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When tasting/chewing wine, should this be a subtle action?

Please excuse me if I don't/can't describe this correctly. A couple of nights ago we were with some people and one of the men was the *official taster* for the wine we ordered. I understand that when tasting, one should move the wine around in one's mouth, maybe even drawing some air in (that's beyond my gracefulness quotient). This guy though was making noise and contorting his face while doing it. Do you know what I mean? Kinda squishy/squirty noises and sucking his cheeks in and out. I've occaionally seen people do this and feel that it's more pretension than necessity. But I'm not a connoiseur at all. It also looks weird and sounds weirder. I think this can be done without making noise and without the facial contortions. Also I dine with plenty of people who really do know about wine and I don't seem to be aware of this. Am I being too hard on the guy?

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  1. LOL!

    My gosh I am sure the "taster" made everyone at the table slightly uncomfortable by putting on such a show!
    I would have had a hard time keeping a straight face!

    1. In my opinion, the wine tasting should generally be fairly subtle and can still be effective when done subtly. After all, my goal for the presentation and tasting is to determine that I have been presented the correct wine (the producer and vintage ordered) and that it is not "off" in some way. When I have the duty, my standard routine is something like this: 1. take a good look at the label to confirm producer and vintage, 2. take a good look at the wine before tasting (does the color look right; is it clear and not cloudy; is there any sediment or pieces of cork floating in the glass), 3. give it a small swirl and smell the wine before tasting , and 4. taste wine ( I may hold the wine in my mouth a little longer than I would if I were taking a drink of water, but I generally avoid anything that would resemble what one does with mouthwash.) I would consider this subtle as long as none of the steps was performed at a level that distracted others at the table from a conversation that they were engaged in. Others may have slightly different routines. I am never offended unless the routine is taken to an extreme that detracts from the rest of the dining experience.

      1. Haven't you watched wine movies like Bottle Shock? If you are chewing your wine you have had enough. :<')

        34 Replies
        1. re: Scargod

          Well, yes, but also no. If one is doing a technical tasting, then a bit of "chewing" can be in order. At a dinner, this is not what is done, when the wine is presented.

          One may do this on their own, depending on what their purpose is. If I am at a dinner, and am trying to decide whether I need to put a case of Ch. ____ into my cellar, I will spend more time with the wine - but in private, while the others are in deep conversation, or are busy eating.

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Thanks Bill. I was joking (about losing track about whether you are eating or drinking), because I thought swishing the wine around in your mouth was the basic technique.
            I thought that chewing was only when you accidentally got a mouthful of sediment. I have had wine seemed to have a dense and chewy quality to it (a mouth feel that had me chewing it), perhaps from being very viscous or unfiltered. But this seems like a whole 'nuther thing...

            1. re: Scargod

              I understand. Going back to my callow youth, one of the first lessons in "tasting wines," was to "chew it." Now, this is not something that I would do in public, unless I was charged with coming up with someone's wine list. Then, I would also "spit," as I would be working, and not there to enjoy.

              At a dinner, I will aerate the wine in my mouth, though very quietly. I may slosh in my mouth, but not such that anyone could notice. Personally, I get more on a retro-nasal (blowing out of air across my upper palate and through my nose), than I do by "chewing."

              For sediment, I turn away from the table and wipe my tongue and lips with my napkin, folding it in the other direction. It's at that point that I'll usually call over the server and whisper something about decanting.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                That's funny, since I recently asked a wine store owner what he thought about getting a glass of wine with a healthy dose of sediment.
                His feeling was if you ordered "wine by the glass" then there was no requirement to pay attention to sediment, since they poured so many without looking. I then said it was a classy restaurant that offered better wines by the glass. He conceded that you were supposed to look through the bottle as it neared being empty, but that he didn't see it as unusual that sediment ended up in a glass. In my case the first glass had a half inch of sediment and the next was perfect. We mentioned it, but it was only acknowledged; nothing was done for us. This was not a "house wine", but a pricey glass of wine. I probably should have asked for something as compensation, but I was stumped as to what would be fair; a half inch of wine?

