The summer sun is shining and the vineyards are calling Long Islanders to try some of their best drinks this season. Before you head out east for a North Fork wine tour, take a look at some tips to make the most of your trip. Even beginners can take part in the wine tasting with an informed sense of what to look for.
The key is to start off by taking a few short sniffs of the wine, first to detect any scent that is out of place. Any musty smell or that of vinegar or burnt matches is a sign of a spoiled wine.
After checking for any off-putting aromas, you should turn your focus to fruit scents. Unless the wine is incredibly old or cold, you should be able to detect the smell of grapes. As you develop your skills, picking out specific grapes and other fruits will become easier.
Some wines may have floral, herbal or earthy scents that act as clues to the origins of the wine. Other scents—like chocolate, espresso, roasted nuts, toast or caramel—are the result of aging in new oak barrels.
To begin, look straight down into the glass to see the dark center. Then, raise the glass to the light before tilting it to look at the color of the edges, allowing you to see the entire range of colors of the wine.
When looking through the glass from the side, take into account the clarity of the wine. If it appears murky, there may be an issue with the fermentation or chemical properties. Although this isn’t always a sign of a problem, wine that is clear and sparkling is always a good thing to see.
If, when the wine is tilted toward the rim, the color is brown (for white wine) or a rustic red (for red wine) then it is most likely aged or past its prime. On the other hand, if the color is pale or watery near the edge it could be a sign of a bland wine.
When swirling wine, keep the base of the glass on a flat surface. If the wine has good “legs” or “tears” running down the side of the glass, this is an indication that it will have a bigger and more mouth-filling flavor than those that don’t.
Sip on the wine as though you are drinking out of a straw—small sips help to aerate it and make sure it reaches all throughout the mouth.
The first thing to check for is balance in the wine. The flavors should not stand out individually—a good wine presents all flavors together as though they are one. As you taste the wine, allow it time to subtly change flavor. This is a sign of complexity. If the taste of the wine lingers long after you have swallowed, then the wine is complex. While this is a good sign, some beginner wine tasters do not recognize or care for the complex taste, being attracted instead to familiar flavors of fruit or vanilla.