In this episode, Zoë George crushes the grapes with Lance Redgewell from Cambridge Road winery about the correct way to taste wine.
How do you hold a stemless wine glass? Should I taste white or red first? Will the fragrance I’m wearing impact the smell of the wine?
Lance has all the tips.
Episode 4 – The art of wine tasting with Lance Redgewell
ZG: I have to start with this question… When it comes to wine tasting - swallow or spit?
LR: I’ve always been a fan of imbibing a little bit to get the full sensation. I’m not critical of anyone who chooses to enjoy everything they’ve given. But it depends on how many tastings you do and how much you want to preserve the purity and clarity of the palette. Ten or twelve [tastings] is probably the limit.
How much wine do you put in the glass for a tasting?
Just a splash, just enough to get an impression. It’s to allow the aromatics to be released and to fill the glass.
What glass should we use? Stem or stemless?
I’m not particularly picky. Stemless is good for a domestic situation as they fit into the top drawer of the dishwasher. And you’re less likely to break them. If you do knock and break a wine glass it’s usually the stems that pop off.
How do I hold a stemless wineglass?
Honestly, the whole idea of stemless is about the casual enjoyment of wine. Whatever is comfortable for you. After a cool evening, the wine is a few degrees cooler than optimum. Cupping the base to communicate a bit of body heat will assist in releasing aromatics, which is a big part of tasting.
If we are going to a vineyard, would we start with white wine first?
Yes, that’s most common. We start at the lighter whiter end of wine.
What are we looking for when we are tasting?
Hopefully, you’re looking for enjoyment, that’s what I look for. I don’t like to take things too seriously. Wine is for enjoyment and to inspire a meal or to relax at the end of the day.
But If you want to talk serious wine tasting, this is what you should look for:
- Colour: To do that correctly hold the glass over a white backdrop. The change of hue can indicate the age of the wine.
- Swirl: Fundamentally that little swirl is, predominately, to release aromatic vapours and allows the glass to be a focal device into your nose.
- Smell: Take the time to smell the wine. You don’t have to take a deep breath. Give it a little sniff. Contemplate. Does it remind you of anything? Something from your childhood? Candy from when you were eight years old? Or a bouquet of flowers, or a walk through a garden path.
As a winemaker it’s about the floral or botanic side. There's more to it than just blackberries and fruit and woods and spice. The botanic element is hard to capture. It’s the most fleeting of aromatics. On that botanic spectrum, there could be violets or crushed blackberry leaves or a forest. That’s an area that’s beautiful and almost surreal part of wine experience.
Regarding the smell… when I’m wine tasting should I be wearing fragrances? Does that muddle that sense of smell?
Sure it has the propensity to. I’m not suggesting we go out without deodorant on. I’m not that French!
And eating while wine tasting? That changes the flavour, too?
Absolutely. The wines I craft are designed to sit elegantly at the table alongside great plates. Eat and drink in moderation is a good tip.
When I put it in my mouth, do I suck on it or swirl it? What’s the best way to taste it?
Like most things in life, taking a moment’s pause to focus on what you’re doing. If you want to look at something with intellect - a piece or art or glass of wine - then take the time to consider what it has to offer you.
For me, wine is part of the social and culinary experience. With that in mind, I enjoy my wine as a background setting alongside beautiful plates, great friends, and conversation - and it’s part of the whole formula.
Regarding wine in isolation, take a moment to consider the aromatics, come back two or three times. Look for body, weight, tannin and acid. Tannin and acid shape the wine and they refresh your pallet.
Acidity cuts through the fat of lamb. Tannic freshness - which is that chalky tension in the wine - works well with proteins, like a bit of beef. A wine can balance and contrast. It can create a beautiful balance.
I'm at a wine tasting. How do I ask nicely for some more?
Your charms will work beautifully! Simply say “I really enjoyed that, but can I revisit that, please”. Regularly I have clients that work their way through five to seven wines in a tasting day, some people want to double check. That’s the lovely thing about visiting the winery directly. Chatting with wine makers and getting to hear the stories that underpin the wine and the intention is nice. My wines have different characteristics and stories to tell. It’s kind of nice to have that explained to you to a degree.
What if I don’t like something. how do I give it back without being insulting to the winemaker?
I encourage people to tip away. I’m understanding. I don’t aim to please everyone. The beautiful diversity of human taste is something that’s entirely honest and I know not every wine will please everyone in the room.
What’s the dress code at wineries?
Something fitting to the environment at this time of year. Bring a scarf.
What about jeans and jandals in the summer?
Of course. We are all kiwis. It’s all casual fun. Dress as fine as you desire.
What about behaviour at the vineyard?
As long as everyone’s having a good time and it’s kept it on the right side of the line.
You can cut people off?
That’s essential. It’s part of host responsibly. Thankfully it’s something we don’t have to do often. Most people know their limits. But it’s a village suited to a certain degree of celebration. We have fun summers there.
What the worst thing that’s happened during a wine tasting you’ve been at?
That's a tough one to answer! The worst thing I can imagine is someone not enjoying themselves.
Nothing I should talk about on national radio! We have fun people coming through. The odd hen’s party and they’re a colourful bunch.
What’s your advice for those who are thinking about going for the first time?
Relax and enjoy yourself. There’s a little bit of a historic pretentiousness that exists around the art of wine tasting. Relax, forget about that. There is no wrong answer. You don’t have to like everything. Do what’s right to you. Speak your mind. Say what you think.
Is it kosher to say cheers and clink glasses?
It’s always kosher! Please do drink responsibility if you are going to try the art of wine tasting.