As wine lovers, we enjoy discussing wine, tasting it, drinking it whenever we have the opportunity, and sharing our passion with our friends and families. What often gets neglected is the environment that we’re in when we’re drinking. Let’s talk about how we can maximize our enjoyment of each glass.
The Wine Tasting Environment Matters
Environment matters, not only from a tasting and evaluation perspective but also in terms of enjoyment. The same glass of wine in a perfectly structured lab tasting may taste very different over tapas with your friends. It may be far more enjoyable because you like the people you’re with, the food is delicious and you don’t work tomorrow. Your mood, environment, and situation all impact how you perceive the wine.
Wine Tasting for Fun
If we’re being realistic, you’re probably here to learn about the fun things that affect wine tasting then go have three glasses wherever you please. Perfect! That’s okay too. We know that there is much more to wine than sitting around white tables overthinking it. We have identified a few key points to consider when hosting a wine tasting or drinking for enjoyment:
- Drink with good friends: It’s self-explanatory. Nobody wants to relax over a glass of wine with jerks that they don’t like. As almost anyone can relate, it’s hard to enjoy a nice dinner if the people at the table next to you are fifteen, loud, and won’t stop taking flash selfies. The same concept applies to wine.
- Watch the temperature: Groups of people create additional heat, and that heat rises. Keep this in mind when planning to host. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower than normal. Trust us, the temperature will rise to normal fast enough once your friends arrive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, please don’t freeze your guests.
- Pick the right playlist: While it’s nearly impossible to please everyone, there are crowd-pleasing playlists for almost every group. Keep your wine-drinking in mind when choosing the hits. One of our favourites is un-intrusive jazz:
- Think about the food: It’d be silly to think that WineBlotters would be drinking without food. While we’re not going to get into how to pair wine and food (in this article), there are some steadfast rules such as drink a wine that’s sweeter than your food, and acid goes with acid that should be considered when planning your next dinner party.
- Plan for comfort: While comfort is not-so-tangible, we all know that your couch is more comfortable than a lawn chair and sweatpants are Saturday clothes while slacks are not. Create an environment that considers the comfort of your guests; appropriate lighting, seating, and space are more important than you may think.
Wine and Music
Over the past few years there has been great debate around if sounds influence how we taste wine. At WineBlots,
we’re in the camp that agrees – sounds from our environment impact how we taste wine. To use an extreme example, think about a heavy metal concert (while we actually enjoy some rough music, we typically enjoy it with a cold beer). A heavy metal concert is loud and harsh – which makes it hard to read a book or have an intellectual conversation in the mosh pit. Under these conditions it’s easy to see how the noise alone would make evaluating a wine a bit tricky.
There have been some interesting studies and reports that show wine drinkers find their wines stronger when influenced by different music. In one particular study, senses were not only influenced directly by the sounds, but the emotions associated with the music. The wines tasted differently to individual participants based on their perceptions of composers, artists, genres, and more. As a fun takeaway, the study suggested Glen Ellen Chardonnay is best perceived alongside The Beach Boys. If you just want to drink wine with completely unscientifically-selected music, YouTube has your back.
Wine Tasting for Purpose
From a sensory perspective, your wine tasting environment
needs to be free from harsh external influences that
affect the senses used in wine tasting. In order to evaluate wines properly your senses cannot be swayed by external factors. Any wine class or book will emphasize the following three senses:
- Palate: Your palate is your sense of taste. Wine tasting should always be done with a clean palate, meaning your mouth shouldn’t taste like toothpaste or coffee. You can cleanse the palate to remove flavours by drinking water, drinking sparkling wine, or chewing on plain white bread. You’ll notice when trying multiple wines at a winery, they will have you taste the sparkling wine or sip water in between drinks. This is to clear (clean) your palate for the next wine.
- Nose: This is where we smell. To keep external smells from interfering, don’t wear scents or perfumes when wine tasting. They will influence how you perceive the smells of the wine. This isn’t as easy as it sounds – restaurant settings can be particularly tricking because of the other patrons and your deliciously smelling dinner. It’s also important to avoid chemical smells of cleaning products and candles.
- Visuals: In order to evaluate wines, you have to be able to clearly see their colours and clarity. This is why you will often see tasting labs, classrooms, and contests with white tables/covering. If you’re someplace really fancy those tables will have lights or be lit from beneath.
The common thing to think about when considering our senses is extremes. Extreme influences on the senses should be avoided. If they can’t be, we should simply keep note that our evaluation of a wine might be a touch off. That’s completely okay – we can taste it again in a different setting and have an entirely new experience!
Whatever the situation, keep your surroundings in mind. Always make sure that you’re enjoying your glass, and if you’re not, remember that you might enjoy that same wine elsewhere. What are your favourite places to drink wine? Let us know if you’re a patio-lover or a fireside sipper!