Fellowship, understanding what to expect from various wines as part of a wine tasting experience – News-Herald

After an absence of nearly two years due to pandemic restrictions, wine tastings are back.

Mask mandates, social distancing and a protocol that required tasters to be seated before masks could be removed for sampling made tastings difficult, especially because part of the wine tasting experience is compare the flavors, aromas and structures of a wine with other people.

Tastings scheduled in the hours leading up to dinnertime provide new options for wines to drink with dinner, and weekly tastings have become a highly anticipated social event.

The cautious resumption of tastings now that COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters have become common has resulted in limited attendance in most cases. Requiring pre-registration or paying at the cash desk to receive a tasting glass has become commonplace to control virus-weary crowds eager to get out again.

Speaking of size limits, only 16 tasters can be accommodated at the two-hour wine tasting on July 15 at Heinen in Mentor, which begins at 6:00 p.m. with wines from Greece, southern France and part of Italy. This is the first of two Mediterranean wine tastings offered this summer at the store, 8850 Mentor Ave. Snacks from the regions presented will be paired with the wines. Registration and payment of $10 are due in advance at 440-255-1244.

Learning to taste wine should be part of the experience, mastered by watching others or attending a guided tasting where those pouring the different wines will tell the tasters what to taste. Usually the wines are offered from light to full-bodied, often whites first followed by reds.

Before tasting, start by looking at the wine in the glass, noting its color, opacity and viscosity. Colors change as a wine ages, with whites becoming more yellow and reds becoming more transparent.

Shake the wine in your glass to release its aromas. Then dip your nose in the glass and breathe in the scents that have emerged. Determine specific fruit flavors first, such as citrus in white wine or red or blue fruit in red wines. You can also discern floral or herbal bouquets in the fragrance. Secondary aromas, like that of a cheese crust, come from winemaking practices, and others, like tobacco and vanilla, come from aging, either in bottle or in oak barrels.

Metro Creative Connection

People smell different things and hundreds of terms are used to describe those smells. So think for yourself and don’t get lost in the language used by others during a tasting.

“There are no wrong answers,” said Wes Cowie, who became a certified sommelier earlier this year. He is the owner of colonial drink in the township of Chester, where he organizes numerous tastings.

Only after smelling the wine is it time to taste it, he said.

Start with a larger sip of wine to coat the inside of your mouth, then take smaller sips to better isolate flavors from broad to more specific. Comparing different wines in the same setting, like a wine tasting experience, helps your palate learn faster.

Metro Creative Connection
Metro Creative Connection

Cowie, who loves food as much as he loves wine, enjoys cooking and often prepares supper club style meals in the store’s full kitchen to accompany regular wine tastings. He also keeps a fridge stocked with cheeses, as well as smoked and cured meats for customers to help themselves. Colonial Beverage is located at 8389 Mayfield Road, just west of Route 306.

Cowie views wine tasting as something akin to meditation, helping tasters pay attention as they pause to think about the wines in front of them. Its two-hour happy hour tastings, which start at 4 p.m. every Friday and cost $10, often attract 30 or 40 people and have turned into a weekly party.

“I serve them like a flight of wine and try to choose several familiar wines and add something to stretch you,” he said. “It’s like palace yoga.”

Consider signing up for the Cowie Palace Training Course from 4-6 p.m. on August 20.

Wine tastings have also resumed at Wines and liquors of the world at Mentor, where they take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month.

Priced at $10 for tastes of six different wines – usually three reds and three whites – they’re not just great value but a social event for attendees. Before being interrupted by the pandemic, the then weekly tastings had become so popular that arriving on time was the only way to ensure entry. The store, located at 8760 Mentor Ave., had to limit the tasting crowd to 50.

Since reservations were not being accepted, the staff tracked attendees by only handing out 50 wine glasses once the tasting fee was collected from each person. They are doing the same now that tastings have resumed.

Sommelier and wine director Brian Fife says tastings will take place monthly during the summer and can be held twice a month from September.

The next wine tasting at World Wines and Liquor will be on August 13.

Shirley M. Pinder