How to Taste: Swooshing the Wine

In anticipation of some nuts and bolts tasting lessons I thought it would be smart to go over a couple of basic techniques, so in my last post we took care of swirling. Now, on to swooshing, AKA permission to display bad table manners. For this, you’ll need a glass of white wine that isn’t too cold. If the wine’s too cold you can’t smell anything and the cold shocks your tongue so the flavors don’t register.

OK, first take a sip and down the hatch. Hope it tastes great! Now, take another small sip (if you take in too much you might choke), purse your lips and pull a little air in, through your teeth over the top of the wine. It’s kind of like whistling in reverse. Next, swoosh the wine all over your mouth like mouth wash and chew on it a bit, as if it’s food. Go ahead – give it a try!

Difference? Wow! The wine fills your whole head, no? It has so much more flavor!

This goes back to fourth grade science. Remember your teacher telling you that taste is smell? That’s what this is about. Your tongue picks up basic things like sweet, sour, salty and bitter – plus, these days, “umami”, a savory taste, is often included in the group. She told you that it’s your nose that detects all the delicious flavors you’re enjoying. And, then, she did the old smell the onion and taste the apple experiment to drive her point home.

Well, she was right! There’s a small passage way at the back of your throat that leads to your nasal cavity. When you pull the air in through your teeth, it engages your nose so you get all of the flavor. That’s why professional tasters, who are trying to notice as much as possible about the wine, use this technique. You’ll also want to notice the texture and weight (or body) of the wine and whether it’s sweet or dry. If you feel a certain amount of warmth, it’s normal, due to the alcohol, as long as it’s not excessive. You’ll be amazed by what this technique does for the aftertaste!

For some tasters, it’s too intense, but for most of us this really helps to be more discerning. I’m afraid there’s no substitute for this, so it must be done among friends…  

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