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Wine Tasting Tips, Food Pairing & Sangria

Wine Tips

How to taste wine

Enjoying the complexities and flavors of great wine is one way to experience the finer things in life.  Wine truly is a remarkable drink that provides a wide variety of sensory experiences.  Everyone has unique taste preferences and each wine type or variety offers something special.  There are also differences to be explored in vintage years and winemaking styles. 

The only way to know what suits your taste buds is the give them a try.  The more wines you examine the easier the process becomes.  It is fun to pick out your favorites and compare what you liked about them with friends.  We have noted a few techniques to help you describe wine by looks, smell and taste.

Appearance:  With a small quantity of wine in your glass - hold it by the stem and tilt it against a white background to view the hue of the wine at the rim.

Red Wine will appear as a deep purple when it is young and will gradually turn more "bricky" as it ages passing from purple to crimson to an almost tawny color when very old. 

     

Look straight down into the glass to gauge the depth of color.  If you cannot see the base of the bowl you have a deep-colored wine.

Wine should be bright, not cloudy or murky.  The color in white wines is less important than that of reds.

Smell: Swirl the wine around to give it air and enable it to "breathe."  Note your impressions as you sample whiffs of the aromas that build up in the glass.  Do not leave your nose in the glass too long or you risk dulling your senses from over-exposure.  A clean and appetizing feeling should be the dominant impression of good wine.  Off-odors may be present when a bottle is first opened, but should disappear after a minute.

Young wines will have a pronounced fruity aroma and wines that have been aged will provide a complex bouquet.  Some wines will have intense and persistent aromas and others will be delicate and light.  The smells are a prelude to the actual tasting.  You may sense the spicy or floral nature of the wine as you breathe in the aroma from the glass.

Taste: Take a good mouthful of wine and push it around in your mouth.  The tastes will be apparent as you roll the wine over you tongue and swish it from side to side.  It is even okay to make slurping sounds as you aerate the wine in your mouth.  Professionals do this to allow the wine to release as many taste characteristics as possible.   You will note sweetness, acidity, tannin and flavors.

Wine that makes the juices flow at the side of your mouth is probably high in acidity.  If you find it unpleasant it may be astringent.  If the roof of your mouth dries up the wine is probably high in tannic acid.  It should never taste sour or bitter.  Excessive tannin in a young wine is usually described as a slight bitterness.  Young wines that are meant to age will continue to improve over time and would not be capable of aging without the tannic acid to naturally preserve the flavors.

The aftertaste or finish describes the duration and the flavors found after the wine leaves your mouth. Some wines have a short period of lingering flavors and others have a nice long pleasant finish.  Short, medium and long are commonly used to describe the duration of the finish.

You may want to spit out the wine if you are tasting several wines because your tasting experience will become influenced by alcoholic intake.

Wines use the following elements to achieve pleasant overall taste impressions.  Well balanced wines have found the appropriate level of sweetness to counteract the normally unpleasant taste sensations of sour or bitter.

Sweet derived mainly from sugar and alcohol - perceived on the front tip of the tongue
Sour or acid sensed on the sides of the tongue
Bitter generally picked up in the middle of the tongue towards the rear and often picked up in the "finish" of a wine

There are many flavor descriptions that apply to wine and we cannot begin to list them all, but the following should get you started.

Earthy Herbaceous Woody Astringent Spicy Sweet Creamy
Yeasty Nutty Roasted Smoky Fruits Vanilla Flowers
Herbs Coffee Mocha Chocolate Vegetables Toast Grass
 

Food Pairing ideas

There are many ways to pair wine with appetizers or meals.  Rules may not apply completely because everyone has different backgrounds and food preferences.  Someone that likes spicy foods may react to wine and foods differently than someone only accustomed to mildly flavored foods. It is a matter of personal preference, but you can use this information to launch your own personal taste tests.

Some techniques are better than others and just about any combination will be better than food with another beverage.  One common technique is to match the strength of the wine with the major entree of the meal.  A good example would be a light flavored white wine with a light flavored food like seafood or chicken. So that raises the question "how do I know the strength of the flavor of a wine?".  Reds are generally stronger tasting and are more likely to pair well with strong flavored items like beef or or entrees with a tomato based sauce.  Light white wines generally go well with seafood or white meat dishes that have subtle flavors.

One technique is to match components of the meal with features of the wine.  If the meal contains mushrooms then a nice earthy tasting wine will complement those flavors. Many wine labels will give you hints about how to pair the wine.  Look for statements or phrases like full-bodied or notes of a certain flavor. 

Another technique is to have contrasts in the food and the wine.  A spicy entree can go well with a wine that has some sweetness.

General observations:
Red wine and hard cheeses
White wine and soft cheeses
Red wine with red sauces
White wine with white sauces
Chocolate - Sweet complex whites or sturdy red wines rich in tannins.

Secret Sangria Recipe (Easy Sangria)

Serves 10
2 bottles of Workboat Red
1 - 12 oz frozen pink or regular lemonade
1 - 12 oz can of Sprite
3 - Cups of ice or as needed

Mix in a container and garnish with citrus fruit for perfect party centerpiece.