Like most cellars open to wine tourists in Priorat, we host visitors who sometimes have doubts about the way of tasting wines, whether they should be somehow prepared for a tasting or not. We’ve been reading the recent post by Campbell Bevan about top five tips for a wine tasting. We enjoyed reading it due to its slick and easy style, so that anyone from beginner to expert can understand it. We decided to borrow the outline of the post and provide it with another body, you know, Priorat-wine full body. We squeezed the five tips into four and added another one of our own consideration.
1. Can I eat before a wine tasting? – Don’t go to taste wines on an empty stomach
A meal, such as breakfast or morning snack, will help you stay sober before you come over to taste our wines. Mind you, a typical DOQ Priorat wine tends to be sturdy and pairs very well with some good food (for example, our Mas de les Valls 2013 is quite full-bodied). So, having something to eat beforehand will favour your experience. We would also like to remind you that (leaving a wine-food pairing experience out) it’s highly recommended to avoid eating during the tasting session because food can alter or soften the wine flavours. Wine-food pairing sessions, on the contrary, pursue such matches where food and wine would enhance each other and make your taste buds gush. So cheese may well be welcome here. Remember that you’d better avoid spicy food before tasting wine.
2. Can I shake the glass? – Give the wine a good swirl
We’re quite unlikely to do that at first. At our winery, when we smell the wine, we first poke our nose in the glass without stirring the wine in order to sniff the wine aromas that rise themselves and to find out whether the wine is sort of shy or rather straightforward. For instance, IL·LIA 2012 is a wine that spent two years in oak casks, and its first nose is quite light. However, when you swirl it in the glass, it wakes up, gets aerated and spreads a more profuse and Priorat-like aroma. A young wine might not manifest such a dramatic contrast. Our Cupatge 2014 is utterly fruit-forward and opens up in nothing flat.
3. What perfume should I wear to go to a wine tasting? – None
Understandably, we may have a thousand and one reasons to give our adorable self a scent sprinkle: enjoying our favourite fragrance, boosting our sex appeal, accentuating our social class, etc. Like it or lump it, a wine tasting is a show where the main role goes to the wine. So to enjoy it, we suggest avoiding perfume, which can bias or shade wine flavours. For example, our white Mas de les Valls (vi de la vila de Gratallops) is served cooled down for tasting, so the first sniff is very light (after that, swirling will unleash its aromatic power). If you wear some perfume, you’re quite likely to first smell your own scent only. The same is true regarding the smoking habit: we encourage you to abstain from a cigarette before and during the tasting.
4. Is it okay to drink water? – Refresh your palate between wines
Water is helpful to resist dehydration (particularly if you venture to have a wine tour in Priorat in summer, when the sunshine is blistering). It also serves to cleanse our mouth and prepare it for tasting another wine. Now, at Celler Devinssi, we usually taste red Mas de les Valls before IL·LIA. They have a similar varietal breakdown, yet they are far apart in terms of flavours, thus it’s a good job that you drink some water in between. Campbell also suggests nibbling some bread, which helps to relieve our taste buds. We think it may well be a reasonable idea.
5. Which wine to taste first: white or red? – Start with whites
The general recipe is to taste white wines before red ones, owing to a sizeably larger tannin content and fuller body in the latter. We think, nonetheless, that this rule exists to be broken. The fact of the matter is that everything depends on each wine’s characteristics. In DOQ Priorat, where white grape varieties account for around 5% of the whole grape production and the climate is hot, it isn’t uncommon to come across a powerful white wine. At our wine tastings we usually start with white Mas de les Valls, because we store it in a cooler. Alternatively, if we follow the recommendations in item 4 (cleanse your palate) we can taste it after the reds and enjoy its freshness and vigour. Ask Katja of Clos Mogador how she goes about Nelin during the tasting at the cellar.
Now that you’ve taken in the theoretical side of the story, it’s high time you moved to practicing it. We’re looking forward to welcoming you here in the heart of Priorat to share with you our scenic and gastronomic heritage.
All the best (wines)!
Prepared by: Jordi Ustrell