wine

TASTING PARTY

HOW TO HOST A

Contents
Introduction .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 5 The Foundation .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 6 Training Your Palate .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 8 A Guide to Wine Tasting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Navigating the Wine Label . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Hosting .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 23 Preparing the Scene .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 24 Serving the Wine .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 26 Wine-tasting Themes .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 28 Write It All Down . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Shopping for Your Wine Tasting .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 42 Storing Wine Before Guests Arrive . . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 48 Pairing Food and Wine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Wine and Cheese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 A Final Word .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 58 Appendix I: Major Grape Varietals .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 60 Appendix II: Wine Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 Index .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 78 Photo Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 About the Author .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 80

guide wine tasting
Wine is an opinionated subject. What some people enjoy, others abhor. In order to form your own opinion, follow these basic steps when sampling a wine, either on your own or with your guests.

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Sight
A wine’s appearance can tell you more than you think. Young wines are usually more monotone than older wines. White wines range from straw yellow to green to slightly opaque. Red wines run the gamut from bright cherry to dark purple and garnet. Wine color is determined by grape variety; the length of time (if any) the juice and skins macerate prior to fermentation; and the type of fermentation vessel, usually steel tanks or oak barrels. As wines age, however, these colors change in the bottle as the pigments break down. White wines take on darker yellow colors and eventually yield to brown. Red wines take on colors of crimson, brick, and eventually brown. Some terms used to describe a wine’s appearance: bright, crystal clear, light, opaque, brilliant, browning, cloudy, dirty, hazy, inky.

Swirl
Swirling the wine in the glass helps to aerate the wine. When interacting with oxygen, the wine releases its aromas. No need to vigorously swirl the wine; a gentle swoosh will help the wine release what’s hiding within. It’s best not to pour the wine up to the brim, thereby ruining any chance of effective swirling. Rather, fill the wine up to no more than halfway to the top. Be careful with sparkling wines. While it is okay to swirl a bit to release some aromas, over-swirling can cause the wine to go flat and lose its signature carbonation.

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Smell
Most people consider tasting wine the most important part of the wine experience, but smelling the wine is equally as crucial. Inhale and think about what jumps out at you first. Fruitiness? Earthiness? Alcohol? Are there aromas that you’ve smelled before? Some grapes, such as Syrah or Grenache, have a vast array of aromas, depending upon the winemaker and the region where the grapes are grown. Other grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Muscat, exhibit similar aromas despite where and by whom they’re crafted. Identifying these patterns helps establish a solid memory base of grape profiles. Once you’ve analyzed the first smell, go in for a second dive. By now the first smell should have eliminated any residual aromas in the air that were trapped inside your nostrils. This second sniff should be clearer, and you’ll be able to build upon your first impressions. Feel free to move the glass around your nose and take in every corner of the glass because each nostril can detect different smells. There may be a lot to process. In 2004, two Nobel Prize winning scientists determined that there are more than 10,000 different aromas that the human nose can detect. Some terms used to describe a wine’s smell: earthy, woody, nutty, herbaceous, fruity, spicy, floral, vegetal, chocolate, savory, mineral, animal.

After you stop swirling, stick your nose into the bowl of your wineglass and inhale the wine’s aromas. 13

Sip
At this stage we further build upon our thoughts from smelling the wine. Does the wine taste like it smells? Does it smell like it tastes? What is most obvious about the taste? Is it the fruit? Is there an oaky or wood component? Ultimately, and most importantly, do you enjoy the wine? One very important thing to look for in a wine is the acidity, one of the most crucial and least credited aspects of a great wine. The tingling sensation in the back of your cheeks is the body’s response to acidity, and this is the component of wine, especially whites and sparkling wines, that helps break down food particles and gives wine its unique food applicability. It also keeps a wine in check over the life of the aging process, and the best older wines in the world still have a zippy, balanced flavor. Wines are called “flabby,” “fat,” or “dead” when the acidity is either non-existent or overwhelmingly drowned out by higher levels of sugar, fruitiness, tannin, or alcohol. Some terms used to describe a wine’s taste: astringent, approachable, austere, balanced, big, bitter, bright, chewy, closed, creamy, crisp, delicate, developed, dry, earthy, elegant, fat, flabby, flat, fleshy, fresh, green, hard, herbal, hot, light, long, maderized, mature, meaty, metallic, moldy, nutty, oaky, off, oxidized, rich, seductive, short, soft, stalky, sulfuric, tannic, tart, thin, tired, toasty, woody, yeasty, young.

