By Rachel Leigh
GENEVIEVE- You can see the passion oozing out of Hank Johnson’s blue eyes as he talks about his wine at Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, located in St. Genevieve, Missouri. Johnson said, “how you grow the grapes determines how good the wine is.”
Johnson is a family man who runs his business with careful precision. When he conducts his wine tastings, it is not just about tasting good wine, but a chance to fall in love with a work of art. Here are three tips gleaned from his tasting session that will take your tasting to the next level.
Rule one: Be adventurous and ask questions.
Take a deep breath and let go of any pressure you feel to be perfect at a tasting. There will be a well-trained employee serving you who can answer all your questions. Remember, no one expects you to be an expert. Try at least one new wine. You may be tempted to taste what you know but you won’t grow your wine palate trying the same old stuff. Take this time to fall in love with a new wine.
Rule two: Know the five S’s
Anyone familiar with wine knows there is a process to it. It is called the five S’s: sight, swirl, smell, sip, and savor.
Once your glass is poured, pick it up and hold it to the light. Johnson said the wine should look clear and not cloudy and the color should be bright. If you are familiar with the wine variety, ask yourself, “Does the color appear true to the variety?”
Set your glass on the bar top and swirl it gently. After a few seconds hold it up to the light once more. You should see streams of wine of what looks like “tears” streaming down from the glass. Johnson said tears, or what some call legs, are the marker of the alcohol content in the glass. The longer the tear streams, the higher the alcohol content in the glass.
Next, set your nose deep into the glass and breathe in. The swirling of the wine should release the aromas so you can more easily detect many dimensions of the wine. Depending on the type of wine you are trying you may smell different things. Johnson said with white wine you might smell types of fruit like pear or apple. Red wine may smell like cherry or plum. Ask yourself if you can smell multiple flavors, or only one? Does the aroma hit your nose sharply, or is it a dull, muted smell? A good wine will not have one dominant scent but will be well balanced and multi-dimensional. Johnson said.
Now you’re ready to try the wine. Take a sip to see if you can taste the same flavors you smelled. To truly experience all the flavors, you can try what Johnson calls “the reverse whistle.” Once you take a sip purse your lips, drop your chin and draw in air. This type of tasting will make the flavors expand in your mouth.
Close your eyes and let the wine linger on your tongue. How does it feel in your mouth? Is it smooth or does it have a bite? After you swallow the wine, does it leave a lingering taste on your tongue?
Rule three: Go in the right order
When tasting wines you should start with the sweeter wines and then the dry so your tongue palate isn’t overwhelmed with sweetness. If you taste both red and white wines start with the white because they are typically more fruity and sugary.
Follow these three simple rules and you’ll fit right in at your next wine tasting. Typical tastings will allow for five to six wines for less than ten dollars. Be sure to bring a few extra bucks for tips!
Tastings are on offer at Chaumette Vineyards and Winery for $5/six tastes. Visit chaumette.com/wine/ for more information.