How To Drink Wine Like a Pro in Italy

Contributing Writer: Alyssa Gregory

Italy is full of breathtaking paradises; but, I would have to say my favorites are the Chianti vineyards.

paradise

Path from the cellar to the restaurant at Castello di Verrazzano.

I can’t quite decide if it’s the peaceful scenery that makes them magical or if it’s the wine that is so generously poured.

Secluded away from cities, things slow down even more than the typical Italian way of life in these secret nirvanas.

Driveway to Castello di Verrazzano.

Driveway to Castello di Verrazzano.

The smell of fruits and flowers clears the mind while the quietness settles it. A few days ago I visited Castello di Verrazzano in Greve which has been producing wine since 1150.

vineyards

Just some of the vineyards of Castello di Verrazzano.

I felt my body relax as I walked through the gardens. As I neared the dining room I could hear the clinking of glasses and loud bursts of laughter. Entering into the dining room, I saw Gino, an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair standing at the head of the table. He had his hand on his hip, the other holding a glass of wine, lips pursed and with one eyebrow raised. Loudly he swallowed and exhaled an hmmm. Dropping the stance, Gino begins to laugh and says, “THAT is how you taste wine like an expert.”

Gino, the enthusiastic sage of Castello di Verrazzano.

Gino, the enthusiastic sage of Castello di Verrazzano. (Photo by Kailey Wagner)

Full of life and love advice, Gino is the go to man for any problem. And as a wine expert he is the perfect man to learn how to taste wine correctly in Italy from.

Step 1: Pour the wine.

Wine tasting at Castello di Verrazzano. (Photo by Rachel Mason)

Wine tasting at Castello di Verrazzano. (Photo by Rachel Mason)

Do not pour to the brim. You are in Italy, a place where wine flows more freely than water. You’re not at a high school party. You can always get a refill. So, pour the wine until the glass is about one-third full for white or rose wine or half-full for red wine. Room has to be left to be able to swirl the liquid.

Step 2: Pick up the wine glass.

Do not pick up the glass by the bowl! Wine is served in a stemmed wine glass for a reason. Placing your hand on the bowl of the glass warms the contents of the glass which could mess with its taste. Hold the glass by pinching the stem of the glass, close to the base, between your index finger and thumb.

Step 3: Notice the wine’s coloring.

While holding the wine by the stem, tilt the glass over a white napkin or tablecloth until it looks like the contents might spill. Stare through the glass and check the wine’s color, opacity and viscosity. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for stare intently at it like everyone else is. But, it is not the Sistine Chapel so it shouldn’t take you longer than 5 seconds to complete this step.

Step 4: Swirl it.

While still holding the glass by the stem, begin to swirl the contents of the glass. Keep an eye on the liquid though and keep it in the cup and off your neighbors. This is a slow swirl meant to release the aromas of the wine, not to try to make it look like a tornado in a cup. Also, it is not the Daytona 500, let the liquid circle the cup only a couple of times.

Step 5: Take a big whiff.

This is the step, where if you’re like me and have a bit of a nose insecurity, it becomes prominent how large your nose is. To correctly smell wine you must place your sniffer inside the glass, so far that the glass is touching your face and circling your nose. But use your judgment. If you poured a bit too much do not stick your nose so far in that it gets wet. Take a big whiff and try to identify the ingredients. There are three types of wine aromas:

  • Primary Aromas come from grapes and include fruit, herb and flower notes.
  • Secondary Aromas come from fermentation and yeast aromas.
  • Tertiary Bouquets come from aging, oxidation and oak such as baking spices, nutty aromas and vanilla.

One does not simply sniff above the glass or try to wave the smells to your nose. Smells are lost and you can’t fully enjoy the aromas.

Step 6: Take up the stance.

According to Gino’s wine tasting etiquette there is a stance one takes to taste a wine. Place one hand on your hip and with the other hold the wine glass (by the stem!). Make your face look calm and slightly bored.

Step 7: Finally, take a sip.

This is wine, not beer, so there’s no need to shotgun it. Take a sip and let it rest on your tongue for a second. Then begin to swish it around your mouth coating all the inside with the liquid goodness. You’ll register different tastes in different areas of your tongue. Then, very carefully, with the wine still in your mouth, open your mouth suck in a bit of air, this allows the wine to aerate in your mouth, enhancing the intensity of the flavors.

Step 8: Swallow.

After experiencing all the different tastes in your mouth it is finally time to swallow. Let the flavors wash down your throat and warm your tummy. After you taste the wine raise your eyebrow and say hmmmm un-committedly.

Step 9: Judge the wine.

If it was good you could flash a smile and comment on its great balance of flavors, its smoothness or just all around great taste.

If you weren’t impressed you can raise your eyebrow and offer an unimpressed mmmmmm. Then share with others what you liked or didn’t like about the wine.

Remember there is no right or wrong answer in wine tasting. It is all totally opinion based. So don’t be afraid to share your opinion. Because regardless of whether you liked or hated it you’ll have blown everyone away with your amazing wine tasting etiquette.

Want to try out your newly learned wine tasting etiquette? Travel with Florence for Fun down the Siena and Tuscan wine roads or spend a day hiking and drinking in Chianti.

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