Wine 101 for Dummies According To Michelle

I may not be any wine connoisseur nor do I love wine, in fact it is wine that loves me. Over the years and after many bottles of wine, I decided to up my ante and educate myself about wine, not too much information, but just a little to get me through social events and understand the things that love me. (Remember: It is wine that loves me).

Back when I first started drinking wine, I would pretend to understand the whole dynamics and actions of swirling the glass and sniffing through the mouth of the wine glass, lifting the glass against a white background and observing the legs (some call it tears). I’d even gargle the wine in my mouth to see what happens. Sometimes it’s an explosion of flavours but sometimes it can be the total opposite (a horrible wine gives a horrible taste).

red wine

The 5 main basic steps to wine tasting (red wine style)

1. Colour

2. Swirl like a pro

3. Smell

4. Taste

5. Savour and Think


The best way to observe the colour of wine is to hold the glass of wine in front of a white background. If you can’t find a white background, because we often drink wine in a pub or a darkly lit restaurant, where no white background is available, just hold it against any bright background. You can still observe the colour, more or less. As red wine ages, it loses its brilliance. The age of the wine and the kind of grapes contributes to the colour of the wine. If you really can’t find any bright background, just tilt your glass a little and nod your head in pretense.

Red wine can be described as purple, ruby red, deep red, brick red, orangey red, red brown or whatever the eyes see. Still, describing the wine colour doesn’t bring you far. You need to then move to the next action of swirling like a pro because telling your partner that this wine is purple is like describing the colour of the shirt he is wearing. If you are on a date, just lift your wine glass against a bright backdrop, and pretend to observe the colour, tilt the glass a little to the left and to the right, just observe and smirk and nod your head. There is no point in saying, nice red colour.

Swirl like a pro
Remember, always swirl that wine! Not a tornado swirl, of course do it with control and don’t spill the wine out of the glass. (Either do the table top swirl or the hand swirl). But why swirl? We swirl the wine to aerate the wine and to allow the wine to release some aroma or bouquet. The swirling action also allows us to look at the leg/tears of the wine against the wine glass. I personally don’t think the legs tell much about the wine besides the density of the wine (thickness and thinness of the wine). I may be wrong, that is why this is called wine 101 according to Michelle.

Smell (this is personal)

Smelling of wine is a whole different level of wine appreciation. As we are all different, what we smell and perceive will also be different. So we swirl then we smell. What we smell is basically the bouquet released from the swirling action, make a few sniffing actions. Different types of wine gives a different nose to the wine. No, I don’t mean nose per se but “NOSE” of the wine. The smell of the wine often describes the character of the wine. If you drink enough wine, you can often tell the difference between a Merlot, Shiraz, Cab Sav just to name a few. (I am a big fan of Shiraz and Cab Shiraz). It is funny what the nose sniffs out. Sometimes you have people describing the smell of the wine as leathery, or tar-ish, or citrusy or even tobacco-ish.  Remember there is no right or wrong! It’s all a matter of preference. The smelling and swirling action to me is like foreplay. It is a must. You can skip the colour but you can’t skip the smelling and swirling

Taste – my favourite part!

Remember back in school when we learnt that the tongue is separated into different sections of sweet, sour, bitter and salty? I distinctly remember that “map of a tongue”. Tasting a good wine puts all these different sections to work – in the best way! Tasting is done best by swirling the wine inside your mouth to allow the wine to cover all the senses on your tongue. Don’t rush. Take your time to identify the taste. Does the taste of the wine match what your nose identified? Feel the texture and the body of the wine. It’s like how a man would appreciate a beautiful lady. It’s about the process of checking each other out. In my case, it is about the wine checking my tongue out.

At the end of the day, for me, all these actions are done for the first 2-3 sips. After that, it’s gobbling down the wine with good food and great company. It is often the anticipation of the wine you chose that leads to these actions, thereafter its just enjoying what the wine has to offer.

Tip: Once you have taken a sip of your wine, suck in some air to aerate the wine even further to release the bouquet of flavours and smell. It brings the experience to another level. Again, I only do this once or twice during the first two sips of wine tasting. After that, I just gulp my wine like a normal person.

Savour and Think

So after all these steps – looking at the colour, swirling the wine glass, smelling the wine and tasting the wine – it’s time to savour the taste and think about the wine. Very often, you will know whether the wine is ready to drink, whether you enjoy the wine and whether it fits your taste. (I know Merlot is not my kind of wine – the taste and body of it just doesn’t suit me). There is no such thing as a good or bad wine. As the saying goes, one man’s poison is another man’s meat. If you love it, then it is a good wine. If you don’t, it is simply not a suitable wine for you.

Remember, this tip is not extensive nor is it professional advice. It is after all WINE 101 FOR DUMMIES ACCORDING TO MICHELLE.

Disclaimer: Perform the actions above at your own risk, you may practice in front of the mirror to look the part. As the saying goes, fake it until you make it.

(Photo by bbcfoodpantry)


One thought on “Wine 101 for Dummies According To Michelle

  1. Pingback: De Bortoli Shiraz Viognier 2006 | peoniesandpancakes

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