                1. re: Scargod

                  Hey, Scar.
                  I'm sure Hunt will answer in a mo' better way but I'd have just said "I'm sorry but this isn't acceptable; please bring me another glass of wine."

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Perhaps, and perhaps you are correct, but the glass was already half empty before she first noticed it... and then you possibly drink more as you try and get the waiter.
                    I feel a little conflicted, like eating half your food and then wanting to send it back for a refund or replacement. Yes, I would do that if I found something nasty that didn't belong in my food as I was eating it. To me, finding some sediment is OK, since some wines are not filtered. Like finding a bone in fish.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      There is more to sediment, than just the particulates in the bottom of the glass. Anyone, who cannot detect this, is not into wine.

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I'm wondering what specifically you are referring to here. I'm quite familiar with the various physical and chemical processes that lead to particulate matter in wine, and I don't find it acceptable for a restaurant to pour a glass with sediment. However, your tone seems to imply there is some larger issue with sediment. I'm curious, as I'm not aware of any relationship between sediment and defects in wine. Perhaps I am missing something?

                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                          I believe that either I did not covey my sentiments on sediment (say that 3x really quickly), or that you might have missed something.

                          A good pour will contain NO sediment. Also, if it has been stirred up, much of it is also in solution with the wine. This is why proper decanting should be utilized. It is not just the heavy, particulate matter, but the much smaller bits, that are in solution. This is what I have a problem with. The flavors, and the appreciation of the wine, will be impacted on these smaller elements, when in the bottom solution of the wine.

                          Usually, bitterness is one of the components. On a textural basis, the wine has a "gritty" mouthfeel.

                          A good restaurant will decant and this will NOT be an issue. If they do not, then they are not work their DiRona, or WS Grand Award, etc.. It is about the clients' appreciation of the wines - nothing more, and nothing less.

                          Hope that clears it up a bit. If not, please do not hesitate to ask specific questions, as I'll be glad to express my personal beliefs.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Yes, perfectly clear now, and I agree. Though I will add one thought.
                            I'm not overly familiar with the terminology wine geeks use for things, and I find I frequently run across chemistry terminology used for wine. The meanings you wine geeks use for terms borrowed from chemistry often differ greatly from the meaning of the term in both chemistry and in plain English.
                            For example, you differentiate between particulate matter and sediment. In chemistry, sediment is any particulate matter which can be carried by a liquid. Therefore, all sediment is particulate matter, and all of the particulate matter in wine is sediment.
                            As another example, you refer to the sediment that is "in solution". In chemistry, a solution involves total homogeneity and the full dissolution of all solids. Wine, like most organic liquids, is classified as a colloid, and is never a solution. It becomes a suspension once there is sediment floating around in it. When the sediment completely settles at the bottom of a bottle, the wine has become a supernate, and the sediment is called precipitate.
                            That ended up being a long thought, but I don't mean any of it to pick on anyone. I just see and hear this confusion of terms a lot with wine; I think it adds to the feeling of ignorance most people experience with wine and turns people off to learning more about it. I think it would be a lot easier for the rest of us if wine geeks either stuck to plain English, or else made sure to be technically accurate with their terminology.

                            1. re: danieljdwyer

                              "For example, you differentiate between particulate matter and sediment." Close, but not quite there. If you notice, I mention "particulate matter" in solution. To me, there is a difference between that which is still in solution, and that which has fallen out, and has bound into larger matter. There is both a difference in the particle size and whether it is in suspension, or has bound and is not a "heavy" at the bottom of the glass, or bottle. How would an organic chemist differentiate between these particles? I'm always ready to learn.

                              At a molecular level, if there has yet to be binding (still in solution and obviously much smaller particles) how would you describe it?

                              With regards to those same particles, that have bound and are now falling to the bottom of the vessel, how would you describe those?

                              Please share the proper terms, based on the differences of the matter. It can be on a molecular level, or a observational level. How would you describe the differences?

                              As stated, I am not an organic chemist, but a lowly wine geek, so I need to rely on you, as you must be, for the proper terminology. Please help me out here. What are the proper terms to describe the differences?

