How to taste wine

While most of us drink wine, not all of us feel capable of tasting and talking about it. A thought looms that we need to know the etiquette, the drill, some routine or procedure that will unlock the vault. It can all seem too much.

As part of our Margaret River Makers video series we chatted to a host of winemakers in the region to get their take on tasting. Their advice exposed the simple truth that there’s nothing to feel nervous about. It’s a case of diving in, experiencing as much as you can and above all having fun!

Image top: The Margaret River Discovery Co.

Dylan Arvidson, Winemaker, Les Sauvages

“Give it a nice swirl in the glass. You let the air in, to let the wine open up so it breathes. Essentially you’re opening up the nose, letting the aromas out so you can smell it better. And repeat that a couple of times. You might not pick it all up on the first smell. Come back to it and think OK I got that initial berry fruit and then think what’s that next little fruit. So, give it another swirl and stick your nose in again.

Suck a little air between your teeth and your tongue and that will really open up the aromatics of the wine on the palate and really let you taste the fruit. For me I go first for the most primary fruit. So with a red wine either a dark fruit or a red fruit. I’ll look for that primary one that sticks out the most and then I’ll start unpacking it from there. So say I’ve got plum, what goes there with plum? Is it a redcurrant fruit underneath it or is it stewed plum, or is it prunes? So once you’ve nailed those down it’s going to be about spices. Is it mixed spice, oregano? Anything you can draw back on a sensory profile. Some people don’t have much in their sensory profile and that’s fine. You might just pick one or two things. It’s a start.”

Virginia Willcock, Winemaker, Vasse Felix

“I think when you’re talking about the taste of the wine I prefer to talk about it as the shape of a wine. Every variety has a different shape and a different feeling in your mouth. Something like a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon might be quite direct and linear while you might put a chardonnay in your mouth and it’s more of a round plump sensation. A red might be a bit like a horsehoe. It might be elegant and then the tannins wrap to the back. So there is a different shape to every wine and that’s why you may like one variety over another.”

Stuart Watson, Winemaker, Woodlands Winery

“A good wine should make you smile and for me Cabernet is the wine that I drink that makes me smile the most. I suppose at the end of the day all we’re looking for is whether the wine makes you smile or not. Wine has to have drinkability, it needs to be enjoyable and usually the great wines do exactly that.”

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Max Brearley

About Max Brearley

Max Brearley is a food writer, critic, consultant and host working with The Australian, The Guardian, Halliday, Margaret River Gourmet Escape, Truffle Kerfuffle, Conde Nast Traveller and delicious. to name just a few. A passion for a good yarn and great produce has seen him forage for native foods in the north west of WA, follow abalone from ocean to plate in the south west and dig for black truffles in the towering Southern Forests. He’s also been known to cast a critical eye over a meal or two for The Australian’s annual Hot 50 Restaurants and delicous., as well as producing written, visual and event content for organisations across Australia and globally. Whilst a proud Yorkshireman; he’s been moving south for much of his life. Relocating from London to Perth in 2012, a move to the southwest soon followed, where life girt by sea and vines is more than agreeable. Instagram: @max_brearley / Twitter: @maxbrearley / Web: maxbrearley.com

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