If you’ve been wanting to take a wine tour, but were concerned that you don’t know enough about wine, worry no more. You can enjoy and learn about wine without any prior knowledge or experience, but keep reading for a few tips that will give you confidence and help you get the most out of your first (or fifth!) wine tour experience.
While you could spend hours learning the techniques professionals use to see, smell, taste, and evaluate the components and qualities of different wines, it’s absolutely not necessary to do that if you want a great wine tour. A few simple techniques will help you to compare different wines and make sure you get the most from your tasting experience. You will be able to discover great wines that you love. After all, that’s the bottom line: if you like a wine, then it’s a good wine; if you don’t like it, well, then there are plenty of other choices out there for you to try.
A note about price: the price of a wine is not based on its inherent quality; like everything else, it’s supply and demand. If a winery produces a small quantity of a particular wine, it’s likely to be more expensive. And if one particular type is highly sought-after, that will raise the price. What this means is that a wine you enjoy may be inexpensive, but that doesn’t mean it’s a poor-quality wine. One of my favorite bottles is a Sangiovese from Texas Hills Vineyard that runs $10-14.
3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Wine Tasting
1. First and foremost, always taste the wines in the order they are listed on the tasting menu. Almost always, they will be listed from lightest body to heaviest body. “Body” refers to the heaviness, or viscosity, of the wine. Fuller-bodied wines will have more alcohol, more flavor, and more glycerol, which is a fatty acid that contributes to the intensity of the wine, and makes it seem sweeter, even if there’s no sugar present.
If you swirl the wine around the glass, you will see it cascade down off the side of the glass. When it does this quickly and thinly, like water, it is a lighter-bodied wine. If it adheres more to the glass and forms thick “teardrops,” or “legs,” then it is heavier-bodied. Ultimately, the way the wine coats the side of the wine glass is the way it will coat the inside of your mouth, and the top of your tongue. A full-bodied wine will more completely coat your palate and tongue and inhibit your ability to taste lighter-bodied wine afterward. Therefore, you should always start with the lightest wines and proceed to the heaviest.
2. Secondly, try not to rinse out your glass with water. It is best to rinse the glass with the next wine you’ll be tasting. Water changes the intended experience of the wine. If you’re dehydrated, ask for a separate glass for water, so that it doesn’t dilute and alter the next wine you’ll be tasting. The pourer assisting you will be happy to provide one.
Should you reverse direction, and end up tasting a lighter-bodied wine after you’ve already had a heavier wine, that is a good time to use a palate-cleanser to reset your palate and mouth for the light wine. The most common palate cleansers available at Hill Country wineries are oyster crackers and Goldfish crackers. Saltines and popcorn also make excellent palate cleansers.
3.Lastly, some wineries may present a little accompaniment for particular wines. In this scenario, the paired food will complement, but also alter, the way you perceive the wine. So, the best procedure is to try the wine by itself first, to see how it stands alone. Then take the food and chew it so it coats the top of your tongue and the inside of your mouth as much as possible. Then try another sip of the wine; you’ll notice that your perception of the wine is quite different. For example, drinking an orange Moscato wine by itself may make you think that it’s too sweet. But then having a piece of dark chocolate, or fine blue cheese, with the wine will balance the sweetness and bring out the other flavor qualities of the wine beside the sweetness. In other words, sip-chew-sip, which is good advice for both wine tasting, and life.
Now, you are ready to get tasting on your wine tour. Grab some friends and book a tour with us so one of our tour guides can introduce you to some of the best Hill Country wineries. You’ll be able to impress your friends as you discover your new favorite bottle of wine. Enjoy!