Of all the places I could’ve gone wine tasting, I ended up in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. One of the most prestigious names in the oenology world! Go big or go home, people.
Mind you – I know nothing about wine.
I happened to be in Chateauneuf-du-Pape just in time for vintage season, but it wasn’t planned at all. I just wanted to taste a few rosés, take my favorite home and cross off the “French vineyard experience” off my bucket list. And boy, did I just do that! I visited a vineyard called Domaine de Beaurenard, just outside the main street of the village.
A bit of history
The whole region of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in France, was developed during the 14th century, when Pope John XXII had his palace built in nearby Avignon. He was impressed at the quality of the soil in Chateauneuf, and he largely contributed to develop and popularize the village – there has been wineries in the area ever since. The Domaine de Beaurenard, which was established in the 16th century, has been passed on from generation to generation in the Coulon family, and truly remains a family business, even today.
Visiting the winery
The first step of the wine tasting experience is to actually visit the different rooms of the winery, from the harvest rooms to the cellars. The reception clerk handed me a small book that explained what room served for what purpose, and the different stages of wine making. The newbie in me was utterly fascinated by the size of the installations, and the amount of work involved.
And since the vintage season was in full swing, the visit was even more interesting, because I got to see the workers actually make the wine. However you should know that there are only a handful of wineries that are open to the public during that time of the year – make sure to plan accordingly.
And then it was time for the tasting part.
I felt kind of bad, because all I know about wine is that I want to drink it – not how. I shyly asked if they could give me a quick wine tasting 101. I think I appreciated the fact they didn’t laugh at me more than the lesson itself.
Wine tasting 101
- Color: Time to evaluate the color and clarity of the wine. Is the wine translucent or opaque, bright red or purpleish, yellow or greenish – the color alone will tell a lot about the wine’s age. The more orange (reds) or the more dark yellow (white), the older it is, for example.
- Swirl: Swirl the wine gently, and take a first quick whiff. That’s when the bouquet is revealed, which will hint at the principal aromas in the wine.
- Smell: Sticking the nose into the glass, this is the second sniff, and normally when the underlying flavors will come out.
- Taste: This part is a bit tricky – take a small sip of wine but before you start analyzing it, make sure you keep your mouth just a little bit open so that you can breathe, and oxygenate the wine to fully enjoy its taste.
- Savor: The other name for this step is aftertaste, and is quite self-explanatory. Does the wine have the same aromas as what you smelled during the swirling step? Does the taste remain on the back of your tongue, or is it short-lived?
There you go – a quick lesson in wine-tasting so you don’t look as silly as I did! I really appreciated the experience, and now I feel a little bit more snob (or intelligent, it depends on how you see it). I’ll try not to over-use the word bouquet in the future, and not be THAT person who only drinks expensive wines during parties.
Have you ever gone wine-tasting? Have you ever been to Chateauneuf-du-Pape?