Slurp
As you taste the wine, breathe in through your mouth, forcing air over your tongue and maximizing exposure to the olfactory bulb in the back of your throat. This is the main sensor that sends signals to your brain, determining whether you like or dislike what you’re tasting. By breathing in, you maximize the exposure of the wine to the back of your throat.

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Savor
The final step is to continue enjoying the wine while admiring its transformation, as it never ceases to evolve in the glass. As long as it is exposed to oxygen, the wine will change accordingly.

At a wine tasting it is up to you and your guests whether you choose to swallow or spit out the wine. Providing a receptacle for dumping wine is a thoughtful gesture.

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food and wine
Just as consumers sometimes disagree about which wines are pleasurable, there will always be debates about which wines to pair with certain foods. The most common rule is: “White with fish, red with meat.” While this isn’t bad advice, it isn’t very complex. Use the guidelines below to enhance your next wine tasting with some simple and tasty foods.

pairing

Similar Flavors, Contrasting Flavors
One place to start when pairing food and wine is to identify shared similar flavors. BBQ ribs and brisket practically cry out for a big, smoky, and peppery red wine. A creamy, oaky white compliments any fresh and creamy seafood dish. Another option is to focus on wines that contrast the flavors on the plate. A crisp white wine is a great choice for soft cheeses. The firm acidity and bracing minerality help clean the palate of all the gooey-ness and richness of the cheeses and prepare you for your next bite. Always consider the weight of the food and the weight of the wine. Pair salads, mild cheeses, crackers, appetizers, and other light foods with light wines, regardless of whether the wine is sparkling, white, red, or dessert. A heavier wine could overpower the flavor and delicacy of lighter foods, such as sushi or caviar.

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Regionality
If it grows together, it goes together. Pairing wines with foods from the same region is an easy rule to follow. Since the grapes and the food were both exposed to the same soil, climate, and atmosphere, it is logical to assume they share similar qualities and intensities. For instance, cheese and wines of the same region can be perfect companions. The clean acidity of Sancerre, a French white wine, is perfect to wash away the creamy tang of Cherignol, a soft goat milk cheese that comes from the same area. In Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced from cow’s milk and is usually aged for a few years before sale. The end result is a crumbly, salty, and powerful cheese. Lambrusco is a unique red wine from the same area. It is classified as frizzante, meaning slightly sparkling. When paired with the cheese, the unctuous red fruit flavors of the wine add sweetness to the dry and crumbly texture of the cheese, and the gentle effervescence of the wine helps clean the palate—cutting through the saltiness. Should you ever venture to either of these European areas, you’re sure to find these wines and cheeses paired together in copious amounts.

Food/Wine Guide
The following guide focuses on wine’s characteristics and how they are relevant to food. Acidity - Great with tart foods and lighter dishes. Acidity cuts through a wide array of flavors and textures. Tannin - Ideal with heavier dishes, especially meat proteins. Also works well with bitter flavors and pretty much anything grilled or charred. Be careful with tannic reds and fish courses. Tannin and fish oil can lead to metallic and displeasing flavors. Steer clear of spicy foods and tannic wines. Tannin accentuates the heat in the dish, so for heavily seasoned dishes stick to lighter and softer wines.

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Sweetness - Sugary unctuousness moderates heat and spicy dishes as well as saltiness. It also complements sweetness and takes the edge off of foods high in acidity. Oak - Oak generally gives wines a heavier complexion. Pair oaked wines with foods that are grilled, smoked, caramelized, charred, or broiled to match the bitterness found in the wine. Alcohol - Higher alcohol wines, whether white or red, can feel heavier, denser, and richer in the mouth. Pair lower alcohol wines with lighter dishes and higher alcohol wines with heavier, richer fare. When wine is aged in an oak barrel, the flavors and tannin in the wood blend with the flavors of the wine, adding depth and complexity.

