376 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 3 MAY 2021
thing?” I assured him that in this case it was. I am not sure he believed me.
But he questioned how I could even identify the smell of pencil shavings. I
told him that in my youth in school we had a pencil sharpener in the classroom,
and each student had a turn sharpening the class pencils. Some
things linger on in the corners of our memories … and the image of a
bencher sucking on an HB while he stays on after class to clean the chalkboard
brushes lingers even longer – Ed..
Tasting wine and describing your impressions seem intimidating when
you have not tried it. Once tried, it gets progressively easier. The only reason
you do it is to enjoy the wine more, and no matter what you decide you
smell and taste, you are never wrong. What each person gets from a wine is
completely personal, and all opinions and impressions are equally valid.
The hardest part is learning to identify what you smell and taste. Just
remember that it is not important to be able to list a multitude of flavours
and aromas, although with practice this comes. The important thing is to
open your senses and just enjoy the wine. The most enjoyable way is by
sharing the experience. Compare your impressions with those of your
spouse or friend. You will be surprised what others smell and taste and how
you will agree with what the other person senses even when you experienced
something different. Honestly, you won’t look foolish—unless, like
Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers, you are a host who pretends to know more
than you do: “I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the
guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and
Claret.” (If you don’t get it, Google “claret”.)
While we talk of “tasting” wine, there are in fact three things to consider
in a wine. They are its look, smell and taste: the visual, olfactory and gustatory
sensations. They are done in that order and for a reason. Visual
scrutiny and the aromas of a wine tell you as much if not more than its taste
and, if the wine is “off”, forewarn you not to take that last step.
Visual evaluation is generally more telling for red wines but important
for both white and red. Pour a small amount of wine into a glass. Tilt the
glass at about 45 degrees and look into the centre of the wine at the intensity
and hue of its colour. This is the “eye” of the wine. The best way to view the
wine is to hold the glass over a white surface. A piece of plain white paper
is perfect. You should have light behind the glass if possible.
With a red wine, the general rule is that the deeper the colour, the more
intense the wine. For Cabernet, you want to see deep, rich reddish purples.
For Syrah/Shiraz, you can often expect it to be almost black. For Pinot Noir,
there is a huge range from bright red to deep purple, with the lighter versions
often being most delicate and complex. With time you will learn what