If you're mostly used to just drinking wine with meals (or you're new to the wine world), tasting might seem a little intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Krista French, certified sommelier and general manager of Midtown Bluebird in Coeur d'Alene, offered some tips on having a fruitful and fun wine-tasting experience.
Skip the scents
If you're going out tasting, you'll want to start preparing before you even shower. "Avoid wearing perfume or lotion," says French. "I don't even wear deodorant when I taste, unless it's unscented. I don't wear anything on my lips, because I don't want to taste that or smell it." She also recommends waiting to taste at least an hour after brushing your teeth (the toothpaste seriously compromises your palate). If you're tasting at home, make sure you don't use any air fresheners or scented candles.
Practice your palate
"Your palate has a lot to do with the food that you eat and the things you grew up eating," says French. "I grew up in a little town in Northern California where blackberries grew wild. We ate them all summer long, and so a lot of times when I'm tasting, I get a lot of blackberry in the wine. It's muscle memory to learn how to taste wine, so when you've practiced your muscle on a certain flavor profile your whole life, it's easier to recall that."
To add to your mental bank of flavors, try smelling different herbs, fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. And make sure to stop and smell the roses. You might pick up some of those flavors in local wine.
Take it slow
"I look at the wine and I smell the wine before I taste it," French says. "Look at the color of it, smelling it, picking out the flavor profiles through your nose. Then you taste it. I always try to pull air into my mouth, and kind of almost chew on it and breathe it in." You can give it a swirl or two to add some air, but there's no need to overswirl.
Bring your friends
"It's fun to taste with other people so you can bounce ideas off of your friends, and pull out flavors and aromas in the wine that you might not get if you're doing it on your own," says French.
Drink with delight
Above all, enjoy yourself. "If you're enjoying the wine and it's enhancing the experience that you're having, then it's perfect," says French.