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Monday, October 5, 2009

A Guide to Wine (and Beer!) Tasting

Today was a great day! We conducted orientation for 100+ Taste of Atlanta VIP Wine & Beer Experience volunteers. Taste of Atlanta is a 2-day outdoor food festival at Technology Square in Midtown encompassing eight acres & ten city blocks including Spring Street and 5th Street.
Enhance your VIP Experience by knowing the basic steps to wine and beer tasting:

How to Taste Wine - Know the 4 S’s!

1. See - Observe the color and clarity of the wine. Notice if the wine is clear and brilliant or cloudy and dull. Notice the depth of color. Is it watery and pale or deep and dark? Looking straight down into the glass, can you see the bottom? White wines vary from clear, through light green and all shades of yellow, to deep golden brown. They naturally gain color as they age. Red wines range from red, ruby to purple, garnet and brick. As they age, they lose color and begin to brown. Also, observe the body of the wine by the way it coats the sides of the glass. If the "legs" trickle down slowly, it has more body. If it falls down in sheets, it has less body.

2. Swirl - Swirling wine in the glass exposes it to a larger surface area. This increases wine’s contact with air and intensifies its aromas. Swirl your wine by holding the glass by the base or by the stem.

3. Smell - What is the very first thing you think of when you smell wine? The smell of wine is referred to as its nose, bouquet or aroma. Common aromas include different fruits, spices, herbs and flowers. While different people will smell different things in the same wine, there are general smells specific to certain varieties. Be sure to smell the wine several times. A wine with great complexity will offer different aromas each time, as well as several scents at one time. There are hundreds of smells in wine!

4. Sip - The overall "taste" of a wine is a combination of smells and flavors, so don't skip the smelling stage to get to the tasting. Different parts of your tongue are designed to taste different things! Roll the wine across your taste buds, keeping in mind that a balance of the following characteristics is ideal: Body, Acidity, Tannin, Sweetness (if there is no perceived sweetness, a wine is "dry") and Fruitiness.

After sipping, either swallow or spit (perfectly acceptable)! The better the wine, the more defined the finish. Good finish will linger on your palate for quite some time and will reflect the flavors of the wine or have flavors on its own.

How to Taste Beer – 5 Easy Steps!

Just as in wine, one tastes beer to appreciate its qualities. Observe the color, the head, the aroma and the bouquet, the multiple aspects of its flavor and the aftertaste.

1. Appearance - Note whether the head is dense or thin. Heads are sometimes described as rocky if they are especially dense with dips and peaks forming as some of the bubbles pop. The color of the head is also worth noting and can range from pure white on Pilsners to light or medium brown on some stouts and porters. Examine the appearance of the beer itself. Hold the glass up to the light and note the color and whether it is cloudy or clear.

2. Aroma - Note whether it smells primarily of hops or malt. Generally speaking light colored beers will smell more of hops while darker beers tend to have a pronounced malt, roasted, chocolate or coffee aroma. Many ales have a hard to pin down spiciness or fruitiness from their yeasts. Take your time with the aroma. Try to take three good sniffs before your first sip. If you're taking notes, stop to write your impressions before the first sip distracts you.

3. First Sip - When taking your first sip, try to note the initial sensation as the beer enters your mouth. Think about whether it is sweet, bitter or something else. Beer, especially ale, can be very complex. There can be quite a difference between the first taste and the finish.

4. Mouthfeel - This is the texture of the beer or how it physically feels in your mouth. Beer ranges from silky dry stouts, to thick and chewy Scotch ales to thin and fizzy Berliner weisses. This is an important characteristic of a beer.

5. Finish - Note the lingering flavors after you swallow the drink. Often it can be bitter from the hops or a lingering malty sweetness.

Cleanse the palate with water or crackers between tastings. If you're tasting a number of different wines or beers, let the color be your guide. It is best to taste from light to dark with both beer and wine.

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