Category Archives: Wine lessons

The Savvy Taster’s Guide

You can have loads of fun and more importantly, learn a lotwalter clore tasting room at the many tasting events available year round. The more you know, the better choices you’ll make and more fun you’ll have!

Venues for tasting events vary from outdoor promenades to top of the town restaurants. They can be private tasting room intimate or ballroom standing room only.  The choice is yours.

The 6th annual Summer BrewFest on the Bremerton Boardwalk is a fabulous venue. It’s a two day festival this year, July 15 and 16. Tickets are available from the Washington Beer Commission. You will want to be there soaking up the sun, refreshing yourself with a craft brew or two.

The 8th annual Kitsap Wine Festival in August at the Harborside Fountain Park is another gorgeous venue with wonderful Washington wines, cool fountains, sunshine and boats sailing past. Tickets are now available for this event at Kitsap Wine Festival dot com.

One of the many places for a spectacular view while tasting is the top of the Columbia Tower where the women’s restroom was an experience that even the men were dragged in to see. That practice was halted but the view and artwork are still stunning.

My most stunning venue this year, was at the toph3 tres cruces of Horse Heaven Hills, tasting Coyote Canyon Vineyards’ wines with Mike Andrews. The red and white checkered tablecloth was anchored with horse shoes and the mighty Columbia River was in the distance. Wines from these vineyards have garnered many medals and are well worth the search.

Call me Ms. Manners but whether it’s a beer, wine, or even a spirits tasting event, here are a few tips that will ensure everyone’s tasting experience is enlightening and enjoyable.

  1. Let the Only Fragrance be from the Glass.

Aroma is half the pleasure of tasting. It’s the reason all those wine geeks have mastered the art of swirling in order to release the esters and smell the bouquet. If it smells delicious, it’s probably going to taste delicious.

It’s downright annoying when all you can smell is the person next to you. Instead of inhaling the wine’s beautiful fruits or the subtle hop nuances, all you can smell is Eau de Stinkum.

Leave the perfume, cologne, after shave, or scented body lotion in the bottle. Save it for another special occasion. Same for smoking or vaping – anything. Don’t do it before or during a tasting. It messes with everyone’s ability to smell the bouquet.

  1. It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Spit.spit buckets

After swirling, you taste. But if you swallow everything, by the eighth taste your palate is shot. So, if you really want to learn and take advantage of the opportunity, spit. Save the swallowing for the really good ones that have a long finish.

You can actually tell if the wine or beer is of excellent swallowing quality as you roll it around in your mouth, taking in a little air to appreciate all the complexities or lack thereof. You get the essence of it when you hold it in your mouth for ten to fifteen seconds. And then choose to spit or swallow.

All events have spit buckets or if it’s outside, plants that need watering. Spit buckets have evolved over the years. No more ugly splash back when a funnel like contraption tops off the spit bucket. Or you can use a plastic cup as a personal spit bucket. Either way, it’s perfectly acceptable practice.

You can and should dump any remainders in your glass into the spit bucket. It may be difficult after paying all that good money to taste, but remember, you’re on a reconnaissance mission. You’re looking for that perfect brew or wine to grace your table. Finding the region you prefer, or the perfect balance of the hops and malt, that’s your mission, should you accept it.

  1. Ask Questions.

You’re on a mission to learn, right? Reading is the best way but there isn’t enough time at an event and taste too. Asking questions of the people pouring gets you the facts faster. These folks could be the actual brewmaster or winemaker and they’re here to talk about what they love to do. So ask and they will expound away. Take advantage of all that knowledge and make it your goal to learn one fact about each wine or beer you really liked.

  1. You’re Not the Only One There.

For some unfathomable reason, some people park themselves in front of a table while tasting, ignoring the fact there are other tasters waiting behind them. Don’t do that. Ask your question while your beveridge is being poured. What’s in the blend? What are those very aromatic hops I smell? How many times is it distilled?

Then step back to swirl, sniff, sip and spit.

  1. Remember the Ones You Love.

Events usually have tasting sheets listing the brewery or the winery and what they are offering. Take notes of the ones you really liked and find out where you can get them. Ask who distributes them and where they are available in your area. Sometimes you can purchase that day but always find out where you can get your favorites after the event is history.

For imported products, there is always an importer listed on the back label. Make a note of that also. It’s easier to track it down afterwards.

If note taking is not your forte, take a picture of the label with that fancy phone of yours.

