someone in the store to allow you to test it out before you buy it. Sometime beautiful decanters don't pour well
  • On a budget, old clean wine bottles or glass milk jugs work just as well as crystal decanters

Tips on holding an educational wine tasting

  • 6-10 people is the optimal number, more than that it turns into a cocktail party
  • The tasting should have a theme: "Pinot Noir from Around the World," Riesling from Around the World," "Reds from Italy," White Wines from France," "White Wines from the California Central Coast, etc. the options are endless
  • 6 different selection is a good number for a tasting
  • When assembling the tasting it is always best to have one person put it together, this person would purchase the wines and ask that the participants contribute to the cost. This prevents someone from slipping in a bottle of Two-Buck-Chuck.
  • Serve the wines without anyone knowing which are which, blind
  • Pour each wine into a flight of six glasses in front or each taster, this way they can compare and contrast each of the wines. Often times the host does not have enough wine glasses. It is okay to ask the participants to bring six of their own wine glasses to the tasting. This also helps with clean up!
  • If the host would like to taste the wines blind, you can use a "double-blind" format
  • Double-blind: The person that selects the wines would need to decant the wines. Meaning the wines need to be poured into other empty bottles or decanters and label them A-F. The decanted wines are then given to another taster to randomly pour into the six glasses in front of each person numbered 1 through 6.
  • Keep notes as you taste each wine and discuss your findings. After your party has tasted the six wines give feedback, guess the wines and the theme.

A few more tips:

  • Never wash your crystal glasses or decanter with soap! Crystal is porous and the residue from soap fills the pores of the crystal affecting the aroma and taste of the wine.
  • Use hot water to wash and a cotton towel to dry; don't use towels that were washed with fabric softener
  • Move outside of your comfort zone and try wines that you have not had before
  • Good palate cleansers are plain crackers, or a sweet French baguette (never sourdough)
  • Avoid scented candles and things with strong aromas like potpourri
  • Encourage guests not to wear perfume or heavily scented lotions
  • Give people sheets of paper to write notes during the tasting
  • Develop a relationship with a sommelier or wine merchant - they can recommend great ideas for at home tastings

Wines featured in segment:

  • Riesling, Kabinett, Josef Rosch, Leiwener Klostergarten, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 2005 $15
  • Riesling, Eroica, Dr. Loosen, Columbia Valley, Washington 2006 $30
  • Riesling, Henschke, Julius, Eden Valley, Australia 2006 $25-$30
  • Riesling, Nigl, Senftenberger, Piri Privat, Austria 2000 $35-$40
  • Riesling, Josmeyer, Le Dragon, Alsace 2004 $30-$35
  • Pinot Noir, Willakenzie Estate, Thibaud's Cuvee, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2005 $30
  • Pinot Noir, Michaud, Chalone Appellation, California 2003 $30-$35
  • Pinot Noir, Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand 2006 $25-$30
  • Pinot Noir, Bourgogne, Domaine Roulot, France 2005 $30-$35

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Wine tasting with Andrew Green

Andrew Green is the Wine and Spirits Director and a Partner of Bacchus Management Group, a prominent San Francisco based hospitality group. Green oversees the beverage departments of Spruce in San Francisco, The Village Pub in Woodside, four Bay Area Pizza Antica locations, as well as for Bacchus' two restaurants opening summer 2008, a brasserie in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco and Mayfield House Bakery and Café in Palo Alto.

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