Exceptional Wine

How to drink wine like a pro

Posted on April 22 2016

It might seem pretty simple to drink a glass of wine. You tear the foil, place the corkscrew in the cork, pull it out and pour a glass. Put the glass to your mouth, tilt backwards and hey presto there you go.

And that would be a very short blog post, were it the case.

What I'm talking about, however, is drinking the right glass of wine at the right time.

I'm a Wine Pro. Own wine business - check, studying for WSET Diploma - check. So, I should know what to drink and when, really. Shouldn't I?

Well, rather embarrassingly for me, that isn't always the case. Yesterday, for example, I entirely flunked my first blind tasting practice test. 

We were to taste 3 wines in 30 minutes, write a page of descriptive notes and guess the grapes, the prices and how old they were. Hard task, yes. But, I flunked for an entirely unforgivable reason. You see, there were 2 reds and one white - the white sandwiched in as wine 2. Simple, I though, I'll taste the white first because the reds will be bigger and therefore mask my taste buds if I taste the white second. 


You see, I made an assumption. This pale little white wine was no wallflower. It turned out to be a medium sweet Riesling from Germany - delicious, refreshing, full of honey and apricot and a never ending finish - and there is where it went wrong.

I got my notes down for it and then started to taste Red Wine Number 1. After writing my notes I surmised that it was a poor quality, low-end Cabernet Sauvignon from the new world. I then moved onto the second red wine, this time I suggested a past-it Rioja Gran Reserva of 15-20 years age with no fruit and really just tired.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

They were actually a premium priced - £25 - Chilean Merlot and a super-premium priced Brunello di Montalcino for £50.

Riesling Auslese

A delicious sweet Riesling.

Brunello di Montalcino

Super-premium Brunello di Montalcino, ruined!

How could I be so wrong?

These two wines were all tannin and no fruit. They were tired and angular, without charm and with no redeeming features. And yet, they were, it turned out, great wines.

So, what did I do wrong? Well, I drank them in the wrong order.

Here is a simple way to drink in the right order:

  1. Sparkling Wine/Light White Wine (Don't follow a great Champagne with a Pinot Grigio).
  2. Champagne/Champagne style (if you have started with a light white wine.
  3. Full bodied white/light red.
  4. Young medium/full-bodied red
  5. Old red.
  6. Sweet/fortified wines.

If you go in that order you will never make the silly mistake I did. You see, big wines mask small wines. Old wines mask young wines. And sweet wines mask all of them! If you do what I did, it takes at least 20 minutes or more for your buds to recover from the sweet onslaught and be able to taste properly again.

Case in point: people often seem to be enjoying the last glass of red wine with their chocolate pudding or after a sweet fruity dessert. In reality, if you stop and think about it, that wine seems to have suddenly lost its charm. It is full of edges and lacking in fruit flavours.

There you have it, the first step to being a pro with wine is to drink in the right order...


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