  1. Get a Ride.

Be responsible. Arrange for transportation before you start to sip. There’s a lot to take in at these big, sometimes overwhelming events and while you’ve been spitting and pouring out leftovers, be responsible and take a ferry, bus, cab or designated driver.

The beauty of these tasting events is meeting interesting people and learning about great wines or beers. Be safe because the next tasting is this weekend and you need to be there.

Horse Heaven Hills is Vineyard Heaven

Certain factors in viticulture produce intensely flavored grapes with balanced sugars and acids.  And that can only happen in the vineyard.

Washington’s average sixteen hours per day of summer sunlight, cool nights, hills and slopes, rainfall or lack  there of and alluvial soils produce some of the best growing conditions for vinifera grapes.

Each micro-climate, as if there could be micro in eastern Washington, has its own geology, soil, temperature fluctuations, water source and sunlight intensity. That’s what makes each American Viticultural Area (AVA) unique.

There are fourteen Washington State AVAs, defined by the United States Treasury Department’s Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.

The first to be recognized was Yakima Valley in 1983. In 1984, Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley joined the Club. Eleven years later, our very own unique Puget Sound joined the ranks.

The turn of the century brought Red Mountain into the fold, followed by Columbia Gorge (2004), Horse Heaven Hills (2005), Rattlesnake Hills and Wahluke Slope in 2006 and Snipes Mountain in 2009. Naches Heights and Ancient Lakes were added in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This year Lewis Clark Valley was added to the state’s AVAs – the first shared with Idaho.

Grapes were first planted in the Horse Heaven Hills by Don & Linda Mercer in 1972. Horse Heaven Hills or H3 as some refer to it, is around 570,000 acres of which about 10,130 acres are planted to grapes. Today, it represents 25% of Washington’s total grape production.

H3 rises up from 300 feet at the Columbia River to about 1,800 feet on the border of the Yakima Valley AVA. The AVA’s steep south facing slopes are perfect vineyard locations. vines along the columbia

The well-drained, sandy soils and dry, windy conditions of the Horse Heaven Hills have stressed the vineyards just enough to produce those sought after  intensely flavored grapes.

Older, established vineyards also have a reputation for  intensely flavored grapes. In the Horse Heaven Hills AVA look for Alder Ridge, Andrews Horse Heaven Vineyard, Canoe Ridge, Champoux, Columbia Crest, Destiny Ridge, McKinley Springs, Mercer Canyon and Wallula Gap Vineyards.

Destiny Ridge, just 800 feet up from the Columbia River, is a pretty breezy place for grape vines; the winds that blow are what makes this part of the Horse Heaven Hills appellation distinct.  The best part of the constant wind is the inhospitable habitat for vineyard disease and pests. And much like the mistral winds of southern France, the vines are stressed and would dry out were it not for drip irrigation.

Destiny Ridge Vineyard also benefits from its close proximity to the Columbia River.Mighty columbia  It’s rare to find temperature extremes close to a big body of water. Thanks to the modifying effects of the mighty Columbia rolling on (Woody Guthrie’s immortal words) and the land sloping toward the river which pushes cold air away from the vineyards. Further north away from the water, vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills have had killing frosts.

Overlooking the mighty Columbia River, is Alexandria Nicole Cellars.anc anova  Owners Jarrod and Ali Boyle planted the first vines at Destiny Ridge in 1998 while Jarrod was working with Dr. Wade Wolfe at Hogue Cellars. The plan was to use the fruit from their Destiny Ridge Vineyard to produce small case lots for other wineries. And that worked for about six years until the vines came into full production with such fruit intensity, the seeds of another new winery were planted.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars’ (ANC ) first vintage from the 367-acre estate was in 2004.  Ten years later, the 2014 Shepherds Mark, their signature white, is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, and 20% Viognier. And it’s a medal winning wine with a Double Gold, three golds, Best of Class, 93 points and a Silver. This lovely wine is crisp with fresh floral notes and a rich mouthfeel of juicy  Asian pear, citrus and crisp apple.

Why Shepherds Mark? Well, in the early 1900’s, sheepherders left their mark on the Horse Heaven Hills in the form of rock monuments.  These monuments – some still stand along the ridge line of Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard – were used for identification, way-finding, recreational pastime, artistic expression, or to simply leave one’s mark on the world.

