GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 11, 2012

Wine after wine: Here are some tips for tasting

By Victoria Brown
Special to the Times

Wine Tasting Tips with:

"When you're at a wine tasting you probably have anywhere between 10 and 20 wines" says Tina Messina, co-owner of The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. "What you don't want to do when you go from a red to a white or even from a white to a red, you don't want to clean your glass out with water."

Messina is an expert in helping her customers to choose the perfect wine for easy entertaining and has a lot of helpful tips for tasting and serving wine. Why is it important not to clean out your glass with water? This would seem the most natural thing to do but even a little water left in the glass will dilute and alter the flavor of the next wine you try.

So what should you do? "One of the tricks that we do in the trade is you always clean your wine out with the next wine," a tip as helpful at home as at a professional wine tasting. She demonstrates this with a glass that has had red wine in it, pouring a small amount of white wine into it and giving the glass a swirl until it turns a little pink; "that's because it has the residue of the red wine, and then you want to be able to pour that out and now you are ready for your wine tasting of the white" she says.

If you are doing a wine tasting at home, or even if you are just serving a few bottles with a meal, there are some important factors to consider so that you get the best out of your wines.

"Nothing makes more difference to enjoying wine than its temperature" says Jancis Robinson, co-author of "The World Atlas of Wine." "It is possible to both flatter and deceive by manipulating the serving temperature, and all too easy to make a fine wine taste coarse by getting it wrong."

As a basic principle, we tend to serve white wines cold and red wines at room temperature. The reason for serving a red at room temperature "is to warm it to the point where its aromatic elements begin to vaporize — which is at a progressively higher temperature for more solid and substantial wines" says Robinson. Complex reds, such as shiraz, fit into this category, but there are some aromatic, light reds, such as a Beaujolais, that can be served cold.

For white wines, she suggests that the sweeter it is, the cooler it should be served, as this helps to counterbalance its richness.

The order of serving is also important. We usually progress naturally from white to red, but it is also worth considering some other factors; for example, serving a young wine before a more mature one, a light wine before a more complex one, a dry wine before a sweet one.

Of course, none of these suggestions will be much help if you don't clean your glass properly between wines, so follow Messina's advice and "make sure you clean your glass with your next wine. A little trick of the trade."