There’s a first time for everything, even wine drinking! If you’re a wine admirer and tempted to introduce someone to the awesome world of wine, this can be a daunting task since there are thousands of wines and you have only one mouth. I love wine, and it’s no secret. But how does one get started with wine? And what are the appropriate tasting terms?
Wines are divided into two major styles: one is dry and the other richly sweet. One topic that is particularly confusing is that of wine sweetness. But after a little clarification, you’ll be talking and tasting wine like an expert. After tasting a number of wines, you’ll soon realize that some wines that are regarded as sweet are not as sweet as you expect, and many dry ones are actually sweeter than anticipated.
Thoughts while tasting Sweet Wine as a tyro…
To guide you when choosing sweet wines, here are a few characteristics for beginners to consider.
- Sweetness: Many beginners think that sweet wines are much easier to enjoy. Some also believe sweet wines are of lesser quality than other wines. This is not the case, as many sweet wines are highly regarded and are quite expensive. If your taste buds fall for sweet wines, consider those with higher alcohol content. Wines with high alcohol content are perceived to be sweeter, even when they don’t have as much sugar.
- Tannin: If you’ve had dry red wine you’ve obviously noticed some sticky substance in your teeth and gums after you’ve sipped. This is called tannin. Beginners may find this sensation quite irritating for the first time; therefore, it’s advisable that you start with wines with low tannin levels when introducing newcomers to wine.
- Acidity: Just like most fruits, wine grapes contain acid, making them crisp and refreshing. Different wines have distinctive acidity levels that vary considerably. When you taste new wines, find out whether you like them more or less sour, a sign of acidity. This will help to find your place in wine and to find wines which tickle your fancy.
- Alcohol content: Too much alcohol in any wine makes it unbalanced. My suggestion is for newcomers to start with wines with 14% alcohol content or lower.
- Taste indicators: The back labels on the bottles of many consumer-friendly products can be quite useful, as they carry important information. Look for symbols that show the sweetness level of a wine. For red wines, check how light, medium, or full-bodied they are.
The wine sweetness chart below diagrams the sweetness level of various wines. Note that these will fluctuate due to production variations.
How to taste and enjoy?
There is no official yardstick for measuring the quality of a wine. What you like someone else may dislike. With this in mind, here are some tips on evaluating how sweet wine suits your tongue.
- Always start with a clear wine glass when tasting a sweet wine. Hold your glass at the stem. This is to avoid warming the wine due to heat from your hand when holding the bowl.
- Pour a little wine, an inch or less, into your glass. Always begin with the lightest wine when tasting several wines, moving from sweet sparkling wines, to rosés, then to light whites and to full-bodied whites. Continue to the heaviest – light reds, more full-bodied reds, then lastly dessert wines. This keeps your taste buds sensitive to better enjoy each wine in series. Take sips of water in between wines to preserve your palate.
- Before sipping the wine, swish your glass around for different flavors to be released in the air, then smell the air inside the glass. Put your nose gently over the rim and breathe in. This is important since the aroma can carry more magic than the taste. Most wines aromas are characterized by the grapes they are made from, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Zinfandel. As time goes by and you gain experience with different wine varietals, it becomes easier to identify different wine aromas. Trust your nose to tell you the aromas; you may pick up hints of vanilla, peaches, berries, and even smoky or grassy aromas.
- Note the color of the wine by holding the glass up against a white background or light. The color usually tells the wine’s age. White wines tend to gain color as they age, while red wines lose color with age. Young red wines are redder, but as they age, they turn burgundy or brown.
- As you finally taste the wine, allow it to linger and touch all the taste buds on your tongue, including those underneath it. This is done by swishing the wine in your mouth.
- The initial taste you will get from the wine will come from your first sip. This awakens your taste buds and keeps them active. You can then swish the wine around the mouth while drawing a little air in.
- Observe the texture of the wine to see whether the body is light or rich. You can relax before taking another sip in order to catch the finish or aftertaste. Consider how long the flavor lasted in your mouth, and your overall experience in tasting the wine.
Describing wine tasting is harder than actually tasting wine. I recommend that you taste as many wines as possible to determine your favorite bottles. Another important factor in wine tasting is pairing your wine with the right meal – which can be like discovering a new recipe. Wine always enhances the dining experience if paired with the right food.
For more tips on wine pairing, visit the SweetWineClub blog and discover new ways to relish wine. Cheers!