How to: Wine and cheese tasting
Posted: Feb 28, 2020
My wine is similarly limited: red or white, that’s my comfort zone. In a store, I choose it by whether I like the label, and in restaurants, I order the ones I can pronounce. And I pretend that when I order a cheese with a French name, I know before it shows up on my plate whether it will be soft or hard, crumbly or smooth.
But secretly, I wanted to know what it means to swirl a wine. I wanted to know what cheese goes with what wine. I wanted to be in the club.Wine and Cheese
It isn’t just for "cork dorks" and "curd nerds" (names my teachers, Beth from Murray’s Cheese and Matthew from City Winery, gave themselves); taking the time to appreciate the tastes, textures, and combinations of wine and cheese is something for everyone.
All it really takes is slowing down, but here are some tips to appreciating wine, cheese, and how to put them together.Wine
Step 1: Hold the wine glass by the stem, not the bowl. Tip the glass from side to side, look at the color of the wine, can you see through it? Does it shine and sparkle? Notice how it slides down the side of the glass. (Wait to taste it, the dead give-away of the wine novice is the drinker who goes straight for the taste.)
Step 2: Swirl, swirl, and swirl again. You want to swirl with enough oomph to really get the wine going, but not enough to slosh it out of the glass. The swirl comes from the wrist and the forearm. Don’t just use your fingers. If you think about it too hard, as I do, you’ll end up just swishing it back and forth. This will get the job done, but it won’t be smooth and sophisticated. Swirl with the base of the glass on the table, or just don’t overthink it and swirl.
The reason for the swirling is to expose more of the wine to oxygen, opening up the wine and giving it more of a scent.
Before swirling, if you can smell a wine without sticking your nose in the glass, it’s likely an old world wine (from Europe). If you can smell it from above the glass, it’s a new world wine (not Europe). Though you may want to try this for the first time among friends. Announcing with complete and pompous certainty, this must be a New World wine, and getting it wrong in front of oenophiles could be embarrassing.
Step 3: After swirling, stick your nose right in there for a big sniff. Then name the first fruit or spice that comes to mind (don’t say grape). Grass, lemon, vanilla, these can all be right answers.
Sniff the wine. Photo: philosophygeek.
Step 4: Taste. But don’t swallow, slurp it through your teeth, loudly and with pride. This helps you perceive more flavors as the slurping allows the wine smells to go through the nostrils, so you’re smelling while you’re tasting.
How does it taste? Does the taste of the wine match the scent of it? If you get into it, the specifics of the tastes (and smells) can be detailed. It smells like a peach, a fresh peach, a few days from being fully ripe, a fully ripe peach, and a peach a day past its ripeness are all options.
As you swallow the wine, feel how the wine goes down your throat. Is it viscous? Does it cling to the back edges of your tongue? Or does it go down smoothly? What’s the aftertaste? Does it linger, or does it disappear? Because red wines usually linger, if you’re tasting multiple wines, start with white and move to red.
The happiest bit of information that I left with is that the expensive wines aren’t necessarily the best. You can get a $10 bottle and still get a great wine. Every type of wine comes around every year.