                              Thanks,

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                There are a lot of ways a chemist can differentiate between particles based on size. The most specific way to do this is measurement, though there are many descriptive terms, such as "fine particle" or "ultrafine particle", that cover a small range of sizes. Personally, as wine drinking is not chemistry, I wouldn't use these. The wine drinking experience is substantially demystified by the use of simple, descriptive language.
                                The particles in a true solution are less than a nanometer in size, far too small for a human being to detect as separate from the rest of the mixture.
                                The particles in a colloid are between a micrometer and a nanometer in size. These cannot be seen with the naked eye. A glass of wine you would describe as sediment free is a colloid.
                                The particles in a suspension are typically larger than a micrometer. These can usually be seen with the naked eye, and detected in the mouth. I'd just call them particles in suspension, floating sediment, or something of a similarly descriptive nature.
                                By definition, the particles in a suspension will eventually settle to the bottom, given enough time. With wine, this settling often goes hand in hand with the binding of the smaller particles into larger particles. The settling is properly termed precipitation, and the resultant particulate matter is precipitate. Personally I'd go with something more descriptive, and I like your term, heavies.
                                Just for the record, I'm not a chemist of any kind, just a dork. One need not be a chemist to read chemistry texts and publications, which I find fascinating. And you don't need to rely on me. If you're interested in wine on the molecular level, I'd bet that whatever university is nearest to you has some great introductory texts in its bookstore. If not, there is a great wealth of information on the subject readily available online.

                                1. re: danieljdwyer

                                  OK, how would you personally describe particles that are in the liquid of the wine, that can be perceived as "grit?"

                                  How would you describe the particles that have bound and are now on the sides of the bottle, or in a mass at the bottom of the bottle?

                                  You may use chemical terms, or “plain English” terms.

                                  I want to hear how you suggest that I describe these different particles.

                                  Hunt

                                  BTW do you drink wine?

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I'd just use whatever term flows most freely. Chances are it would be along the lines of "the sediment that is floating around", because I have no talent for brevity.
                                    The big stuff, I might call just that. Or big sediment, settled sediment, or even just gross stuff. It depends.
                                    I do drink wine, rather enthusiastically, but I still have a lot to learn about it. I'm not sure I'll ever know as much about it as I do about beer, tea, or whiskey.

                              2. re: danieljdwyer

                                Wine is a solution of alcohol and water. Both are good solvents for many compounds. The combination is a good solvent for many compounds. There are colloids in wine, but it is not a colloid.

                                1. re: wally

                                  If your assertion is correct (which means Jan Farkas is incorrect) then perhaps you can clear up a few questions.
                                  How can a solution, the component molecules of which must, by definition, be completely dissolved and less than a nanometer in size, contain colloids, which must, by definition, contain component molecules which are not completely dissolved and are over a nanometer in size?
                                  How can wine be a solution and contain proteins that are soluble in neither water nor alcohol, when solutions must, by definition, contain only fully dissolved components?
                                  How can wine contain components that settle out and can be separated in a centrifuge if it is a solution, when a solution, by definition, is stable enough that components neither settle out nor can be separated by centrifugal force?

                          2. re: Bill Hunt

                            I am curious too, about the "more to sediment" comment. Are you saying the drinker should notice it as darker, thicker or what (?), before reaching the obvious sediment at the bottom?
                            Or, are you referring to the pourer, that they should know more/see more?

                            1. re: Scargod

                              Most tasters can discern when there is sediment in solution, before getting the big pieces. A client should not be exposed to these, or the "heavies." You can taste it, long before you can see it.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Hunt, if there were enough sediment to eventually produce a half inch in the bottom of the glass, wouldn't the clarity of the wine be compromised? So if I held said glass up to the light, would I see cloudiness or murkiness or something? (Poor wine vocabulary)

                      2. re: Scargod

                        With a pour like that, I would just send it back, and demand a fresh bottle be opened for me. If they declined, they would have trouble getting paid.

                        I do not pay good money for sediment - period!

