So finally, we get to the heart of the matter – tasting. I’ve observed the wine and done the sniffy sniff (yes, I said it). Now, I can finally understand the tasting! Or so I thought….
Now, as I understand it, the mostly proper technique to taste wine is:
1. Take a small amount in your mouth (a teaspoonful or so)
2. Swish it around all parts of your mouth because different parts of your mouth taste things differently
3. Aerate it a bit by sucking air in your mouth but without gagging and choking (not cool)
4. Spit (if you’re tasting more than one)
5. Swallow a little (as in don’t spit it all out)
During all this, you’re gathering information on taste and feel. The book I’m using gives some categories to consider while tasting so I’m just going to follow that.
I decided to try my tasting techniques out on two wines:
Scheid Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir (PN)
Scheid Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (CS)
Yesterday, I did some initial tasting (including splitting, rpm, just for you) and wrote down some pretty useless notes since I have no idea what I’m tasting beyond the all-encompassing “good” or “yuck” or “grapey”.
Before I proceed, I’d like to share an unfortunate encounter I had with some grapes when I was in about second grade that pretty much influenced my association with them ever since. I was at a friend’s house and we snacked on some grapes. They were quite yummy but about 10 minutes later I got an intense sore throat that really hurt. I remember doing that thing where you rub the back of your mouth with your tongue to try and relieve the pain. I finally went to my friend’s mother. For some reason I was given a popsicle which actually did relieve the pain. From that date, I never ate another grape. Drinking wine in the 90s after we moved to WA state was the first I can recall that I ever digested pure grape product. That’s about a 30 year gap. I think the reason I stuck with white wines is that they’re less “grapey” to me. FWIW, I finally bought and ate some grapes last year. I’m pleased to note that I didn’t pass out on the floor gasping for air.
My adult self says there was probably some chemical on those grapes those many years ago that caused my reaction. My kid self still isn’t fond of the grape.
Move forward to tonight. I’m sitting at my computer with a small glass of each in front of me to taste again as I write this. And yes, I have a bottle of water to clear out the residue lingering in my oral cavity between tastes. I’m taking a new sip of wine with each category. One wine at a time. Wish me luck. Oh, the quotes and numbers were added after I did the tastings just for comparison for my benefit.
Dryness/Sweetness – bone dry, dry, off dry, medium dry, medium sweet, sweet, intensely sweet, cloying
The good news is that I can finally remember that dry means not sweet so I am making strides. I should note that I have an undying sweet tooth so that may affect my perception.
PN – I didn’t get any sense of sweetness on this.
CS – Again, not a sweet wine at all, at least to me. Which was odd to me because it smelled very sweet, almost like a dark hard candy.
Not enough: flat, flabby (not enough)
Good: soft, fresh, lively, crisp, mouthwatering, firm, vigorous
Excessive: tart, sharp, green, biting, acid
PN – I guess I’d describe this as crisp. It kinda popped in my mouth with a good feeling. (pH: 3.58)
CS – Pretty much the same as the PN to me. It had a nice feel but not quite the same level of pop. (pH 3.58)
Bitterness – quinine bitterness, slightly bitter, bitter, very bitter.
PN – I didn’t get any notes of bitterness with this wine at all.
CS – I got a sense of a bit of bitterness. Not much but it seemed less pleasant than the PN in this category.
Too little: weak, thin, watery
Mid Range: light, medium-bodied, full-bodied, ample, generous, potent
Too much: heavy, hot, alcoholic, fierce, spirity
PN – I could smell the alcohol before I even took the first sip. It had a bite to it and a bit of an after burn. It wasn’t uncomfortable but noticeable. (13.5%)
CS – Again, I could smell the alcohol and it was there from the get go. Didn’t seem to have quite the bite that the PN did but still present. (13.5%)
Huh, strange. Both wines had the same alcohol content. Tasted different though.
Quantity: lightly, moderately, very or abundantly tannic
Quality: soft, silky, matt, dry, firm, chewy, rich, savory, green, coarse, aggressive
Finally, I get to meet the elusive tannin! The book describes astringency as the drying, furring, puckering sensation you get when your tongue and gums no longer ‘slip’ against each other smoothly.
PN –If that’s a good description to work from then I would describe this as pretty smooth or I guess soft. It flowed gently around the mouth.
CS – This one was definitely more of the dry feeling in the mouth. Yesterday, I found it unpleasant. After aerating yesterday and letting it sit today, it’s not so bad. I prefer the smoother feeling of the PN though.
Flavor – Completely subjective and personal.
The book really let me down here but I guess it’s all up to what each person perceives. It appears, I can perceive diddly squat.
PN – Not too grapey tasting which I consider a positve. There’s some dark flavor, maybe a berry of some sort. The winery describes it as “cherry, strawberry and raspberry fusing perfectly with an exotic undertone of licorice and spice notes”. I can sense some berry but I’m not getting licorice. I don’t like licorice so I think I’d pick that out… maybe. Maybe I’m hopeless.
CS – This one has a more grapey taste to me but with the added dark berry flavors. I didn’t like it as much as PN. The winery describes it as “a rich, concentrated core of black currant and blackberry fruit, complemented by spicy notes of cedar and mint”. It could be the cedar is that dark taste I’m getting. Maybe the currant. Don’t think I’ve ever tasted a currant. I could see drinking it with a heavy meal maybe.
PN Conclusion: Nice wine. Smooth to drink. Tasty. I should note that yesterday I poured some through my Houdini aerator and that really smoothed this wine out. Those things really make a difference! Anyway, I could see drinking this Pinot Noir with some food or snacks. Not sure I would consider it a solo sipper though like I do some whites.
CS Conclusion: Seems like a good wine but not my cup of tea. Too something… maybe heavy? It just didn’t set well in my mouth. I wanted a drink of water after each sip. Aerating it yesterday helped with that somewhat but it really brought out the alcohol smell.
Well, that’s it. How did I do? Did I meet the tannin finally? Is that the cotton that’s still hanging around in my mouth?
And for grins, here’s a picture. CS is on the left; PN is on the right. First is with flash; next without.
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