As a result of the increased number of clients booking Southern California wine-tours, we will explain the easy process of how to professionally evaluate wines like an expert. The process involved in thoroughly smelling, tasting, and enjoying wines is one of the reasons why wine-enthusiasts love wine and those less familiar with it can end up intimidated. Some people see wines as a intellectual pursuit, while others just like the taste or just want to get drunk. On one level, it does seem ridiculous to spend so long detecting all the nuance of the flavor; after all, when a plate of food arrives in a restaurant we would not sit there for five minutes smelling it to try and detect its ingredients and how they’re mixed together… On the other hand, it is no other liquid on earth, says the experts, where there can be that many complex flavors and aromas in a single glass. Moreover, wines are said to be the food product on Earth that reflects the most the exact spot it came from. It is no wonder why the Chardonnay from Malibu tasting venues tastes remarkably different than that of Santa Barbara tasting rooms. Check out our blog post on the various Los Angeles wine tours options to find a region that fits your preferences, in everything from vineyard growing to scenery. To learn more about the variation between wines produced in the different areas in larger L.A. and Southern California, feel free to check out our blog post on Southern California's vineyard conditions. It might sound very silly to the newbie, but with the wonders worked by our L.A. county & Southern California winemakers, a simple grape juice can give hints or mimic several distinct smells and tastes from a huge number of substances. For the scientific perspective is it no magic: grapes contain many of the chemicals that for instance give vegetables and fruits their distinctive smell and taste. Which is also why a wine-review sometimes looks like commercial for the Farmer’s Market. Wine-tasting they say is also a great way of exploring and understanding your own taste buds, i.e. the tongue has different areas it senses the tastes salty, bitter, acid, sour, and sweet.

Come experience California vineyards on an LA wine tour!
As far as wine appreciation goes, our LA limo service concierge says, that can not be taught, but it has to be learned through experience. In the beginning, it is perfectly fine to ask the server what you are supposed to taste. Another good beginner’s technique is to simply be around people who have some knowledge, listen to their opinions and conclusions, and taste carefully while trying to see if you can smell or taste something similar. For those with time, money and interest on hand, an intensive tasting course shorten the process of learning all the tastes and smells. At these courses, they usually always put out all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and other organic substances in dishes, which allows the participant to directly and quickly match the aromas in wines. This can of course be done at home as well, by reading your particular varietal's review, and then head on to the produce market to find all the substances you are looking to detect in the wine. This is by far the easiest way to quickly understanding the basics of the professional tasting. On any on our tours, feel free to ask the wineries on any question you may have. On several of the wineries, clients are often also offered small bites of for instance cheese or crackers for pairings. Alternatively, make up your own unique description! After all, a recent review read as followed: “Possesses gorgeous smoky aromas of black berry and coffee. Fat, chocolate, and also mocha-scented oak tree”. Does he have any better idea of how fat and mocha-scented oak trees taste like? Hopefully not… On the other hand, there are certain standard basic flavors that anyone can taste, sweetness and spiciness for instance, but every person’s world of tastes and smells is unique to every person.

Step I) Observing wines

How the wine looks in the glass can give clues about what you are about to drink. Try to observe wines against a white background, e.g. a napkin or sheet of paper; it should be crystal clear with bright and vivid color. By tilting the glass will make it easier to see what way the color changes, especially along the edges of the glass. For the expert, simply looking at the glass can give them a clue of how old the varietal is, and also what food it would be best paired with. While white wines get darker when they age, red wines typically loose more of their saturation and becomes more and more brownish the older it is. The color of white wines usually ranges from a more pale yellow in light wines like Sauvignon blanc, to a dark gold color found in older whites, especially if stored in oak. For whites in general, a darker color resemblance whether it is well aged, but for most California wines grown in the Los Angeles area, Malibu, Santa Ynez, and other parts of Southern California, a dark colored white tends to be a sign of that it is past its prime time, unlike white wines of other regions of the world. Red wines generally speaking have a wide range of colors: from the deep and dark red Cabernet sauvignon, to the pale red Pinot noir, and all the way to the purple-looking Syrah wines. As previously mentioned, a strong saturation and color, caused by the pigment molecules interacting with other chemicals, so the deeper the color of red wines, the younger it is. As far as for white wines, the opposite is true: the deeper the color it has usually is a sign of how well-aged it is. Sediment formation is a natural occurring process, and there are always exceptions to the rules, but it is not a fault of the wine. Some wines taste the best immediately after being made, while others prefer an aging process to achieve its maximum potential.

Step II) Sniffing wines
By means possible, there are no other liquid that can even come close to the array of aromas found in wines, and experiencing all those different scents or smells is one of the great enjoyment for people who are - more than average interested in wines, - the experts. There are two things we are trying to figure out when we smell wines: 1) Identifying the scents, and 2) Find words to describe what scents you’re detecting. Most of what our taste buds can taste is actually what our nose can smell, so smelling wines beforehand is a big key to really enjoy the wine. It is of course extremely helpful with a wineglass, which is made to concentrate the smells and channel it right to your nose. Under the entire sniffing step, also remember to swirl it in your glass, which helps to spread it over the inside of the glass, allowing the scents to  escape the solution and reach your nose. It also helps by allowing oxygen into the wines, which again causes its aromas to be open and easier to detect. Some of the more experienced enthusiasts among our clientele can tell by smelling wines what grapes were used to make it, and sometimes even its region, vineyard- and weather conditions, and making process. This is also performed by experts throughout the world through so-called blind-tasting, where some are able to be so specific as to mention the precise vineyard it’s from, how and what grapes were used, how fertile the soil was in the growing areas, specific months of harvesting, and so much more detailed information, - from only a few sniffs!!