Other ANC wines currently available are the medal winning 2012 Gravity Merlot which also received a Double Gold from the Seattle Wine Awards and 92 points from two industry magazines. The blend of  92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, and 2% Carmenere was aged 22 months in new and 1 year-old French oak barrels.

The 2013 Jet Black Syrah is another medal winning wine with three golds, Best of Class, 92 points and a Best Buy. This 100% Syrah from blocks 1, 15, 17 and 43 was whole berry fermented and then aged in new and 1 year-old French oak barrels. Prepared to be awed!

If you would like to tour and taste the the wines and wineries of Horse Heaven Hills, mark your calendars for Saturday, July 16, 2016 to experience the Horse Heaven Hills Trail Drive. You’ll meet the growers and vintners behind some of Washington’s most highly rated wines.

During this is a self guided tour, you’ll visit with grape growers and winemakers, enjoy beautiful vistas and sample some excellent wines. There will be music and wine tasting at the BBQ at Crow Butte Park. This annual fundraiser raises money for scholarships in viticulture and oenology.

How Vintage Affects Your Wine

Will it be a fresh, easy-drinking vintage or one that needs a bit of cellaring? And just what the heck makes it easy drinking or a wait-a-while wine? Are the sugar, acidity and tannins balanced and therefore ready to pick? Or do the grapes need more sunshine to ripen?

In the vineyard, it’s Mother Nature who determines these things, from bud break in the spring through warm summers without rain or hail to harvest in a dry or wet fall.

Vintages from warm years, such as this latest one, tend to have more sugars, lush fruit and with careful tannin management are drinkable in the near term. Cooler years produce wines with thicker skins and higher acidity, more in need of cellar time.

Many are touting the 2014s will go down in the harvest history books as one of the earliest vintages, one of the biggest and one of the best, primarily for the West Coast. Everything was high: temperatures, crop size, sugars and potential alcohol. Other areas, particularly in Europe, were not so fortunate in Mother Nature’s grand harvest scheme.

For most of the northern hemisphere, harvest typically starts around the end of August and wraps up around the first of November, with a few exceptions for those gambling on a late harvest or ice wine. The southern hemisphere, however, is just the opposite: it’s experiencing bud break while the northern half is harvesting.

Washington’s wine grape harvest was off to an early August start this year. The hot summer of 2014, valuable to vineyard managers, produced grapes, free from mildew, ripe and at perfect picking peaks one after another. Wineries scrambled for fermentation tank space. A record harvest of around 230,000 tons is projected, which exceeds 2013’s record of 215,000 tons.

The 2014 Oregon wine grape harvest was pretty perfect, with a warm summer and no summer squalls to water down the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes. For the state’s 905 vineyards, this was the warmest growing season on record. The consistent warm temperatures allowed growers to harvest grapes at peak condition rather than rushing around to beat cold weather or rain. As a result, Oregon wineries are harvesting big yields and very good quality grapes.

And in California, a mild winter and spring caused early bud break, and for California, the earliest harvest in recent memory. Sparkling wine producers harvested in July! The sparkling wine producers typically harvest earlier for the higher acidity levels.

Despite drought conditions and an earthquake in August, California’s harvest was estimated at 3.9 million tons. Last year’s crop was 4.24 million tons and 2012 was 4.02 million tons, a bountiful, great drinking vintage right now. The smallest California harvest in the last decade was 2004, at 2.77 million tons.

In Europe, harvests varied significantly by country, with France doing better than last year and Italy facing difficult weather conditions during most of the growing season.

And speaking of drought, Bordeaux and Burgundy haven’t seen a 90-point vintage on the charts for three years. In Burgundy, a warm spring had the growing season off to a good start, but a ruthless hailstorm at the end of June brought the yields down significantly. For the most part, the 2014 vintage appears to have been saved by an Indian summer.

The Rhône region with a cool summer and heavy rainfall during harvest caused slow ripening and the need for meticulous sorting. It’ll be short and perhaps not so sweet.

Further south, Italy saw a lot of wet weather, which will translate to very small quantities on the shelves in two or four year’s time, except for an exceptional year for Sicily.

The Port region of Douro was also hit by rains, which caused soil erosion in many parts of this steep valley and producers facing a challenging harvest.

While Spain as a whole is expected to return to average after last year’s record high. Only Rioja is looking at a bumper harvest.

Germany also saw periods of heavy rain, however the harvest is expected to rise by 16 percent. Let’s hope for an early freeze and much botrytis.

