Thinking about trying different wines but don’t know where to start? One of the best ways to learn about wines is to explore the many wineries in your area. Wine tourism in Iowa has enjoyed growing popularity, especially for those seeking day or weekend trips. Many wineries on wine trails and wine retailers offer bus tours so you don’t have to drive.
Most every winery offers tastings of their product, often for a small fee. Tasting fees can sometimes be waived if you make a purchase of a bottle. Costs of tastings can range from $5-$7 in Iowa, unlike the hefty fee of $15-$50 in California’s Napa Valley. Part of the reason for fees is to avoid partiers who just want free drinks without buying anything. You should expect personal attention and information about the wine or you are trying. Servers should also let you know where you can find out more about the wine or winery by providing information via email, website, or case club membership. If you think you received good service at your tasting, tipping the server is appropriate.
What to expect at a wine tasting
People new to wine tasting may be uncertain about how to judge a good wine. The rule of thumb is if you like the wine, then it is good. A high price does not necessarily mean the wine is better quality. Higher priced wines may simply indicate limited availability, higher demand or just the winemaker’s perception (i.e., not necessarily yours).
When tasting wine, consider how the wine looks, smells, and tastes. Wine samples, usually about 1 oz. per sample, are many times poured in a clear wine glass. Take a good look at the color. White wines can range from almost clear to a golden or a greenish tint. Red wines can vary from pale garnet color to deep red or purple. Next, swirl the wine to release the aroma and take a deep whiff. The bouquet will give you an indication of fruitiness, smoky, earthy, or other flavors. When tasting the wine, take note of what flavor sensations you notice. Is it sweet or dry? A dry wine absorbs your saliva and makes your mouth feel dry. Feel the body of the wine; is it light, smooth, harsh? After you swallow the wine, does it have a pleasant aftertaste? Take note of which wines in the selection (referred to as a flight) that you like. It will help you decide on which bottle to take with you.
Iowa is now making wines that win awards in national and international competitions. And it’s all right here in your backyard.
Joann Schissel, Wine, art and story lover
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