Wine Tasting - Getting to Know White Wine
Learning about wine can be the beginning of a life-long adventure. Wine can add to social occasions and enhance almost any meal. Part of learning about wine is tasting wine to determine what you like and dislike.
Most people start their journey of wine discovery with white wine. That is why the first wine tasting that we have designed is focused on white wine.
Our white wine tasting has been designed to introduce you to 4 of the most popular white wine varieties (Riesling, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and 2 styles of Chardonnay). This tasting can easily be conducted by anyone in the comfort of their own home. It requires a minimum of previous knowledge and setup. The only thing it requires is enough wine glasses for all participants (5 per participant), at least 5 bottles of wine, and a desire to learn about wine.
Goal of This Wine Tasting
The goal for this wine tasting is very simple, to introduce you to 4 popular varieties of white wine so that you:
- Come to understand what each variety tastes like; and
- May start to develop a sense of your own likes and dislikes.
This wine tasting does not attempt to compare regional differences. It does not attempt to compare different styles for the same wine (with the exception of the two styles of Chardonnay). It also does not focus on the wines of any particular producer. By not recommending specific wine we get around the problem that you may not have access to the same wines as the author.
Do This With Friends
Any wine tasting, this one included, is more fun when done in the company of friends. Tasting with friends will allow everyone to share their experiences, impressions, likes and dislikes.
The Wine for the Tasting
To conduct this tasting you will need the following 5 wines:
- Riesling - Riesling is widely considered to be one of the 3 great white wine grapes. For this tasting ask for a dry Riesling. Dry means low residual sugar should they ask. You should focus on getting a quality dry Riesling rather than being concerned about a specific region. That being said, some good sources for Riesling are Germany, the Finger Lakes Region of New York, and Oregon.
- Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris - Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris are the same grape, just called different things in different parts of the world. While not typically considered to be one of the truly great white wine grapes, Pinot Grigio/Gris has become popular in the United States and many examples may be found in your local wine shop, as well as on restaurant wine lists, and restaurant wine-by-the-glass programs. For this reason, we decided to include this wine in the tasting.
- Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc - As with Pinot Grigio/Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc are simply two different names for the same wine. Sauvignon Blanc is also considered to be among the top 3 wine grapes. Ask for a good representative Sauvignon Blanc.
- Chardonnay #1 - Chardonnay rounds out the top 3 wine grapes, and is typically considered to be the greatest of the 3. The first Chardonnay for this tasting should be a simple Chardonnay that is not aged in oak barrels.
- Chardonnay #2 - For the second Chardonnay for this tasting ask for a Chardonnay that is aged in oak barrels.
A 750ml bottle of wine contains about 25 ounces of wine (25.4 ounces to be exact). You will be pouring 1 to 2 ounces of wine into each glass giving you the potential for 12 to 25 glasses of wine from each bottle.
To acquire the wine for the tasting, go to a liquor store that specializes in wine or a local wine shop. One bottle of each wine should suffice, unless you have invited a lot of people (more than 10). You will rely upon the knowledge of the store staff so ask for their wine "expert". You should try to purchase all of the wines in the same general price range - between $10 and $20 per bottle should do. It may help if you explain that you are collecting together white wines for a simple comparison tasting to compare the similarities and differences between these popular wine varieties. It is fine to go with recommendations of wines that are "popular" for this tasting.
Preparing the Tasting
Prior to the arrival of your guests:
- Set out 5 glasses in a left to right line on a table for each guest, one for each wine to be tasted. It is also good to give each guest a glass of water and have on hand some simple crackers for cleansing the palate between glasses.
- From left to right, pour a small amount (1 to 2 ounces) of Riesling into the first glass, a small amount of Pinot Grigio/Gris into the next glass, a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the next, followed by Chardonnay #1 in the 4th glass and Chardonnay #2 in the 5th glass. Repeat this at each guest's place. You may also want to make a small label for each glass indicating what type of wine it is (an index card next to each glass works well). Do not, at this point, divulge the producer of the wine or the wine's price.
Conducting the Tasting
Once everyone is seated:
After tasting each wine each participant should ask themselves several questions:
- Explain that each of them has the same 5 wines in front of them and let them know what variety they are. Again, do not yet divulge the producers and prices of the wine. That comes at the end of the tasting.
- Ask your guests to look carefully at each of the wines comparing and contrasting their color. They should range in color from pale or almost clear to a golden yellow color.
- Ask them to smell each wine in turn without tasting them to compare the way each smells.
- Now it is time to taste them. Each person should start with wine 1 and again smell it. They should then take a sip of the wine and hold it in their mouth for 10 to 20 seconds before swallowing. After everyone has tasted the wine take a moment to share impressions. Repeat this process for wines 2 through 5. Remember to take your time. This is not a race. It is also all right to taste the wine twice before forming an impression and opinion.
- After all of the wines have been tasted, have everyone rate them from their favorite to least favorite.
- Share with your guests which wines you poured for the tasting and what you paid for them.
- Pour everyone a nice glass of their favorite.
- Order take-out and have an impromptu party...
Add Some Education
An optional component for this tasting is to add educational. If you are the type of person who does not mind being a bit of a master of ceremonies and are comfortable presenting in front of your gathered tasters, you may wish to add a little background information on each of the grape varieties to help educate your audience. You may find more information on the grape varieties in this tasting here:
Have Fun and Learn
As you can see, the tasting is very simple. Its purpose is to simply introduce people to these popular wine varieties so that they can come to understand the differences between them. With this as foundation knowledge, it becomes easier to start to compare wine from different regions, (for example, Chardonnay's from around the world) or wines that are made in different ways (dry vs sweet).