Saturday, 10 October 2015

Real Man Travels: Wine Tasting 101

Wine Tasting 101-

When I was a young man, at the ripe age of 19 , I thought Coors light was a good beer....I also thought wine was awful. Thankfully, as I have matured so has my palette and I find myself enjoying the wide variety of beers available. Unfortunately as my beer knowledge has expanded, my knowledge of wine has remained at a standstill. As I creep ever so close to thirty,  I feel that now is the time to put on my big boy pants, take a seat at the grown ups table, and learn how to enjoy wine.

Earlier this year I tried to educate myself by simply reading the small "vintages" flyer available in my local LCBO. I found a few I would label as "not terrible"  before being distracted by a new craft beer I'd yet to sample.

Determined to explore this new horizon, I set off to beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario - One of Canada's premier wine regions- to quench my new found thirst for knowledge. With some guidance from the great folks over at Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I would know just where to begin.

Inside Diamond Estates winery. Wine as far as the eye can see!
Diamond Estates winery is home to many great wines, producing wines under 10 brand names, with grapes from 25 Niagara region farms.  It was there that we were introduced to Diamond Estates On-Site Wine Expert, Brae. After getting a feel for our knowledge about wine, Brae thought she would start us off with the simple 5 steps of  wine drinking.  You can follow along at home, start by pouring a glass and then follow along.

Step 1: Look at the wine. Simple enough place the wine glass against a white background,  or a sheet of paper if available. "the colour of a wine will give you some clues to what the wine might taste like" Brae remarked. A golden colouring could indicate a toffee, or buttery taste. Where a lighter yellow (straw coloured) would indicate citrus flavours. With red's the darker the colouring the more bold the flavouring from the grape will be.

A pure white background can be handy when decoded the characteristic of a wine.
Step 2: Swirl it.  This actually accomplishes something more than making you look like a pompous ass, it oxygenates the wine. Pulling air into the wine helps to smooth out the flavour and opens up the aromas.  Brae further punctuates the importance of aeration to wine with this equation - "pouring your wine through an aerator has the same affect as one hour in a decanter. One hour in a decanter is equal to one year in a cellar"

Step 3: Smell it. Your nose and mouth aren't close together on your face for nothing. By taking a big whiff your pre-programming your brain to what tastes might lie ahead. The average person has trouble readily identifying most scents listed on a wine tasting notes.  "You can start off smelling more items on your trip to grocery store,  or if you are just trying to seem cool to your friends  you can just make it up"

Grapes continue to ripen on the vines surrounding Diamond Estates.
Step 4: Cheers!  Often overlooked in wine circles is the social aspect. As with beer share the experience with those around you, and as we know from history it ensures your enemies have not poisoned your drink.

Step 5: Taste it. Brae suggested doing this in three sips to let the flavours cover your entire palate. I say just don't pound it back like a shot.

There you have it, an easy to follow five step guide to wine tasting. This process allows you to experience a wine as it was intended. Additionally important is sampling from a wide selections of wines to find a style of wine you enjoy. For me it was barrel fermented Chardonnay, it has a smooth oak flavouring that reminds me of scotch or whiskey. Please feel free to share your own favourites in the comments below!
Stay tuned for more from my recent travels in Niagara-on-the-lake, next up, Wine pairing!


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