How I Learned To Taste Wine Like a Pro

Three weeks ago I mentioned that I attended a private tasting for the new BevMo! store opening in Riverside and that I learned quite a bit about wine tasting as well as what the store has to offer. Today I want to share some of those tasting tips.
It's no secret I like my wine. If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen a couple hundred photos of my #winethirty shenanigans. But really, I have a minimal idea of what I'm drinking. We've gone to the L.A. wine festival for the last two years and while I've discovered a lot more brands and varieties, I never really understood why I liked what I liked and why certain wines tasted better with particular foods.

For instance, I know you're generally supposed to pair white wines with lighter foods (chicken, fish, some pastas) and red wines with things like steak but who knew what else to pair it with? Not me.
Enter Wilfred and his magnificent palate. The BevMo! team put together a delightful flight of wines for us to try along with an eclectic mix of snacks to pair with each libation. I was definitely unsure as to why there was popcorn on my plate alongside a dried apricot and some honey but as I was about to find out, there was a method to their madness.

To begin, there are four S's to consider when tasting your wine and without listing them out specifically,Wilfred led us through them all for each individual glass.

See: the color of the wine
  • as it ages white wine gets darker in color and red wine gets lighter 
  • the color also provides a hint as to what type of grape was used
  • color can also help you determine how light/heavy the wine will feel/taste. The lighter the color, the lighter it should feel in your mouth.
Swirl: Coat the side of the glass to help the wine open up and release aromas for the next step
Smell: sniff three times and come up with three words to describe the wine
Sip: You should taste sweet, sour, salty, bitter

When I host my first tasting in the next month or so I'll be sure to implement these for my guests as well. I loved that there were a variety of foods to pair each wine with and that we were encouraged to just have a go at the plate and see what we liked paired together.

The first glass we tried was a Chandon Etoile Brut Cuvee sparkling wine and at first I wasn't a big fan. It wasn't terrible but for me,the bubbles seemed a bit harsh and it was quite dry. I mentioned this to Wilfred and he immediately asked if I'd ever had French champagne before, I said I had, and he explained that's why I was a little "snobbish" about my champs. But then I tried it with the popcorn and suddenly it got kicked up a notch. The same goes for the 2012 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, it was decent alone and then they suggested we try it with the chips and guacamole. Holy taco tuesday, who knew chips + guac went so well with a Sauvignon Blanc? Apparently the savory herb characteristics bring out the full bodied taste in the wine.

Our third wine was a Chardonnay and I have to be honest, I don't love Chardonnay. I'll drink it but it's really not my favorite but as suggested, I tried it with the roasted almond and it added a creaminess to the wine that I'd never experienced before. By the time we started on the fourth glass my head was spinning with ideas for my own party (and sort of spinning in general) but I did my best to reign in my focus for the 'holy grail' of wines a 2012 Migration Pinot Noir. Oh my word. It was so good. Velvety smooth and I could finally taste a myriad of fruit and berries. The 2011 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon was another favorite and come to find out it is one of the top selling Cabernet's in the world. And at $70/bottle it also explains why I enjoyed it so much. While it was suggested we pair it with the roast beef and horseradish, I found that a  piece of dark chocolate really brought out the full flavor for me.
The sixth and final glass was a 2012 Saldo Zinfandel and it was light and kind of just what I needed at the end. I chose to pair it with the apricot dipped in honey and much to my delight that brought out the fruity flavors I imagine when thinking about a Zin.

The whole experience left me feeling more knowledgeable and like I could easily host a soiree of my own and share what I learned with my friends and family. I loved being able to experience a variety of wines from brands I wasn't quite familiar with and am excited to try more.

Some tips to think about for your next event:

When pairing wine and food you definitely want to think of the elements of the food that will affect the wine:
  • is it salty?
  • is it sweet?
  • does it have acid?
  • does it have fat?
  • use the acid in the wine to either cut through the fatty types of foods or complement the food

If you're hosting an event with multiple bottles have someone test the bottles. The quality of the cork and the way the bottles were stored can affect taste and smell. If you do find your bottles are 'corked' you can return them to BevMo! and they'll replace them for you! How's that for awesome?

Also, have fun with your pairings! Don't be afraid to mix things up and try a variety of cheeses, fruits, savory meats and even chocolates with your wines. If you're stuck on what wines to serve, head into your local BevMo! and tell them your dilemma, they'll be more than happy to assist you in finding the perfect wines within your price point and taste!

Have you ever been to a wine tasting? Would you ever host one in your home?

** Disclaimer: I was compensated for my attendance at this event but the comments, photos and opinions expressed are my own.


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