Sampling wines, of course, is one of the essential activities of a wine tour in San Francisco. You may have seen TV or movie scenes where actors taste wines by swirling the wine, taking an intent look at it, and sniffing it with eyes closed before finally having a sip.

You don’t need years of experience, formal training, or to be a sommelier to enable you to taste wine correctly. But when you have enough informal experience with wine, you will be able to tell the difference between high-quality wines and cheaper ones.

First things first though: you have to take note of the circumstances and the environment around you in order to have a proper wine tasting. The location should be quiet and not crowded — otherwise, it will make concentration difficult. It should be free of other odors such as the smell of a perfume, cooking odors, and even pet odors which could distract your ability to clearly sense the wine’s taste and aroma.

Even the condition of the glass should also be taken into account. If the glass has the wrong shape or size, or has dust or residue of detergent, they can affect the taste of the wine. The temperature of the wine can also affect the taste. If the wine is too cold, just swirl it around inside the glass to warm it up.

Fill about a quarter of the glass with the wine. Remember to hold it by the stem, not by bottom of the glass itself, as the warmth of your hand may alter the flavor.

Color is one way to tell how the wine was processed or aged. Swirl the glass of wine in front of a white background. Then hold the glass up and look at the wine’s color and clarity. A good quality wine should not be cloudy, hazy, or murky, but otherwise bright, clear, and crisp. White wines naturally turn darker as they age, but not brown. Red wines, on the other hand, may lose some color with age and have some amount of sediment in them, which are natural and harmless.

To smell the wine, gently swirl the glass before inhaling the wine. This allows the alcohol to evaporate and carry the aromatic elements toward your nose. There is a natural and biological link between smell and taste. If the wine doesn’t smell good, then it most likely won’t taste good, either.

Take a sip of the wine and then roll it around inside your mouth, involving all areas of your tongue. It is important that all taste buds should experience all elements of the wine’s flavor. If you are in a tasting room and expected to taste a lot of wines, spit the wine into a spittoon. Otherwise, you risk getting drunk, which will affect your senses which are needed to taste more complex-tasting wines later on.

Try to measure the wine’s overall quality based on its color, appearance, aroma, and flavor. You can put your thoughts about a certain wine in writing. A lot of wineries provide pens and booklets so that you can take notes.

Look for the balance in flavors. One flavor shouldn’t overpower the other flavors. Good quality wines should be balanced, with enough combination of sweet, sour, a bit of bitter, fruity, and earthy. But that depends on the wine. Dessert wines, for example, tend to be sweet. If a wine has an aftertaste that lasts for about a minute, then it is good sign that it is a quality wine. You may detect other flavors in the aftertaste that you didn’t notice after your first sip.

A wine tour will be most meaningful to you if you are armed with these tips in tasting wine. Add that with a wonderful sunrise hot air balloon flight with Balloons Above the Valley (BATV) over the lovely Napa Valley landscape, and your wine tour in San Francisco will be the most memorable ever.

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