So it looks like enjoying California and Washington wines from 2012 and 2013 vintages is the prudent course to take now while waiting for the West Coast 2014s.

The year of the snake means it’s sake time

Mary writes:

This Sunday celebrate the New Year again!  Most Asian cultures celebrate the lunar New Year, which begins Sunday, Feb. 10 with the new moon, in style.

So we’re going to start out this New Year right and focus your attention on a different kind of wine that is technically a beer.

Why? Because it’s actually brewed and no fruit is involved, just rice and millet.

In China, traditional celebrations of the New Year vary. Window and doors are festooned in red symbols of fortune, wealth and happiness. It’s sort of like our holidays where people buy presents and on the eve of the New Year supper is a family feast with lots of savory foods paired with rice wine. The evening is capped with fireworks. Sound familiar?

The Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan and Vietnamese all make rice wine and the varying wines are made with different types of rice. There are more than 20,000 different rice varieties of rice in the world. Red, black, white and brown.

For our foray into rice wine, we’ll explore sake. Many different styles of sake are brewed in Japan. They also brew mirin, which is sweeter and used in cooking.

At a sake tasting a few years back, I learned that the better sakes were served cool, like a white wine. Most sake that is heated, is not the top of the line wine. And like wine, rice wine adds flavor to sauces and acidity to marinades.

Sake is clear in color except for Nigori. This style is opaque, almost the color of milk. The bottle is meant to be shaken before serving — an unsettling act to a vintage red wine aficionado.

When tasting sake, use a wine glass that allows you to swirl the rice wine to release the aromas, just like you would do with wine made from grapes. The more complex sake will have floral or tropical aromas.

Ginjo styles are fruity and floral and the easiest to like. The earthiness and rich, fuller bodied Junmai is appealing to the more savory palates. The taste is subtle with star anise, fennel and white pepper.

A tasting is a great way to share your sake experience and expand your palette. Dress up in a fancy red shirt and ring in the Lunar New Year in style.

Happy Lunar New Year!

The perfect wine-related gift

Still searching for a Valentine’s gift for your sweetheart? We’ve got one idea, and it’s perfect for any wine lover out there.

It comes courtesy of Eleven Winery, owned by Bainbridge Island winemaker Matt Albee. Eleven is offering wine courses, at a reasonable price, for people looking to expand their wine knowledge.

Most of the classes are to be held at the Poulsbo tasting room along Front Street, although there’s a few scheduled for the winery on the island. Classes will be held the second Wednesday of the month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The first class is Feb. 8.

If you’re interested email this address to sign up: Here’s the email from Eleven describing what’s offered and the price:

Ever had a wine question you were embarrassed to ask? Felt intimidated by a wine list at a restaurant? Or just wish you knew more about wine? We at Eleven are here to help.  Starting in February, we are offering classes on the second Wednesday of each month.

In February we offer Wine 101, Basics and Beyond, and this class will alternate each month with another class on a specific topic. More information will be available soon on our website. We look forward to seeing you!

  • February 8: Wine 101; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $15
  • March 14: WineMAKING 101; Location: Winery. Cost: $15
  • April 11: Wine 101; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $15
  • May 9: Wine Blending; Location: Winery. Cost: $25
  • June 13: Wine 101; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $15
  • July 11: Wine Component Tasting; Location: TBD. Cost: $25
  • August 8: Wine 101; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $15
  • September 12: Food and Wine Pairing; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $25
  • October 10: Wine 101; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $15
  • November 14: Food and Wine Pairing; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $25
  • December 12: Wine 101; Location: Poulsbo Tasting Room. Cost: $15


Aging wines: A snapshot of young vs. old

Brynn writes:

A few weekends ago Mary and I decided to get together outside of our regular blog meet up day. The purpose? To compare a 1996 St. Joseph with a 2006 Crozes-Hermitage.

Both of these wines are from the Northern Rhone region of France and made with Syrah grapes.

The idea to compare the wines came up after I started asking Mary for advice about how to decide which wines should be saved for a few years and which wines should be had now. (That will be a topic of a future post to come, so stay tuned).

We planned the menu for the evening: Roasted lamb marinated with olive oil, rosemary and thyme, and roasted red potatoes and onions seasoned with dill, parsley and basil.

We opened the 2006 Chave Crozes-Hermitage first, saving the 1996 to have with the dinner because once open it would fade.

