Smell Your Wine
Dig in like a perrito and inhale your wine’s scent. “I want you to put your hand over your glass and stir it around,” commanded Pena to a group that sat around the shop’s cellar table during a recent class. “It will trap the aromatics.” Once you release your hand put your nose to the glass. If it smells musty or moldy you’re dealing with an “unclean” wine that might be tainted. It’s still drinkable but won’t taste as good. If you get a batch that smells like vinegar, you shouldn’t drink it. A “clean” scent will only leave the aroma of fruits and spices it was made with. Speaking of aroma, it’s the best way to differentiate between “old” and “new” style wine. Fruity and floral wines are “new world” likely a bottle from the United States, South Africa, South America or Australia. If spices and vegetal smells are what stand out then you’ve got an “old world” wine that probably hails from Europe or another country that’s historically known for its wines.
Your taste buds are the best judge of what you’re looking for. After a few sips, pay attention to the following:
Sweetness – A wine that has little to no sugar left after it’s been fermented is called “dry.” A wine that tastes sweet but balanced is considered “medium,” while a wine that only tastes sweet has a lot of residual sugars leftover.
Acidity/Tannin – If you’re drinking a white that makes your mouth water often, you’ve got a high acid wine. Red wines have tannins that give it a tart or bitter taste; the more tannin there is, the more your mouth will pucker.
Body – Do you feel like you just sipped a glass of milk? Or does it go down like water? The heavier and thicker a wine is, the more full bodied it is.
Finish – How long a wine remains in your throat after you’ve finished drinking indicates its finish; a short finish doesn’t last long, while a medium or higher finish lingers.
Oz Pena’s Tasting Notes
*Never rinse a glass before pouring a second round. A seasoned glass is better than a clean one because it retains the flavor.
*Pay attention to your palette, not to price. “An expensive bottle of wine, does not mean it’s going to be good quality,” Pena shares. “Trust your palette to tell you what you like and what’s good.”
*Pair fatty foods (pork, beef) with full body wines whose spice or tannin will balance out the meal. Pair leaner foods like poultry, pasta or seafood with high acid wines to balance out flavors.
Photo Courtesy of New York Vintners