Wine Tasting: Identifying Sweetness, Acidity, Oak, and Carbonation

Ryan and I watched the documentary Somm on a date night one evening. We have not viewed wine the same ever since. There are only 135 Master Sommeliers in North America. Of those 135, only 19 are women. Come on ladies, we need to commence with our wine drinking to bridge this gap! Anyway, Ryan jokes around that we should become master sommeiliers one day, but deep down I know he’s not joking at all! So to get us started, we decided to host a wine tasting with some friends.

With the help of “Wine: A Tasting Course” by Marnie Old, we organized three tastings that evening. We asked our guests to bring a bottle of wine, but we tried to be as specific as possible as to the style and country of origin so that it would fit with our tasting plan. We encouraged our guests to follow the tasting suggestions in the order presented. Below are the details on the tastings, with the specific wines we chose in parentheses:

A) Identifying Sweetness and Acidity


1. French Sauvignon Blanc (Petit Bourgeois, 2013): Very dry, Tart Acidity

2. California Chardonnay (Sutter Home): Dry, Crisp Acidity

3. Washington Riesling (Kung Fu Girl, 2013): Off-Dry, Tart Acidity

B) Identifying Oak

IMG_8588 Heron Mendo PNoir 10 face P

1. Unoaked French Chardonnay (Champy Macon-Villages, 2011): Low fruit, Low oak

2. Barrel Fermented California Chardonnay (Heron 2012): Medium fruit, Medium Oak

C) Identifying Carbonation

Mionetto-Prosecco_3 Santola

1. Italian Prosecco (Mionetto): High carbonation

2. Portuguese Vinho Verde (Santola): Medium Carbonation

Hosting a wine tasting is an affordable way to try a bunch of different wines. Ryan and I made some hors-d’oeuvres and we had friends bring cheese, crackers, and chocolates. We had so much fun with good food, wine, and even better company. We are already planning our next!

Do you have any tips on hosting a wine tasting? Any suggestions of wines I need to try?



Wine Riot plus 5 tips on Wine

A couple weeks ago, I snagged a pair of free  tickets to Wine Riot from Yelp. Wine Riot is basically a massive wine tasting including over 250 different wines from around the world. It is both educational and fun, filled with plenty of libations, temporary tattoos, DJs, free swag, and wine 101 crash courses. Ryan couldn’t make it because he was running his first marathon, but that meant I got to spend the afternoon with my friend Chas (who is not only an amazing vocalist/musician, but also a super pediatrician too). We had such a blast getting our drink on and learning about wines.

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Octopus + Large Quantities of Wine =Drunktopus

I have been reading a lot of wines lately (here and here). Here are a few tips and learning points I’ve picked up along the way!

1. Of the six taste sensations (sour, bitter, fat, salty, sweet, and umami), only two are important in wine tasting: Sweetness and Acidity. 

Wine has no salt, fat, bitterness, or strong umami flavors. So when you are tasting a wine, focus on how sweet and acidic it is.

2. Dry wine is still wet. 

In wine lingo, “dry” does not mean “not wet” (although Sec in French, trocken in German, and secco in Italian translate to “not wet”). In the wine world, this “dry” means “not sweet”. Dry wines such as Australian Chardonnay have no noticeable presence of sugar.

3. Dry wine does not equal mouth-drying. 

Red wines contain tannin that dry out the mouth after tasting. Just because it makes your tongue dry, does not mean it is a dry wine. Remember “dry” means “not sweet” in the wine world!

 4. Wines have legs.

No, they can’t walk. A wine’s “legs” or “tears” can help you determine the weight of the wine though. After swirling, a wine’s texture or thickness can be seen when the wine slides down the sides of a glass. The heavier the wine, the slower the drips fall down the side.

5. How much to pour?

A full-glass pour is 5 ounces. This is the correct amount for cocktail parties, wine served before dinner, casual meals with a single course, or wines by the glass in restaurants.

A half-glass pour is 2.5 ounces. This is the correct portion for toasts and wine tastings, after-dinner wines,  multiple course meals served with multiple wines, or wines by the bottle in restaurants.

Also, when dining out, rule of thumb is to get  a standard 750 mL bottle of wine for every 2 guests, which will be 2.5 glasses per guest.

Do you have any favorite wines? Please share! I’d love to try!