Marcelo Copello is one of the most recognized opinion makers in the wine industry in Brazil and in the world.
Those initiated into the arts of Bacchus soon discover that wine is truly a universe, full of information and complexity for those who pause to note these things. So, for a moment let’s remember the essential precepts that we should always keep in mind, no matter how we venture into the world of wine. I offer my own ten tips for an unforgettable wine tasting:
1. Choose the right company.
The first tip is the least orthodox of all. What will make your wine tasting unforgettable will be the emotions and pleasure it offers you. The thrill is not only the wine itself, but more specifically in the act of sharing it. Who will share this precious liquid with you? This choice will be the determinant for all the others. Do your companions enjoy wine? What kind? Are they willing to try new options?
Herdade do Esporão, Bicycle Tours and Picnic.
2. Creative ideas for selecting the wines.
Your tasting may or may not follow a theme, the choices are virtually endless, limited only by your imagination. Choosing a theme for grouping bottles together, such as: wines of a same country, region, grapes or producer; vertical tastings (different vintages of the same wine type), horizontal tastings (several different wines all from the same vintage), and blind tastings where you do not know which wine is in each glass.
The wines may also be grouped by method or site of production (for example, wood free reds, biodynamic wines, wines made near the sea or in high altitude regions, wines from the same winemaker in different countries/regions etc). You can also think outside the box, opting for more playful themes relating the chosen wines to movies, music, characters, historical facts and dates. This might require some research and imagination, enriching the wine experience for all.
3. Select the perfect dishes.
Matching wine with food is an issue as complex and pleasurable as love relationships. You must learn about the personality of each one of the parties, value their affinities and make the most of contrasts. Seek traditional combinations or create your own and fall in love with them. It is very important that you never eat nor drink what you do not like.
4. How to taste wine in a restaurant.
In case your tasting is happening in a restaurant, you should ask for the wine list from the maître d’ or sommelier. You should examine the list carefully selecting the wine or wines that best suit the diners’ personal tastes, spending ability and the selected dishes. Asking the sommelier for advice is fine. The bottle must be checked before being opened in the presence of all. By tradition, the wine cork should be discretely placed on the table by the sommelier, so it may be examined, if desired, for signs of mould or wine leakage. A small serving goes to the person who ordered the wine, for it to be accepted. Only then will the rest of the table be served.
5. The proper wine temperature.
Ideally, serve the reds at 64ºF (18 ºC), whites at 54ºF (12 ºC) and sparkling wines at 46ºF (8 ºC). Excessively freezing white wine will hide its aromas, and “room temperature” for reds is a cliché that rarely applies unless guests are enjoying their wine in an unusually cool room or outdoor venue!
6. The appropriate glassware.
The wine glass is the instrument of the appraiser, a kind of amplifier of the drink qualities.To enjoy a good wine in a straight thick glass is like listening to Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on a little battery operated radio. The ideal wine glass is formed by a base, rod and bulge, which must have an oval shape, narrowing toward the edge; it should be totally transparent, in fine glass and never filled to more than a third of its capacity. Concerning the sparkling wines, I personally do not like the glasses of the flute type, because they deprive us of the wine aromas – in this case the ideal it is to use the tulip type.
7. To breathe or not to breathe.
The great majority of wines should be consumed as soon as they are opened. However, some full bodied reds do benefit from a few minutes of contact with air before being tasted. For that to happen, it is not enough to simply open the bottle and leave it there to breathe; it is necessary to transfer the wine into a glass pitcher or decanter for it to increase its surface in contact with the air.
8. The correct wine sequence.
Changing wines between courses during a meal is normal and even recommended. Ideally, the sequence should follow a crescendo of flavors: whites before reds, light-bodied before full bodied, ordinary before the great, and dry before sweet. The wrong order could compromise a wine, while the right order can add value to it.
9. What to do with the open bottles.
Once you have opened a bottle, the wine will gradually oxidize until it becomes undrinkable, a process which can take from a few hours to several days. The most efficient method to prevent deterioration of possible leftovers is the use of half-bottles (375 ml). When you open a big bottle, transfer half of the content to the smallest, which must be perfectly clean, and cork it. Thus, the wine can last several days.
10. Enhancing the pleasure of the experience.
To enjoy wine is an art because, after all, this is the most complex, complete and fascinating drink that exists. And that is why it is so important to have your personal wine tasting in a unique place that suits your own tastes and preferences. Either you like traditional characteristic charm or a bold and original style, a river side, sea side or countryside plain. The perfect place for you will definitely assure you the pleasure of a memorable wine tasting.
We recommend that you visit another informative website about Portugal’s flourishing wine tourism, www.winetourismportugal.com, including wine tours and tastings, wine cruises, wine restaurants and exclusive vineyard accommodations. You will be introduced to the first web portal in Portugal available to comprehensively research and make online reservations for these experiences in many regions of the country.
In addition, we invite you to read two articles in our collection that highlight Portugal: one is about Portugal’s growing tourism market for Wine and Cuisine travel; the other is about travel to the Coa Valley in the less-visited northeast region of Portugal. The area hosts over 5,000 Ice Age engravings (and still counting!) across a massive open-air archaeological park, the largest of its kind in the Palaeolithic world! The public is welcome to come, learn and be amazed by this UNESCO World Heritage Site and its unique 21st century interactive museum.
As a globally-recognized oenologist, Marcelo Copello is a professor at various institutions, a radio and TV host, and an international wine competitions judge. He has six published and award-winning books in Brazil and abroad and is winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Award. In addition, he works as partner and Ambassador of Wine Tourism in Portugal (WINTP), a company specializing in exclusive tours and tourism activities across all Portuguese wine regions. Website: http://www.marcelocopello.com (in Portuguese only).