Ever wonder why wine professionals stare at their wine glass against a sheet of paper, swirl it around with reckless abandon, stick their nose in the glass, swish it around like mouthwash and savor one sip for what seems like an eternity? Tasting wine, and truly experiencing the layers of aroma, flavor and complexity, requires the use of four of our five senses. Here’s the skinny on why us wine enthusiasts do what we do, and exactly what can be learned from observing, smelling, tasting and feeling wine. Do this long enough and you might just hear the wine calling too!
Language of Wine
I’ve been spending a lot of time at Atlanta Wine School beefing up on credentials so I can share cool stuff like this with you. Last week I took senior instructor, P. Kelly Wheeler’s, Taste Like a Pro I class. Kelly taught us the tricks of the trade, walking us through the tasting process from start to finish. He demonstrated how we use our sense of sight, smell, taste and texture to detect residual sugar, acidity level, tannins, body, alcohol, fruit, oak and other aromas and flavors. We even learned how to infer the climate in which the grapes were grown and whether the wine came from the “old world” (Europe) or the “new world” (rest of the planet). Did I mention we also tasted 9 different wines, two of them blind? Above all, it was a really fun class!
On the Nose
Have you ever been so congested that you couldn’t taste your food? The sense of smell is critical in enabling us to distinguish one flavor from another, including wine. In fact, 85% of what we taste is through our sense of smell! Our taste buds and olfactory system work hand in hand in helping the brain process the flavors in our mouth. Our sense of smell is also largely connected to emotions and memories, which is why when I take a refreshing sip of Vouvray, it sometimes reminds me of a green apple jolly rancher. Or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc might remind the cat lady that she forgot to change the kitty litter! Luckily, our ability to taste wine is trainable. But you can only learn if you try more wine, and take the time to truly stop and smell the roses, or orange blossoms in some cases.
Thirsty for Wine? Join the Club!
Do you love drinking wine but feel intimidated by the vast, sometimes daunting, selection of varieties, regions, labels and styles available on the shelf? Joining a local wine club takes the guesswork out of selecting wine by leveraging the knowledge of a wine expert. Not only will you get to experiment with new wines that you might not otherwise have thought to try, but you also get access to exclusive labels and limited distribution wines that you would not normally find in stores. Best of all, wines offered through a wine club are carefully selected by someone who knows wine, so you’re likely to have a better experience than just randomly picking something off the shelf. Trying quality wine at the discounts provided through wine clubs will not only save you money, but will also help you learn what you like and what you don’t, so you can make better informed decisions in the future.
Why Choice Matters
The majority of local wine clubs offer two to three levels of membership at varying monthly prices ranging from $30 to $40 for 2 bottles to up to $130 for 6 bottles. What most of these wine clubs don’t offer is choice. Not only does VV offer competitive levels of membership and the best value overall, but they are the only wine club in Atlanta that allows the consumer the ability to choose wines from a wide selection of styles and varieties. I did the math on the April selections and the lower level membership of only $67.99 a month provides a savings on retail price of up to $37 and the $99 level membership provides a savings of almost $80. Best of all, you get to select which wines you want to try, and you don’t have to make a long term commitment to take advantage of these incredible savings.
When Less is More
In addition to the exceptional value and selection, VV is the only club that offers a special trade up program. For instance, on certain months, your allocation of 4 or 6 bottles can be traded out for one exceptional bottle of wine, because for some of us wine lovers, quality is much more important than quantity! This month’s trade in options include a Napa Valley Cabernet magnum that retails for $100 and a classic Brunello di Montalcino. As if the trade out program isn’t enticing enough, bonus wines outside of the monthly allotment are also periodically offered at an incredible discount of up to 50% off and members get complimentary access to weekly drop-in wine tastings.
Monthly Wine and Food Pairings
Here’s a peek at the April wine club selections with excerpts from Michael’s club newsletter, sharing insight and stories behind the label as only he can, plus his tasting notes and my suggested food pairings and recipe links, courtesy of Gourmet Uncorked.