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Wine Tasting Tips

Mary Gibble

   Jenny Benzie, the head sommelier and CEO of Pour Sip Savor in Palm Beach, knows a thing or two about wine tastings. We asked her to share her knowledge so you can get the most out of your next tasting.

PBI.com: What's the step-by-step process of tasting a wine?

Benzie: First, you have to look at the wine—assess the color itself, see how it varies from the middle of the glass to the edge when you tilt the glass, along with the depth of the color. Next, you need to swirl the wine in the glass and pay attention to the thickness of the wine and how quickly it may sheet your glass. There are a lot of clues that you can deduce just by eyeballing your wine first.

   Next, you have to smell the wine. You are looking for a F.E.W. things in the wine. F being Fruity: Name at least three fruits. Start with a broader category then narrow it down. Tropical, citrus, tree, exotic, berries, etc. Next is E for Earth: Anything that comes from the earth is fair game here including flowers, trees, shrubs, dirt, soil, minerality. W stands for Wood: Does it smell like it came from a lumberyard or is there no presence of oak?

   Keep these F.E.W. things in mind as you taste. Let the wine roll over your tongue. Does it confirm what you assessed on the nose? Are there other things that you taste? The other things to assess on the palate are acidity (does it make your mouth water on the sides?), alcohol (does it burn in your chest?), tannin (the mouth puckering sensation commonly found in red wines) and how long the taste lingers in your mouth.

   You are assessing the wine based on the grape variety and the region that it comes from. All in all, the entire process will take you less than a minute. The more you practice, the more you know.

The Château Baccarat wine tasting glasses are designed to allow tasters to pick up delicate aromas and subtleties.

Do you have any tips for getting the most out of a wine tasting?

Concentrate. Think about what it is that you smell and taste. There are so many household items that we smell everyday that could be present in wine: lemon dish soap, rose petal, fresh-cut grass, berry tart, green apple, even grandmother's attic!

What are some wine tasting faux pas?

Don't wear white! It's embarrassing when you use the spit bucket and it splashes back on your crisp white linen pants. Don't hog the table—other people want to taste. This gives you a moment to step back, analyze your wine and think about what you're tasting, then come back for more. Don't wear perfume, then no one can smell the wine.

How can one ready one's palate for a wine tasting?

Brush your teeth way before the event, not just when you walk out the door! Wine tasting should be fun, but like any hobby you need to spend some time 'studying' it in order to improve and impress your friends. Don't let wine be intimidating. At the end of the day, it's a farm product that comes from the earth and it is meant to nourish your mind, body and soul.

 

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