I have been fortunate to have visited many of the wine regions of the world yet, in my mind there’s nothing better than a day or two of wine tasting in the stunningly beautiful Okanagan Valley. It’s so much fun visiting new wineries and even the ones we’ve been to before and returning home with a bottle or two for dinner or something to put down in your cellar. Yet for some, there is something quite intimidating about the experience of going wine tasting especially when we see others at the tasting bar; admiring, swirling, sniffing, gargling, spitting and waxing lyrical about the contents in their glass. So is all of this really necessary? Not really, but my advice is to be systematic in how you taste each and every wine. My approach considers just three factors: Colour, Aroma and Taste, or CAT for short. The usual tasting format at the winery starts with the light crisp whites, perhaps a fashionable Rosé, through to bold, dense reds, often concluding with a lusciously sweet late harvest wine or Icewine. One’s first inclination is to taste your sample, but stop for a second and look at the colour of it. The color can give you quite a lot of information even before you’ve smelled or tasted it. With white wines, the paler the color the more light bodied they tend to be. If they are more golden, this might indicate something older or sweeter or from a warmer growing area. Red wines vary greatly in color, generally speaking, the darker the wine, the more full-bodied it will taste. Next, gently swirl the wine around the glass as this allows the wine to release its aromas. This is probably the most important factor of wine tasting as it’s a little known fact, that we actually taste with our noses. Our noses can detect hundreds of flavors and the tongue only four.  Now onto the tasting part. Take a small sip and try and take in some air too, swirl it around your mouth for a few seconds as this allows these aromas to go up into your nose to give you all those important flavors. Your mouth will be able to detect the body, texture and the important mouthfeel of the wine.  By the way, it’s ok to spit and it’s not a waste – you’ll be able to properly taste more wines as well. Wineries provide spit buckets for that very reason. Now don’t get too hung up about what it is you’re supposed to smell and taste. Wine is very personal and the most important thing is do YOU like the way it looks, smells and tastes?If you approach your days tasting in the systematic way (CAT) suggested above, it will make it easier for you to find wine styles and varietals that you particularly like. Finally, as we drink most of our wine with food, utilize the winery staff to guide you with suggested pairings.



Happy tasting.


– Mike Lee Wine Director, la Bussola Restaurant