When you are first smelling wines, our Los Angeles wine tours concierge says, make sure to always swirl the wine in the glass two or three times to release the scents (aromas), and then take a deep sniff from the glass itself. Try to identify what aromas that are present. Take as many sniffs as you would like. Before you first smell it, keep the glass a few inches from the nose, the second time, let your nose enter the glass as much as you can. Some wines have a very intense scent, while others are very subtle compared to those with a strong smell. What do you smell? Usually, the upfront scents are those directly from the fruit in it, which is also why fruit aromas or fruit scents are the largest category of aromas in wines. Another usually prevalent ones include vegetables, i.e. vegetative scents of everything from vegetables like bell pepper to tobacco, newly cut grass to scents of specific flowers. As our connoisseur  explains, some of the most popular aromas in wines are actually scents of specific exotic wildflowers. Among the most popular scents found in white wines are fruits, more specifically pear, orange, lemon, melon, apple, stone fruits, and others as honey, bell pepper, and grass. For red wines on the other hand, the most common aromas are huge number of different types of berries, as well as raisin, licorice, black pepper, plum, and cherry are common white wine aromas. The more underlying secondary scents are often characterized from its yeasts, barrel, and other scents originating in the winemaking process. These aromas can include everything from oak, butterscotch, nuts, and more. There are of course also bad aromas, common bad aromas include too oaky or smokey. For instance, our specialist tells us, there are many reasons for bad aromas: an oxidized varietal can have a vinegary scent, while cooked wines can have a sherry scent, and last but absolutely not least, the terrible scent of rotten eggs coming from hydrogen sulfide. Every time you are trying to detect aromas through smelling, always make sure to swirl, which is crucially important in order for the aromatic molecules to move towards your olfactory sensors.

Step III) Sipping wines

The ultimate test of wines is when you take the first sip. Most wines smell good, unless you do not specifically like the smell of fruit in general, but a far bigger portion of wines will not taste as good to as many people. More aromas than you at first were able to detect in the previous step will immediately be detectable once you learn the trick of expectorating. Most of these aromas were not detectable in the smelling process as our bodies’ heat vaporize chemicals that we could not be able to smell. Expectorating is the main difference between tasting and drinking. First of all, keep in mind that the tongue’s taste buds detects the four different tastes, i.e. bitter, sweet, salty and sour, on different areas on the tongue. Always remember to roll the wine around inside your mouth in order to expose it to all your taste buds. By paying attention to texture and tactile sensations as apparent sense and weight or body, you will quickly be able to say whether the aromatic elements are balanced. After about ten to fifteen seconds of swirling it around in your mouth, you should also be able to detect the levels of tannin, sugar, acid, and alcohol found in the wine. The aftertaste is close to as important as the main taste experience you had when first sipping it. A poor quality varietal will have no aftertaste at all, and once swallowed, it’s about it. A great wine leaves a tingling in your taste buds of good aromas for sometimes as long a minute. Another important factor is the body of the wine, our LA wine tour connoisseur explains: As an introduction to a wines body, think about the difference between the consistence we find in milk and water. Similarly, full-bodied Zinfandel red wines will definitely have a heavier body than light Sauvignon blanc whites.

Keep in mind that naming an aroma is always a lot harder than simply recognizing a taste or smell. Which is also why clients generally always seem think wine-tasting is more fun when they know what they are supposed to smell or taste. Oftentimes, the bottle itself will include a list of aromas identified in the particular varietal. Furthermore, when you have the discovered the wines aromas, pairing it with food will be substantially easier, and can also lead to an increased appreciation of both the meal and the wine you picked to accompany the meal, as they contribute to bring out the best in each other. Wine and cuisine matching, or wine-food pairings, could be generalized to its simplest form, more specifically red meat with red wines, white meat with white wines. There however are numerous guidelines to how we can pair certain foods with certain types of wines. For instance based on sensory adoption we can match food with wines. An acidic wine will taste less acidic if matched with acidic food, or a sweet one will taste less sweet when accompanied with a sweet dessert. On the other hand, certain green vegetables with inherent bitterness can enhance the bitterness of an already bitter one. A heavy red, such as a barrel aged Cabernet, goes wonderfully paired with a grilled steak, but try not have anything left for the dessert, our LA connoisseur explains, as a heavy barrel-aged Cabernet would taste more like a hunk of wood if drunk along with a sweet dessert as Crème brûlée. A wines dominating flavor can it other words contribute to making an excellent meal when paired correctly
 , but can ruin the flavor of both the meal and wines if paired incorrectly. For more ideas about food pairings, see the “Food and wine matching” blog from our tour concierge.

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