Have you ever heard a fellow wine lover talk about how they can pick out distinct flavors when they drink wine, whether that is picking up on notes of strawberries or hints of lemon? You might know which ones are more palatable for you specifically, but you may feel bitter knowing you can’t pick out a wine’s more obvious flavor profiles, aside from the differences in sweetness and dryness.
Don’t be discouraged by this lack of wine tasting know-how. You can actually train your palate to pick out a wine’s primary tastes. This process takes a bit of time until it becomes second nature, though.
The only way to truly improve your wine tasting ability is to expose yourself to a variety of different wines, ones that you are both familiar with and ones that are foreign to your palate. In addition to strengthening your palate, wine tasting will help you understand why you prefer certain wines over others. This knowledge will be advantageous for the wine lovers who want to try new wines and continue expanding their palates.
If this is something that interests you, just know that this basic level of wine tasting can be done in the comfort of your own home! You can either test this out on your own or invite your friends over and make an evening out of it.
According to the experts at Wine Folly, here is the list of what you will need:
- One bottle of a dry red wine
- One black tea bag
- Half a lemon
- 1 tsp. of sugar
- 1 tsp. of vodka
- 4 wine glasses (identical, if possible) & a glass for each person joining you
- Paper & pen
Pour 3 ounces of wine into each glass. Add the tea to the first glass, the lemon to the second glass, the sugar to the third glass, and the vodka to the last glass. For the rest of the glasses, just leave the wine as is – this will act as the control glass.
The Wine Tasting Process
These four different samples will help you detect the four various tastes: tannins, acidity, sweetness, and alcohol. As you try each glass, be sure to note how the tastes are interpreted by your palate. Before drinking the different variations of the wine, take a sip of your control wine. Swish it around your mouth before you swallow so you can observe the feeling it leaves on your tongue, and then you can focus on the wine’s taste. You will do the same thing with the other variations. Here is how you should be tasting each component:
The black tea will gradually dissolve into the wine. You should notice that the wine leaves your tongue feeling a little gritty, while the taste is more bitter than the control wine. If you can’t taste the bitterness, it might mean you have a preference towards more bitter wine, while the opposite is true if the bitter taste is overbearing.
The lemon you added to your wine should decrease its bold flavor. You may notice that the sour notes of the lemon will cause your mouth to pucker. Ignore the actual flavor of the lemon because it is not an indicator of an acidic wine, it’s just to help you recognize how acids affect your overall mouthfeel.
If a wine only features a small amount of sweetness, you may not notice the actual sweetness itself. Instead, you will notice that the fruity flavors of the wine are enhanced, which is due to the added sugar.
Similar to the lemon flavor, try to ignore the flavor of the vodka in the wine. Your focus should be on the way the wine makes your tongue and throat feel. You should observe a “spicier” taste, which will be obvious by the prickles that form on your tongue. In comparison to the other wines you have been tasting, this wine should feel thicker on your palate. When you swallow the wine, you will notice a warming sensation as it passes down your throat.
After you finish this initial wine tasting experiment, you should have collected a few notes on how your specific palate interprets these primary tastes. Continue disciplining your palate by trying this process out on different varieties of wine!