We’re here at Brandon Hall Research’s Innovations in Learning Conference and some of us are going to a wine tasting tonight at the Beauregard Vineyards Tasting Room at the Santa Cruz Wharf. (Beauregard Vineyards has been a pleasure to work with in setting this up.)
We’ll be tasting eight wines, four whites and four reds. The whites are a sauvignon blanc, a pinot gris, and two chardonnays. The reds are a pinot noir, a zinfandel, a syrah, and a cabernet sauvignon.
For people who feel like newbies when it comes to wine, here are three tips on doing a wine tasting:
o Relax. It’s not a test. There’s no right answer. Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to taste. What do you taste? There isn’t really “citrus” or “vanilla” or “pepper” or any of those things in a wine. Grapes are a such a complex fruit and winemaking is such a complex process that most wines end up with many subtle tastes. People use those words to try to label the tastes. So just try to identify what it tastes like to you. But you’re in charge. If it tastes like old bubble gum to you, that’s what it tastes like. Pour out anything you don’t like.
o The three questions I ask myself when I taste a wine are:
1. How sweet or dry is it? For reds, this is often stated as, how soft or tannic is it? (Tannic is the dry taste you get in your mouth when you drink tea.)
2. What tastes do I taste? People often taste other fruits in wine, such as melon or peaches in whites and blackberries or cherries in reds. People sometimes taste spices in wine, like pepper, or foods, like chocolate. If it just tastes like “wine” to you, try a little harder to compare it to other tastes you’re familiar with.
3. How strong does it taste? Some wines smell and taste strongly of their alcohol (the way a sip of vodka burns). Others are much milder.
o Appreciate winemakers as people. Winemakers are interesting characters. They are knowledge workers; they are creating an original output, like an artist or writer. They are also scientists; they try to control biochemical reactions. And they are entrepreneurs; they are selling a product that has intense quality and price competition. A good question to ask the winemaker or wine pourer is, where do these grapes come from? (Did they grow them themselves or buy them?)
That’s it. Enjoy!