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How to Drink Wine Like a Sommelier

Wine was once considered a “rich man’s beverage” and held a rather snobby perception, but more and more Americans have begun to enjoy the drink. Whether you’re a novice or nearly an expert, it’s always good to know how to drink wine and get the most out of your wine-drinking experience.

Step 1: Make sure your wine is being tasted at the correct temperature

tasting wine

Different wines have different temperature ranges that will further enhance their aroma and taste.

  • Light white wines, rose-style wines, champagnes, sparkling wines and dessert wines should be served between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit to keep freshness and fruitiness intact.
  • Full-bodied white wines and light reds should be served between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit in order to appreciate the complexities and fruitiness of a rich Chardonnay or young Beaujolais.
  • Hearty red wines and Ports are best served between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit in order to appreciate the tannins in Cabernet and Syrahs.

Step 2: Aerate

Many feel that aerating wine - exposing it to oxygen - enhances the flavor, especially wines that are high in tannins like Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera and Bordeaux. Aerating red wines for just 30 minutes will bring out the unique nuances that can be missed. For this reason, many people choose to use wide-bottom decanters that expose more of the wine surface to oxygen. Decanters will also keep any sediment at the bottom of the decanter and not in your glass.

Step 3: Pick your tasting location

While this may seem odd, a quiet area with good lighting and no distracting smells is key to your experience. Good lighting will enable you to look at the wine and observe the physical characteristics, and a location devoid of perfume and other smells will help you appreciate the “nose” or aroma that your wine produces.

Step 4: Swirl

Swirling your wine will show the “legs,” which will appear with higher alcohol levels, a typical characteristic in heartier, riper wines. This also “opens up” the aromas for added appreciation before drinking. After swirling, hover your nose over the glass and pick out particular fragrances and nuances found in that wine. The more you taste wine, the more adept you will become at picking out fruits, flowers, herbs, tobacco, citrus, grass and other scents.

Step 5: Taste

The final step is to taste your wine. Do not take a large swallow or guzzle - it's best to take a sip as if you were using a straw. This aerates the wine and circulates it through your mouth for the best evaluation opportunity. During your tasting, you should be able to detect basic aromas and flavors. In dry wines, you may notice the tannins, which may make your mouth pucker or seem dry.

Vintners are always experimenting with different blends so you may feel that the more you find out about wine, the less you know. Join the millions who are learning to enjoy wine. It's time to sip your wine like a sommelier!

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