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Alcohol Hierarchy: The Order of Wine

Written by Jennifer Jordan
Filed Under: Wine Tasting

As you embark on a wine tasting, you may require a variety of things: bottles of wine, a cork screw, wine glasses, a wine tasting kit, perhaps even an English accent. While this stuff may be essential, unless you know the hierarchy of the wines, they become useless.

When it comes to order of wine, it's easy to get ahead of yourself. As bottles line the shelves, the labels coiled around their bodies like curled fingers calling you over, it takes some self discipline to not dive in too quickly, no matter how much you are drooling. Patience, when it comes to tasting wine, is more than a virtue: it's the law.

Proper wine tasting demands that wine be consumed in a specific order. Drinking incorrectly won't only change the way wine tastes, but it will change your perception of it: if consumed in the wrong order, you may unfairly judge a wine, spitting out your drink and cursing the bottle because its taste is altered. When a wine is tasted in the wrong order, it doesn't stand a chance; its taste and reputation become inferior: it practically becomes light beer.

Wines that are heavy and full bodied can overpower the lighter wines, leaving the lighter wines to taste differently than they really do. For this reason, lighter wines should be tasted first. However, this can be tricky when you don't know what a wine tastes like. It's hard to know which ones are light and which ones are heavy: a scale is of no help and if you simply ask the wines about their mass, they will probably just lie about their weight. This is when the other senses must step in.

Using the senses of sight, smell, and - if you're lucky enough to have it - ESP, you can usually gauge whether a wine is light or heavy. Lighter wines are dense and tend to leave thick streaks inside the glass when swirled. Heavy wines are deeper in color and their odor is more intense.

After you have predicted whether a wine is light or heavy to the best of your ability, put the wines in an order where you will consume the lighter wines first and the heavier wines second. On occasion a defective wine may find its way into your tasting. These wines may smell of rotten egg or cork and should be tasted last, if at all.

Once the lighter wines are separated from the heavier wines, the order of the wine gets a little more complex. Sparkling wines, such as champagne, have the honor of being in the front: they are the wines that have called shotgun. Next, light whites wines, such as Albarino, should be consumed. These are followed by heavier whites. A full bodied Chardonnay fits into this category.

After whites have all been tasted, it's time to switch colors. The change is gradual at first as rose wine comes to the table. These wines are pink in color and may be known as "blush," "Rosado", or "Rosata." Light reds , such as a Bardolino, and heavy reds, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively follow.

Once you've got the order of your wines down, the rest of the wine tasting process is simple. You just need to get a few bottles of wine, a cork screw, wine glasses, and a wine tasting kit. Some wine tasting kits may even include all the aforementioned supplies. But, even for these kits, English accents are sold separately.