WINE cheese
Combining wine and cheese is one of the most classic food and beverage pairings for a host of reasons, most importantly because there are endless possibilities of flavor and texture when it comes to pairing the two. The main thing to remember is harmony: The power and strength of the wine should never overpower and dominate the flavor and texture of the cheese, and vice versa. Wine and cheese share the following qualities and we’ll examine each in detail. And be sure to use the wine-and-cheese wheel provided with this kit to help you with your selections. Texture and Intensity: Lighter-bodied wines, such as a young Merlot or Viognier, feel softer and easier in the mouth, whereas heavier and tannic wines like Bordeaux or Barolo take on stronger and more pronounced textures. With lighter wines, stick to lighter and mild cheeses such as Crescenza or Fontina. If your wines are bigger and more powerful, go for more intense cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, or Cheddar. Age: Age before beauty? Some wines age well for years, even decades. Cheeses don’t have as long a window for enjoyment, but there are definitely some parallels we can work with when it comes to pairing. Younger and freshly-made cheeses, such as young goat’s milk cheeses, pair well with young and fresh wines such as crisp,

and

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refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. The youthful mouthfeel and the citrusy, tangy notes of young cheeses pair well with the fresh fruit flavors and aromas of a young wine. On the other end of the spectrum, the mature and complex flavors of a well-aged wine complement the concentrated earthy and salty flavors that develop in older cheeses, such as Manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Acidity: Wines are composed of malic and tartaric acids, whereas cheeses are based on the lactic acids of milk, so it is important to consider the character of wine and cheese at it pertains to acidity. A typical high-acid wine is Pinot Grigio. One of the more accessible wines to try, wherever it is produced, it is usually light in body with fresh citrus fruit flavors and a sharp, mouth-puckering finish. It is a great wine to pair with a low-acid cheese, such as Swiss. The heightened levels of acid in wine enhance the mild character of the cheese. On the other hand, low-acid wines such as Viognier—which can sometimes taste rich, flabby, and fruity—are complemented when paired with high-acid and sharper cheeses, such as provolone and Mimolette. Origin: Just as there are countless types of wine produced throughout the world, so too are there endless varieties of cheeses. A good place to start when exploring wine and cheese combos is beginning in the same country or region. The underlying principle is that the milk and grapes used to make each product come from a similar environment, and thus should share similar qualities in aroma, taste, and strength. If you want to pair a cheese from a country where wine is harder to come by, consider the climate of the region where the cheese comes from and choose the wine accordingly.

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Choosing the Spread for a Wine-and-Cheese Party
When planning a wine-and-cheese event, it is essential to consider the number of attendees. On average, if cheese is served as part of a longer, multi-course meal, 2 to 3 ounces is the normal serving size. If wine and cheese are the sole focus of your party, you should plan on each guest consuming anywhere from 3 to 6 ounces per person. As for the specific cheeses, offer a diverse selection, such as aged cheeses and young cheeses or mild cheeses and intense cheeses. You should also consider the appearance of your cheese offerings. Some cheeses are produced in wheels while others are shaped into wedges or pyramids. A cheese’s color also varies depending upon how the cheese is made. To make a colorful and appetizing display, include cheeses of varying shape and color. You can also construct a tasting based on the different types of animal milk. There is an array of tastings you can create using cow’s milk cheeses, sheep’s milk cheeses, and goat’s milk cheeses.

The creamy, rich flavors of cheese are perfect compliments to the tannin and acidity in wine.

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Other items that enhance a wine-and-cheese event are breads, seasonal fruits, dried fruits, nuts, mustards, honey, chutney, and olives.

A division of Book Sales, Inc. 276 Fifth Avenue Suite 206 New York, New York 10001 RACE POINT PUBLISHING and the distinctive Race Point Publishing logo are trademarks of Books Sales, Inc. © 2014 by The Book Shop, Ltd. 7 Peter Cooper Road New York, NY 10010 This 2014 edition published by Race Point Publishing by arrangement with The Book Shop, Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. editor Catherine Nichols designer and photo researcher Tim Palin Creative ISBN-13: 978-1-937994-53-2 Printed in China 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1 www.racepointpub.com

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