“Taste with your mouth last. That’s most important,” head sommelier at the Blue Palace, A Luxury Collection Resort And Spa, Babis Bebelakis tells us as he delicately pours our first glass of white wine.
My friends and I spent our morning exploring the ancient Greek island of Spinalonga and now it was time for a wine tasting. Though, this was not your run-of-the-mill sip and savor. This was a tasting in Cretan fashion — aboard a traditional caique boat overlooking the picturesque Gulf of Mirabello.
After we crossed the wooden gangplank and sat ourselves around a table adorned with various nuts, local cheeses and dried fruit we set sail, eventually ensconcing ourselves within a secluded cove to drop anchor.
Babis begins by telling us a history of wine, the origins of which predate written records.
He tells us that although places like France, Italy and California are more internationally known for wine production, the process of fermenting grapes to produce wine is largely attributed to the Greeks, and that some of the earliest archeological evidence of grape wine in the country dates back to 4500 B.C.
We then learn the proper steps to taste wine, which, admittedly, I discover I have been doing wrong all these years.
First taste with the eyes.
What color is the wine? What is its alcohol level? Babis twirls his glass and shows us the viscous wine tears that form along its concave sides. The more dense the tears, the more alcohol in the wine. Makes sense to me. Next, taste with the nose. What do you smell?
When you lean in to take a sniff, the alcohol volatilizes (evaporates into the air) and with it are carried several different aromas that affect the flavor of the wine and how you will experience it. There’s more to it than meets the eye. Literally.
Only after you’ve “tasted” the wine in these two ways can you finally take a sip.
Whether you can distinguish between the oaks, fruits, leathers and the other hundreds of common wine tastes or not isn’t all that important. What is more critical is the elevated experience that comes with tasting wines in this way. And if you can find a traditional caique boat to do it on? That helps too.