Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How to Taste Wine

Okay, see, this is a ritual. With prescribed actions and a litany. Just so you know.

Hold the glass up to the light. Swirl the wine around. You're checking the legs. Watch out for wines with six legs. These are insect wines. None is any good, except the one made by stamping on those honey ants, the ones with the swollen abdomens full of nectar. It's a sweet wine. When properly strained there should be no legs, nor thoraces, abdomens, or jaws. Just wine.

"Nice gams," you say.

Next, place your nose over the edge of the glass and take a good sniff. Try not to snort any of the wine into your nostrils. If you do, don't blow it back out. This ruins the taste of the wine.

"Smells like wine," you say. "Does it come from ants?"

There are other places wine can come from besides ants. Italy, for instance, or Trader Joe's.

After smelling, look at the wine carefully again. Check for insect parts and whole insects, such as fruit flies. Fruit flies flock to the stuff. They're enormous lushes, which is why you never, ever give money to fruit flies if asked. They just blow it on wine or a box of those honey ants, which they take home and turn into wine.

While you're at it, check the wine's color. Is it red or white? You should know that white wine is really yellow. If it's white, there's been a mistake, and you've been given milk. They do make something in Mongolia by fermenting mare's milk, but this should not be confused with wine, which is made from grapes or ants. By the way, the Mongolians also make stronger booze by distilling the fermented mare's milk. It's nasty, nasty stuff. Horse brandy. Stay away from it if offered.

Sniff the wine again. Classify the aroma. Wine has four basic aromas: sweet, sour, salty, and ant. This wine, for example, has an anty sweetness. (The nose, they call it, if they're being all snooty. Technically this only applies to that portion of the wine that you have snorted up your nose.)

Now, carefully, tilt the glass and let a small amount of wine dribble out on your tongue. Hold it there and breathe in and out a few times. You should feel the fumes clear your sinuses, just behind the bridge of your nose.

Add a bit more wine. Swish it around in your mouth. Be sure to get it between your teeth. There should be no grittiness, no ant parts, no fruit flies.

Now, tilt you head back and let the wine run down the back of your throat.

Next, gargle. Try to gargle a familiar tune. For red wines "The Star-Spangled Banner" works well. When you get to the rockets' red glare, it is now safe to swallow.

Take a moment to reflect on the taste of the wine. It should be winy. Beyond this, look for flavors in the mix. Does it taste like oak, or more like maple or walnut? Does it have floral hints, or is it like musk or vanilla? Check for notes or thorns of blackberry, peach, durian, or ants.

Now you say, "'Tis an elegant wine, with an aquiline nose, with hints of maple and pomegranate, with a glossy finish and a kick like a mule." That's what you're drinking it for, right? Because when you take away all the trappings, at the very bottom wine is booze. Unless it's been transubstantiated, in which case it's blood. Look for transubstantiated wine in the meat department. Sorry. Don't know why I wrote that.

Next time: How to taste horse brandy and live to tell the tale.