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The Sail to Trail Approach to Wine Tastings

There was a time when people considered wine and wine tasting something just for the rich or the so-called snobs. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. Today, the United States leads the pack as the number one wine-consuming country.

America has embraced wine, with wineries in every state in the union.

Yet, nearly a quarter of wine drinkers feel overwhelmed when faced with what bottle to buy or what glass to choose from a restaurant’s beverage menu.

We at the Sail to Trail WineWorks are here to tell you needn’t feel intimidated. After all, it’s all about knowing what you like. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a glass of wine, just like there’s no better way to savor a meal.

Wine Tasting to Break the Ice

We understand how wine tasting may seem stuffy or esoteric. Reading lengthy wine tasting notes with their flowery descriptors could floor anyone, especially when all you smell is grapes.

The fact remains that we don’t give our sense of smell enough attention. It takes time to develop. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the experience of drinking wine.

Some wineries try to home in on the subtleties of wine with horizontal wine tastings. That’s where you try samples of the same blend or grape variety to tease out these differences. You can learn about the effects of climate and winemaking on the final product.

Others may offer vertical wine tasting. You try one wine but ones of different ages or vintages. It’s a great way to experience how aging affects a wine.

We have a different approach here at Sail to Tail WineWorks.

We are what is called a negociant winery. That basically means we're vineyard-less. We develop our wines using other vineyard's produce, and work with some of the finest winemakers in the world, closest to where those grapes are grown. Our flights include samples of all the bottles in our current portfolio. We think it’s an excellent way to learn what wines you like.

Not sure if you like reds or whites? Try them both and find out!

Want to broaden your horizons and perhaps find a new favorite? A flight offers an approachable way to learn what you like.

How Wine Tastings Work

Sail to Trail Wineworks is Worcester, Massachusetts's first winery. We develop our wines with vineyards, and with industry-leading winemakers. Each one promises a unique experience and true expression of the fruit.

The emphasis at Sail to Trail wine tastings is casual. You’re at the winery to enjoy some delicious wines, and we’re happy to act as your host or hostess.

Our sampler flight includes a tasting pour of each of our wines. Our staff will tell you the story of each one and guide you through the different wines from subtle to bold.

We’ll explain what aromas are jumping out of your glass.

We’ll help you identify the tastes dancing on your palate.

Once you learn what to expect, we believe it will build your appreciation of wine. Wine doesn’t have to be mysterious or overwhelming. And what a fun way to learn about it!

The Five Ss of Tasting Wine

You can think of a wine tasting as living in the moment. The whole experience encourages you to stop and pay attention. After all, it is a sensory process. When you follow the five Ss, you’re making sure that you’re not missing out on any of the pleasures of drinking wine.

See the Wine

The first thing to do is to see what is in your glass.

It may surprise you to learn that most grapes have clear juice, with just a few exceptions. The color of the wine comes from contact with the skins of the grapes. It can tell you a lot about the wine, too.

It’s best to tilt your glass an angle over a white background to see the true color. For example, a purplish-red color denotes a young wine. On the other hand, a garnet or orangish tinge means an older wine that has seen some age.

Swirl the Wine

The next thing is to swirl the wine—carefully—in your glass.

When you do that, you’re introducing oxygen into the wine. That can enhance the aromas you detect when you get to the next step. Sometimes, you may find that it’s the only way to release them.

What’s fascinating about wine is the chemistry that happens in the vineyard and the winery. Experts estimate that approximately 30 chemical reactions occur between the grape juice, skin, sugar, and yeast.

Some produce the volatile chemicals that give other things their smell and taste. For example, chemicals called terpenes give citrus fruits their distinct aromas. Sometimes, you can smell the same things in your wine glass, especially in Rieslings and Chardonnays.

Sniff the Wine

Now, it’s time to sniff.

You may find it helpful to close your eyes so that your brain can focus on the wine and the aromas without the distractions of other things happening around you.

If you don’t smell anything right away, try putting your nose into the glass and bringing it farther from your nose. People smell different aromas with each nostril. Try turning your head to find out if you get something different from either the right or left one.

Another thing that you may find helpful is to think about whether you can associate the smell with something, in particular, perhaps a memory from your past.

Does the wine smell like walking through a field?

Does it remind you of a tasty cup of coffee?

Does the first thought that comes to mind make you think of the smell of the leaves on a fall day?

Savor the Wine

Next is the best part of a wine tasting, savoring it.

Wine often changes as it sits in the glass. More oxygen is exchanged with it, releasing more aromas. That denotes a more complex wine.

Wine Tasting Tips

The most important takeaway from a wine tasting experience is that everyone is different. You may smell things that someone else doesn’t. There are two terms that explain what happens with your sense of smell.

The first is the detection threshold. That term describes the sensation of knowing that you smell something, but you can’t put your finger on what it is.

The second is the recognition threshold. That’s where you’ve figured out what you are smelling in your glass. That’s where people differ. For example, if you don’t eat a lot of tropical fruit, you might not recognize the pineapple or melon in a California or Australian Chardonnay.

Experience and genetics play significant roles. Wine critics or people in the industry may spend time trying to hone their sense of smell to get better at what they do.

You can do the same thing by just paying attention to what you eat and drink. As odd as it sounds, simply start smelling. Think of it as a wine taster’s way to smell the roses—literally!

Many wines have floral aromas for the same chemistry reasons we discussed earlier. Roses, violets, and honeysuckle are common ones that you may detect.

When you take the time to do this homework, something special happens in your brain. It builds new networks that make wine tasting easier every time you do it. Scientists have studied the differences in the brain structure of sommeliers and have found detectable differences in these individuals.

Preparing for a Wine Tasting

We’re not suggesting you have to study. One of the best ways to approach a Sail to Trail Wineworks wine tasting is to avoid eating anything spicy, sweet, or pungent before you start with the wine.

Those lingering flavors can affect how the wine smell and tastes.

For example, eating candy before tasting wine is going to make it taste bitter if it’s not as sweet as what you ate. Spicy foods can do the same thing. It can be even worse if you’re drinking wines with a higher alcohol content.

When you taste wine in a flight, it’s best to start from the lightest wines to the boldest for the same reasons. After all, you want the full experience, don’t you?

To Spit or Not to Spit? That Is the Question

Perhaps it’s this ritual of spitting that wine tastings have taken on this snobbery element. Wine critics often will sample dozens of wines, making it necessary. Your palate will get dull after a while. However, when you're in the Sail to Trail Tasting Lounge, while we do have spittoons, we prefer not to break them out. We like to think of our wines as drinking wines. And we worked too damn hard developing them to literally see them go down the drain. That’s why we pour a 3 ounce glass.

The good news is that if you choose to swallow your wine, you’re one up on the critics. You get to have the full wine tasting experience. As the wine warms in your mouth, it releases more aromas that you can detect back in your retronasal cavity.

Final Thoughts About Wine Tastings

Drinking wine is a pleasurable experience. There’s a good reason why humans have made this luscious beverage for over 6,000 years.

Next time you attend a wine tasting, don’t sweat it. We’ll make it an enjoyable time at Sail to Trail WineWorks.

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

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