On Oct. 19, a group of roughly 100 people gathered in a narrow waiting area outside the Standard Highline Ballroom, waiting to partake in the New York Wine and Food Festival event "Taste Wine Like a Pro," sponsored by Wine Spectator.
Anticipation built as serving staff, chilled bottles in hand, darted in and around the tasting area. Though it was a casual crowd about to partake in the seminar, there was an undeniable nervousness in the air because the reality is, the world of wine is intimidating.
Yet when the ballroom doors opened, there was an almost simultaneous audible exhale. The rows of tables, each set with eight glasses of wine (four white, four red), faced floor-to-ceiling windows and looked a lot less intimidating when Gloria Maroti Frazee, the wine educator, gave the group a gracious, warm smile.
"Who here has taken a wine class?" she asks. Not one hand is raised.
"Who here has never taken a wine class?"
Hands shoot up around the room, and Frazee is delighted, "I love groups like you."
With Frazee's help, navigating the world of wine is a breeze. We scooped up 10 of her tips on how to Taste Wine Like a Pro, just in case you couldn't make it to the event:
1) When at a wine tasting, spit:
The easiest way to tell a "newbie" from an "expert" is whether or not the person utilizes the spit bucket. It is a wine tasting, so save the drinking for after you find your favorite at the tasting.
2) Use the same criteria to judge each wine:
3) Understand "legs":
Legs are the bubbles in certain wines that result from the amount of alcohol or sugar present. The thicker and more slow-moving the legs are, the higher the alcohol content. It is important to note that this does not indicate quality, but merely helps the taster understand and compare the potency of drinks fairly.
4) Swirl the wine around (unless it has legs):
This is done to increase the surface area as the alcohol evaporates, and carries the aromas into the air. Beginners should not be afraid to use "training wheels" and swirl the glass around on the table.
5) Be aware of "nasal fatigue":
Smell the wine, and then step back and allow your nose to rest before smelling it again.
6) Slosh the wine around in your mouth:
Similar to how you would gargle with mouthwash, this increases the surface area of the wine, and allows it to hit of the areas on your tongue and the back of your throat.
7) Pay attention to the "mouthfeel":
This is often overlooked in most wine tasting notes, but it is important in understanding the wine you are drinking. Does it feel refreshing? Does it dry out your mucus membranes, leaving your mouth feeling furry?
8) The glass the wine is in has a large impact on its taste:
A wine glass is designed so that the aromas are concentrated, The same wine in a plastic cup will taste quite different then that wine in an appropriate glass.
9) There is no right or wrong pairing for wine and food:
Pairings are simply about showing the wine off at its best. Delicate wines pair well with delicate food, richer wines pair well with richer food.
10) Anything goes:
Understand that everyone is born with a different chemical makeup that results in differing preferences and abilities in smelling and tasting. One way you can work to improve this is to go into your spice cabinet or your local farmers market and smell everything.
Madeleine Andrews works in public relations as an Account Coordinator at Deussen Global Communications.