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Now I'm curious, Bill. When I decant a vintage porto, say '85 or earlier, I may let it rest for hours or a day to settle out. How can this happen in just a few minutes in a restaurant, even with gentle handling? I bow to your wisdom on the subject. cheers, Veg

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Okay, okay. Chinette and plastic cups go well with good Port too. Right? x,c

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Er-r, whatever you say... [Grin]

                              Now, had you typed "port-styled wine," and not Port (note the capitalization, as you and I both use), I might say, "hey - don't matter much."

                              I'm rather a purist, and grab a copetia for all of my Ports, but you knew that already, didn't you?

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Chinette et al referred to an earlier post.

                                I have NO idea what a "copetia" is. Do you have a picture?

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I do. Here is an example. Hope that this tells the story.

                                  Hunt

                                   
                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    That's what I assumed. But I googled it and got nothing in English and, what I got, didn't seem to have to do with glassware. Thanks.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Riedel has about three lines that contain a Port copita. For many Sherries, and also Madeiras, the same glass is used.

                                      The Riedel site: http://www.riedel.com/, has the physical sizes. These differ by the line, but only slightly.

                                      Hunt

                              2. re: c oliver

                                Somehow, I missed that earlier thread, and am probably glad that I did, as I am into my stemware, and do attempt to explore each wine in the best glass that I can.

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Thanks for your advice. I recently bought eight port glasses from Crate & Barrel. Reasonally priced and very pretty. I appreciate your help.
                                  BTW, I've been missing you here; glad you're back.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Glad that you got the copitas. I really like them for Port, but then I am a traditionalist, so that might figure.

                                    Had a few life-changing events in the last few months, and have been absent. I'll try to do better in the near future.

                                    Hunt

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      We're both from the "Old South" so I'm with you all the way. We've been worried so glad to know you're still with us. Welcome back..

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Thank you. I've been fortunate to have a couple of CH's, who missed me, or convinced me, that they did.

                                        Things are getting better.

                                        Now, let's spin this thread off a bit. Tell me about your favorite Ports. That would breath some life in this discussion. If not here, please post a new thread to the Wine Board, and we can talk Port.

                                        Hunt

                              3. re: Veggo

                                It does not. I leave my older reds upright for several days in the cellar (unless surprise guests show up and I have not planned properly).

                                When I have to bring a bottle of such wine from its horizontal rest, I bring it up in that position. It will rest in that position, until I have the decanting hardware ready, and then I will raise it no more than necessary to extract the cork, being as carefully as I can to not shake things up. With the light source in place, and a screen on my funnel, I begin the decanting "ceremony." I am then extra careful to observe the clarity of the pour into the funnel and into the decanter. I will usually stop the pour much earlier, in this situation.

                                Now, I have been taken to task that all sediment is sediment, but what I look for is the fine particulate matter that is in suspension. This will be evident long before any bound sediment (regardless of what an organic chemist might think) begins to appear in the pour. Because this is quite fine (has not bound yet), it appears as a bit of a cloudiness (I'm sure that this is not a proper organic chemist descriptior, but it works for me and should for anyone, who has observed sediment in wines) in the pour.

                                The moment that I see any cloudiness (there's that term again), I stop the decanting, and serve the clear wine.

                                If a restaurant is doing B-T-G pours, it is highly likely that they are storing their opened bottles in an upright position, and I hope that they are using some sort of purge system. Sediment should settle out in this position. If they are getting much, they are pouring too much from that bottle.

                                All too often, a bartender will grab a bottle, shake it about, like he/she would a bottle of vodka, and just pour until nothing comes out. Somehow, I do not think that they would do this with a bottle of Macallan 25. I kinda' doubt it.

                                Some restaurants treat their B-T-G trade as a bother. Others get it, and treat it with respect and view it as a viable profit center. How a restaurant treats the B-T-G program makes an impact on me.

                                Enjoy life,

                                Hunt

                                PS I still have a handful of '85s. Though they never realized their potential (in my eyes vs the wine press), they are still very, very good wines. You need to stop back, but maybe the late Fall, Winter or early Spring.

                  2. What a riot! I think I would have busted a gut! I don't think I've ever been in the presence of someone who made that much noise, tasting a bottle of wine, at a restaurant. Ever.

                    1. Your *official taster* is a schwein.