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Wine Tasting

Do you enjoy a good glass of wine? Do you find it enjoyable to taste wine, describe its taste, and maybe even guess what grape variety it was made from? Wine tasting is an art, and the great thing about it is that you don't have to have a degree in oenology (the science of making wine) in order to engage in wine tasting. You might think you need too, though, when you listen to the pros. They toss around words like earthy, bouquet, open, clarity, nostalgic, and crisp. What do those term mean?

If you're serving wine, it's a good idea to let someone who knows a good deal about wine to decide what wine to serve and how to serve it. For instance, there are wines that should be served at room temperature (red wines usually) or chilled (white wines in general). Room temperature is around 60F and chilled is at 50F.

Then there are wines that you must serve immediately. These are usually white wines, although there are exceptions. Some wines need to be given time to "breathe" for 15 or so minutes after they've been uncorked before they are served. These are usually red wines, although again, there are exceptions. Some wines require decanting (filtering the sediment) before serving. Ports and aged wines fall in this category.

When serving wine, pour it in an ordinary wine glass a little less than half full. Swirl the wine a little to create extra "wine" vapor. Try not to use heavy cut wine glasses so you can view the wine well. Look at the wine's color. What is it -- clear, heavy or opaque?

Next, bring the wine glass to your nose and take a short sniff. Try to close your eyes as you smell the wine. What's the odor? Does it have a fruity odor like apples, orange, or grapes? Chardonnay usually has a fruity apple or fig odor. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have the odor of pine needles or cedar. Syrah may smell flowery or of ground black pepper.

Take a sip of the wine. Roll it around your tongue. Some areas of the tongue are attuned to salty tastes, some to sour and sweet tastes. Zinfandel has a berry taste, a Pinot Noir from Burgundy hints of violets, a Gewürztraminer tastes like peaches, and a Chenin Blanc has the taste of orange blossoms. Red wines like California reds have a hint of coffee or chocolate in them.

Keep practicing your wine tasting skills. Try different wines and describe how thy look, smell and taste. Pretty soon, you'll be describing wines like an expert.