No doubt there are friends who are reading this and laughing, saying to themselves “I wondered when the topic of wine would come up.” I do have a certain reputation. At the same time, I have to say that wine tasting, done right, is a really good opportunity to practice curiosity. Why “done right”? Because, although most of us would rather drink good wine than bad, the tasting process is supposed to be about identifying characteristics of the wine rather than judging them and reads a little like the Five Senses Exercise.
What follows is a very basic series of steps you can go through:
- Watch as the wine is poured into the glass. Is it a bit fizzy or is it still? What color is it as it is poured?
- Look at the wine in your glass. First of all you look from above to see if the wine is clear. Then you hold it up to a white background and describe the color for yourself. Then you tilt the glass and let the wine flow back down, observing how long it takes, how much clings to the glass, and whether the edges are ragged or smooth.
- Sniff at the wine. Some people say you should sniff twice—once before you swirl and once after you swirl. In any case, you are encouraged to really put your nose into the glass and inhale deeply. Again, describe for yourself what you notice. Does it remind you of any fruit in particular? Or something other than a fruit? Is it perhaps a bit spicy? Or can you pick up a hint of vanilla? Just a few possibilities.
- Take a sip. Hold the wine in your mouth and feel it. Do you get a sense of fizziness or smoothness? How heavy is it? Does it make you salivate? Where do you feel it the most?
- Taste it. How does the taste compare with what you smelled? Do you get the same fruity or other flavors or does it taste different from what you might expect?
- Swallow it. How does it taste as it goes down? Is the finish (the kind of aftertaste) close to what you tasted before? How long does it last? Does it change over time?
- If the wine tastes good, have another sip. 😉
Why is it easy for me to practice curiosity in this context? One reason is that I really enjoy and am interested in wine. I like the challenge of trying to identify the characteristics and come to some kind of conclusion. I’m usually in a flow state when I’m tasting. And I like the worlds wine tasting opens to me. (For me, one way of getting interested in climate and geography is by trying wines from different regions.)
Another reason, I think, is that I really just taste wine for fun. If there were any pressure on “getting it right” I’m not sure how my curiosity level would hold up.