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A Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting

You don’t have to be a wine tasting aficionado to get the basics of wine tasting down. Here are some easy steps to practice at home and keep in mind next time you’re wine tasting with friends or just want to sound sophisticated.


1. A Woody Smell
Popular wines like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon often smell like wood since winemakers store them in oak barrels. So, if you find yourself wine tasting with a group of friends or wine aficionados, you’ll probably be spot-on if you relish that that chardonnay tastes like a tint of oak. Tip: An oaky aroma in a taste is usually associated with more expensive wines.

2. Vanilla Extract
If you’re familiar with the strong smell of vanilla extract, it’s pretty easy to detect it in wine, even for the wine tasting beginner. Red wines tend to have a hint of vanilla, which usually indicates that the wine was aged in American oak. Winemakers typically use two types of oak barrels for storage – French or American oak, with the American one releasing more of a vanilla scent.

3. Green Pepper
Every type of grape has its own distinctive aroma. Take the grape that’s used in cabernet sauvignon – it smells like green peppers. If you smell a rather obvious green pepper scent in your cab, this means that the grapes were probably not fully ripe, and, thus, not as great of a wine as it might have seemed to be.

4. Imitation Butter
Winemakers get rid of the tartness of grapes that contains an acid found in Granny Smith apples by adding bacteria into the wine’s fermenting juice. The bacteria works to convert the acid into less tart acids, and also develops a buttery flavor called diacetyl, which is also found in imitation butter and microwave popcorn.

Wines that have gone through the diacetyl process tend to have a smoother feel and that irrefutable imitation butter meets microwavable popcorn smell. What you need to remember: the more buttery the wine seems, the more expensive.

Source: NPR

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