What's the Difference Between Tasting and Drinking Wine?

How to enjoy your glass of wine

Hey, I don’t mean to sound like a fossil, but age and experience does often give one a sense of perspective. So I am going to go back to times that may seem so long ago. But, in reality, these times were only about 20 years ago. That is the time that wines started to change and you can read about that in my article "What Is Wine?"

But, now I am not talking about the change in how wine is made and how it tastes, but how it is tasted and consumed. And, make no mistake, there is a huge difference. From the beginning my friends and I (many of which were involved with the old Underground and are still involved with the new Underground) were wine drinkers. I often say I taste wine, but to be technically correct what I mean is I drink wine. I don’t rate and evaluate wines in marathon wine tastings of hundreds of wines at a time where you taste and spit. 

Not that I have never done these marathon tastings, I have. But, after some time experimenting, I concluded that it is a waste of time. It produces no valid results no matter who does the marathon tasting or what ratings are used. And, it is tiring and, after a period of time, really quite boring. However, I do drink and taste wines with food every day. And, the wines that I drink and the foods that I eat are ones that I think complement each other. Some times I have different wines with different foods, but most times I taste and drink the same wines over a period of days with different foods. The latter is almost always true when I am evaluating young wines.

Think about it. How is wine consumed? Well, I think there are two ways. One is to just drink. Forget the food. Just drink and then drink some more. In fact, some people drink until they drop! And, even when wine is served with food, I have often noticed people have wine with food who are not having wine with food. How is that possible? Simple, they eat their food and then drink their wine. And, if you are a high-profile drinker with a big wallet, you may just go for the numbers. If you’re not in that league, then maybe you just drink anything with alcohol. It’s more about drinking than eating and drinking. But, the other way is to drink wine with food and, for me, this is the only way to go. Here you have two choices. First, serve young big numbers wines as a way to impress your friends with your knowledge and net worth! Good luck. This is a fool’s game. People who really know wine and food will not be impressed. And people who do not know wine are unlikely to think that it was a marvelous experience. The second way is to drink wine the way it was meant to be consumed from the beginning. That is to find wines that complement the foods that you are eating. And, here it is only your choice and taste that matters. 

So what is wine all about? It is very simple. It is a beverage to be enjoyed and matched with food. The two go together. They are not mutually exclusive. And, thick heavy alcoholic wines are not the wines that complement most foods. Oh yes, I know there are some that would drink a big numbers 17 percent sweet red wine fruit bomb with fillet of sole or shell fish, but these are probably some of the same people who only drink numbers and don’t care much about what they eat when they are drinking the the high octane juice. And, they probably eat the food and then drink the wine. At least I hope so. Either way, what a shame! The matching of great wine and great food is one of life’s great pleasures and it is enhanced in the company of friends. But, there probably is a time and place for everything. So maybe a big California syrah would appeal to some people with something like Santa Maria barbecue (assuming it was not a hot summer day and the wine was warm)!  In fact, I would enjoy a glass of balanced syrah made by producers such as Qupé or Ojai Vineyards served at cellar temperature with barbecue on a warm (but not hot) day. In fact, this may very well be a regional food and wine match since the wine and food come from the same general area.  So forget tasting. Forget trying to buy numbers. Buy and drink the wine you like with the foods that you like to eat. 

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For more on the difference between drinking and tasting wine, click here.