The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Technique matters when tasting wine

I had good cause to break open a favorite red the other day as the news crossed my computer that my wine appreciation video on YouTube “How to Taste Wine” had surpassed the Wine Spectator version. Not only that, other versions had just half the viewers we have attracted. The “Taste of Wine” count of a short and long conversation is now 19,899 and 37,605, respectively. You may view this “Taste” video by Googling “You Tube-How To Taste Wine.”
It’s always a good idea to occasionally think about the essence of wine tasting and how to get the most out of
the experience. Anyone can drink wine. You raise the glass and down it goes. That may be acceptable for some. But with more than 5,000 different wines available, each one just a little bit different from the next in several ways, a simple four-step guide goes a long way in measuring the quality of a wine choice. I call it a four-part harmony “S” test.
Wine tasting really begins with the valuable information on the label.  You learn about the vineyard, location, harvest year and the winemaker’s philosophy of the wine’s value.  With a wide bowled, “tulip” style glass that is not cluttered by silly design elements, you are now ready to judge a wine by the following characteristics:
— Sight: including color and clarity.
— Swirl: aerating the wine and observing its “legs.”
— Sniff: smelling its aroma and body.
— Sip: tasting the wine, and the lasting effect of its taste.
Sight is like viewing a portrait for rich color and texture. After pouring an amount of wine, about a third of the size of the glass, view the content from the top of the glass.  The wine should be clear with no sediment. With whites it will appear more intense in Chardonnay than say a Riesling. With reds, Cabernet should have a deeper, darker color than say a Pinot Noir. Next, swirl the wine by holding the stem tightly and rotate in a counter clockwise direction, but not so hard that the wine spills over the side. You are aerating, allowing air to penetrate the wine and release lovely aromas. Look for the “legs” or residue on the side of the glass. This is evaporated alcohol. If the lines are thick and “leggy” then you have a stronger, alcohol-forward wine. Fourteen percent or more alcohol content will show itself as “leggy.”
The smell of the wine is its “bouquet” or “the nose” of the wine.
There are more than 200 different scents attributed to wine, but you may just smell wine, and that’s OK too. I recommend getting your nose down into the bowl and do short, sharp inhalations for the most revealing sensation. Don’t analyze too much, just enjoy!
The final, most enjoyable climax to this four-part harmony is the sip, and you might add swallow as another by-product of the last “S” to find wines you really love.  Slowly let the liquid envelope the many taste buds you possess in your mouth and tongue. It’s a wild ride of flavors: fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, spices, flowers, earth, oak, honey and (you fill in the rest).
So there it is! Sight, swirl, smell and sip. Salute!
Family winemakers gather in Del Mar
California is home to many small production winemakers who place quality over quantity. Wine lovers will have an opportunity to meet and taste many of these wineries in a public event at the Del Mar Fairgrounds from 3 to 6 p.m. March 14. The list of wines is impressive and includes Chalk Hill, Ecluse, Elizabeth Spencer, Frank Family, Hall, Halter Ranch, JUSTIN, Pisoni, Spring Mountain and ZD, just to name a few. Cost is $45 in advance and $55 at the door. To purchase tickets, go to  For questions, call (415) 705-0646.
Wine Bytes
— Bistro 39 in the Hilton Garden Inn at San Diego’s Sorrento Valley has a Napa Cabs event from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. March 13. Four exceptional wineries will be tasted and discussed. Cost is $20 each. For more information, call (858) 720-9500.
— Gary Parker’s WineSellar and Brasserie, also in Sorrento Valley, has a Burgundy Bliss Wine Dinner on March 12 with a 6 p.m. start and a 6:30 p.m dinner. The cost is $88 per person. Wines are from Gary’s own collection. RSVP at (858) 450-9557.
— Next San Diego State wine class is Dynamic Wine and Food Pairing from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 13 at Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula. The class is part of a wine certification. Call (619) 594-6924 for pricing.
— Tesoro Winery in old town Temecula has a benefit wine event for Homeless Prevention from noon to 4 p.m. March 21. Special $8 tastings will be offered with all fees being donated to the cause. For more information, call (951) 308-0000.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the Web.  View his column at Reach him at