Wine Appreciation Badge


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Step One: When you order wine at a fine eatery, you sniff and swirl your sample sip with panache, confident that your choice will perfectly complement the meal you order. When you serve a fine meal at home, your dinner guests will rave over the Savignon you chose to accompany your boeuf in croute. You know which wine best brings out the nuances of your favorite dark chocolate. You’re proud of your wine cellar even if it is just 5 bottles.

Step Two: Wine is more than just a pleasure, according to medical research, a glass of wine a day can improve your health. Knowing which wines you prefer can make drinking wine more palatable for you. This knowledge will also save you money because you won’t be tempted to think expensive wine is better than cheap wine. A lot of cheap wines are surprisingly delicious and you’ll know just the one ones to buy. The more confidence you have in selecting wine, the smoother your parties will go. You’ll experience a new world of taste not justin the wine, but in the food you eat with your wine, for wine has a way of altering the flavors of food.

Step Three: Find where the wine is and buy a few bottles. If wine is made in your state, consider a visit to a winery. Most of them offer tours, tastings, and classes in wine appreciation. Some have wine festivals and may also set up booths at local fairs. Check them out because you can learn a lot from them. If you have a Trader Joe’s or World Market locally, ask if they have wine tastings and plan to attend one.

Step Four: Keep a wine jounral. In it, you will list the wines you buy, when you buy them, what you tasted when you sampled htem, and label information fromt he bottles. You may also want to list food pairings you particularly liked so you will know what wine to choose next time you eat that food.

Step Five: Follow the traditional wine tasting procedure. It’s been developed over centuries to help people match their wines and foods and activities. There is a difference between a wine tasting and drinking wine – drinking wine is a full experience with the meal and music and company that makes the entire event memorable. A wine tasting is like a tasty chemistry experiment.

Swirl the wine gently in a circle. This aerates it to improve the flavor. Be gentle, you don’t want to splash it out or get air bubbles in it. Hold it up against a pale background (white is considered best) to look at it, the depth of color, the way it clings (or doesn’t) to the glass. This gives you hte beginning of a feel for the wine.

Sniff the wine. Now that you’ve given it a bit of air to release the aromas, you’ll be able to smell more of it. Our sense of taste is linked to our sense of smell, so smelling is naturally the first step to tasting.

Swish the wine in your mouth. Take a moderate sip – about an ounce. Don’t swish it like mouthwash, be gentle here as well. Move your tongue around to allow the wine to reach all parts of your mouth. You have different types of tastebuds along your tongue so each section will pick up different flavors.

Swallow the wine. There are more tastebuds down the back of your tongue at the top of your throat that will be missed when you swish. Let the wine flow down your throat. Some people say you should breathe in through your nose as you swallow, but too many people choke when they do that. It may be an acquired skill.

Take a deep breath. We prefer to breathe in after we swallow to avoid choking hazards. Breate in through yur nose with your mouth slightly open. The air will move over your tongue and down your throat, releasing more aroma molecules.

Pause between each step of the tasting process to allow the flavor to develop and to pay attention to the taste and the way it changes.

White wine should be chilled slightly before tasting. Taste white wines before reds because reds are stronger and linger longer. Cleanse your palate between wines with a plain cracker or bread, which will soak up the flavors and remove them from your mouth. Wine can be recorked and chilled although if you have a vacuum corker, that will preserve the wine much longer and prevent it from turning to vinegar (although allowing a wine to vinegar can be a good thing, it’s not so good if you plan to serve it with dinner).

Step Six: Learn the label lingo.

Grape Variety: For a wine to be labeled with a particular grape, it must contain at least 75% of that grape’s juices, like Merlot,Chardonnay, Zinfandel. Some wineries blend grapes for special flavors or to provide balance. Whether the wine is a varietal or a blended wine, there is no quality difference. The difference is in flavor and knowing the provenance of the wine.

Appellation of Origin: Exactly where the grape comes from. This can be as broad as the province or state, or as specific as the exact vinyard. Most often, it’s listed as the county, township, or American Viticulture Area( AVA) such as Napa Valley. In Europe, they sometimes give regional information instead of grape varietal.

Terroir: This term refers to the growing conditions in the region where the grapes grew – soil, lcimate, and anything that might affect the grape.

Vintage: This is the year the grapes were harvested. Wine in which 95% of the grapes are harvested in different years is marked as “NV” for non-vintage.

Brand Name: This isn’t always the name of the vinyard or producer of hte wine. Some grocery stores and restaurants buy “special label” wines from producers to sell as their own.

Step Seven: Stock your wine cellar. Most restaurants offer versatile inexpensive house wines, and now you can do the same. After you’ve sampled a few wines, pick a few reliable ones you’d like to keep on hand. You don’t need an actual cellar to store your wines as long as the place you pick for them meets these criteria:

1. No excessive exposure to light, heat or movement (so don’t put your wine above your stove or near a window, or where you have to move it all the time.

2. Stable temperature – between 50ºF and 60ºF, so warmer than the refrigerator, but cooler than room temperature.

3. A little humidity to keep the corks moist and tight.

4. Store bottle upside down or on their sides – a wine rack helps with that.

Step Eight: Claim your badge!

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