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The wine tasting experience is often at the heart of wine country travel.  And, if you want to get the most out of wine tasting, toss your preconceived notions out the window, experiment, and follow these tips:

1)    If you’re lucky enough to have a private tasting arranged for you, and you’re nose-to-nose with the winemaker, relax!  They want to know how you feel about their wine, just as an artist wants to know if you like their painting and why.  They’re not gods, they’re regular people, and most of them are very laid back and friendly.   Their presence makes the experience that much richer.  Ask questions.

2)    Down to the basics:  Many of the new wine glasses people buy for their homes don’t have stems.  A winery’s glasses will.  Hold the wine glass by the stem.  The heat of your hands may change the scent of some wine.  And, there is a strong correlation between scent and taste.

3)    Swirl the glass while holding by the stem.  If you have a bold and seasoned hand, lift the glass and swirl to release the scent and marvel at the structure, colors, and alcohol designs on the glass.  If you’re like most of us, just keep the glass on the tasting table and swirl.  Look into the wine and check out the changing colors and the way the wine moves as it circles the lip of the glass.  After a few glasses, you’ll start seeing the perfect chemistry and alchemy of different wines.

4)    Sniff.  (This one is easy.)  Just a tad at first, and then really inhale the aromas.

5)    Taste.  You remember from science class that you taste with your tongue and not with your tummy.  Relax and roll the wine around in your mouth.   Notice the textures, how the various flavors break down, and how they create a whole.  Tasting wine is a complete sensory experience.

6)    If you can manage, open the front of your mouth a bit and inhale through your teeth.  It sounds strange, and perhaps stranger looking, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll appreciate the finer details of how the air you breathe releases the aroma and sends messages straight to your brain.  “It tastes like a long-ago summer of melons and citrus.  I love it!” says your brain.

7)    Go ahead, spit, and then rinse your mouth out.  Everything you need to do this is right at the tasting bar or table.  It is uncomfortable when you first try it, but one sip after another adds up, and your experience will be fuller if you come to each glass with a clean palette and a clear head.

If you’re lucky enough to be with a winemaker, ask him or her their preferred methods of wine tasting.  There is nothing like getting the scoop straight from the source!