We were surprised to find that even after four-and-a-half years, the 2006 was tight. The color was typical of a Syrah, deep purple, but the nose was limited to whiffs of plum. The lamb in the oven smelled better than this wine at this point.

Eventually it did open up to a nose of violets, licorice and plum.

Dinner was ready and we opened the 1996 Chave St. Joseph — but not before a little difficulty with the cork, which decided to crumble as we tried to extricate it from the bottle. Dang! No Ahso. (You know, the corkscrew with the two metal arms that go on each side of the cork).

A knife was inserted down the neck of the bottle to loosen the cork’s hold. We then drilled the corkscrew into the side to get a better hold on the cork. We met with success.

Comparing the two wines, there was a visible difference. The 1996 had a brick rim, a sign of maturity. The nose was fragrant with plum and cinnamon, and the flavor much more subdued for a Syrah, with a long, smooth finish.

The 1996 St. Joseph paired so nicely with the succulent lamb and herbed red potatoes. The plum and cinnamon flavors married perfectly with the lamb and the parsley and dill potatoes.

The 2006 Crozes-Hermitage, while tight when enjoyed by itself, became “hot”  with the lamb. This means the alcohol was much more prominent on the finish after sipping it with the flavor of the lamb in our mouths. We revisited the St. Joseph for the rest of the delightful meal.

Going with the theme of trying wines that have been aged for a few years, the next night Jeff and I dug out a bottle we had from 1999. The wine is also a Rhone style blend, but we bought it from a Virginia winery we visited when we lived on the East Coast.

I bought the wine (along with five other bottles) four years earlier as a gift for Jeff for Valentines Day.

We had one bottle at the time and it was as great as we remembered from our visit to the winery. But four years later when we opened this wine, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Tinta Cao with a splash of Viognier, our reaction was much different.

Maybe our palates have since grown, or maybe the wine was past its prime. We tried to drink it, but after a glass we decided it was flat and the nose was unappealing.

I did the unthinkable, I poured out the bottle. It was painful, but the wine was past its prime.

With one bottle left I decided I needed to bring it to Mary, to get her expert opinion.

Her observations included:

“When we first opened it, I really enjoyed the nose. At first it smelled of spices and orange peel, it was very appealing, but…”

But 20 minutes later, the nose had completely faded and Mary’s reaction was that the smell reminded her of fruit flies in her wine, and as she said “I really hate fruit flies in my wine.”

Her next comment: “It’s a tired wine, so we’re going to have to pound this.” She was joking of course, but not about the wine being tired.

It would be interesting to try the most recent vintage of this wine from the winery — assuming they still make this blend — to see if we still like it.

This is a case where we shouldn’t have held on to the wine as long as we did. Lesson learned.

Wine tasting tips for any wine lover

We’re coming up on prime wine tasting season, but before you venture out to taste the latest releases at that upcoming trendy wine event, we want to equip you to not only look like a wine tasting pro, but be able to remember whether your last sip was of a Cab, Syrah or Merlot.

Our hats are off to Aaron, who recently replied to a different post that it would be good for us to give some wine tasting advice. Your timing couldn’t have been more perfect Aaron.

Tonight Monica’s Waterfront Bakery and Cafe is hosting a wine tasting from 4 to 6:30 p.m.; Sunday the Washington State Wine Commission is holding Taste Washington!, its largest wine tasting event of the year to celebrate March as Washington wine month; and next Thursday, March 31, five Bremerton restaurateurs are hosting the first-ever Manette Wine Walk from 6 to 9 p.m.

If you’re planning to attend any of those events, or others, read on for tips about how to keep your senses, how to look like a pro and how not to look like a drunk fool by the end of the night. And remember, everyone’s palates have their limit, so expect to hit the wall. (But, we hope our tips help you taste a few more wines before that wall comes slamming at you).

How to taste like a pro, and other tips:

Aarons’ tips:

  • Never take more than three tastes of a wine (consider this rule: sip-sip-taste[the food pairing]-sip).
  • A “taste” should be less than a milliliter. There should be leftovers from a 1oz. pour.
  • Dump it if you don’t like it, otherwise you’re just wasting your limited tastes.

Our tips:

  • Swirl, sniff, taste, spit: Don’t be afraid to spit, even if you like the wine. (And don’t be a slob when you spit).
  • Eat: Have a “stick to your ribs” type breakfast before the event, and take advantage of food samplings during the event.
  • Drink water: Start the day before the event and bring a bottle to drink as you move between wineries.
  • Know before you go: For large tasting events create a list of “must visit” wineries — keep in mind some will run out before others, so do your research and visit the most sought after wineries first.
  • Red before white?: Generally the rule is lighter to heavier, old to new, white to red.
  • Bring your own glass, if you wish.
  • Bring a pen (or two) to record names, notes and wines you like. Formal tastings supply a list with winery information.
  • Ask questions: Winemakers love to talk about their wines. Where did the grapes come from? Was oak used, and if so what type? How did they get into winemaking? What’s their favorite of the wines they’re pouring?
  • Record your impressions: This could be a star system, a numerical rating, or something as easy as “I like it” or “I love it!”
  • Avoid strong or spicy foods: They may endanger your palate.
  • Collect your thoughts: When you’re done, sit down with a Perrier (or your water of choice) and write your “after action report” while all the details are fresh in your mind.

And last but not least: Have Fun!

Making Sense of the Senses

Which of the five senses is the most important to enjoying wine? The luscious taste? The sight of a brilliant color? The feel of alcohol warming you up? The sound of the cork popping? The smell of heady aromas?

For Mary, the aroma is what draws her in and keeps her coming back. But the taste is what brings Brynn back to a favorite wine.

Let’s explore what the five senses can tell say about a wine, and whether you’re going to love it or not.

We’ll start with the sight of the wine. The color and the clarity of a wine can be very telling. For instance, if the wine is dark in color, the skins of the grape — which have all the color pigments — will have had prolonged contact with the juice from the grapes during the fermentation process. Some skins are denser than others. Syrah and Cabernet are thicker than Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, so they naturally have more color and more tannin.

Color can also indicate how old or how young a wine is. Reds tend toward a purple/red color when young. As they age they get lighter in color, shedding their purple robe and taking on a ruby red, then brick red, (by now hopefully you’ve enjoyed it) then after more time a red/orange color and lastly an orange/brown.

Whites on the other hand go the other way. They start out very pale, almost straw in color and with age they end up with a golden brown color.

Often, the sound of the cork popping can get your tongue salivating. But other than the great conversation or music, the sense of sound isn’t used too often when drinking a good wine.

By the time you reach the sense of taste, you will know if the wine is sweet, dry, tannic, bubbly, balanced and/or acidic. Add to this the megabyte of flavor descriptors that could be applied to any given wine, and this could take you into the next century to explore them all.
A person’s mouth can sense a smooth wine that has a lot of body — or a light, delicate mouth feel. Concentrated wine gives makes the mouth feel weighty.

Next is aroma. The sense of smell can tell you if the wine is great, good or off with the first whiff. This is the sense that, worldwide, people will agree on the most often, regardless of if they prefer red or white, sweet or dry, or young or old wine. Inhaling aromas can bring a person back to a summer of picking berries, or grandmother’s apple pie laced with vanilla, or the pungent aroma of freshly ground black pepper on a Caesar salad.

A wine’s aroma also changes when it comes in contact with air. Swirling the wine, or decanting a bottle, oxygenates the wine. This allows air into the wine, which releases the esters — all the better to smell the wine. If allowed, prolonged contact with air causes the wine to break down because of bacteria in the air. With enough exposure, wine will turn to vinegar.

So, swirl, swish, sniff, savor. Salute.

Try the lesson: Remember when we said to line up five different glasses and pour the same wine in each glass, then find a favorite glass? That was a test of taste and smell.

The bowl of a glass will affect the bouquet of a wine. For example, an open bowl — like a martini glass — will make it harder to decipher the aroma of wine because there is nothing to trap the bouquet in the glass. By comparison, a large bowl with a narrow opening, like a Burgundy wine glass, will trap the aroma within the bowl, allowing the nose to blossom.

The glass size and shape also affects the way the taste of wine is perceived. Remember the suggestion to try a jelly jar, a wine glass with a big bowl, a glass with a rolled rim and a coffee cup? The wine tasted different in each of those, right? That’s because the shape of the glass is letting the oxygen in, which affects the taste of wine.

Wine glass makers aren’t trying to pull one over on consumers when they make glasses labeled for specific wines like Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chardonnay, Syrah, etc. They truly are crafting glasses meant to compliment those styles of wine. The way they are made is meant to direct the wine to a specific spot on the tongue for the most pleasure.