As easy as looking, smelling, toasting, and drinking. Or so, a popular, expression suggests.
By Mariana Martinez
In Spain there is a very popular expression often sung loudly while wine glasses swirl and are raised at the centers of tables in a toast. It’s a joyful cheer that says, “Arriba, abajo, al centro y adentro” (“Up, down, center, and inside”). Today, this expression is repeated increasingly often at bars and canteens virtually all over the Spanish-speaking world, and it summarizes what—to many people’s astonishment—could be described as the complex art of tasting wine.
If we look closely at what those lines mean, we’ll see that “up” will take us to look at the color of the wine in the glass, to be able to tell how young or aged it is. That is, knowing beforehand that a young red wine will have a more bluish color, while a white one will be markedly pale. In addition, looking at the wine with attention could reveal to us how intense the shine of its color is, its clarity and, of course, this could give us some more specific information about its vinification process.
Second, moving the glass “down” will allow us to place our noses in it, and thus perceive the aromas of its content more closely. The outcome of this action will be even better if, carefully and dedicatedly, we have swirled the liquid and made it touch the walls of the crystal or glass, in order to evaporate as much aroma as possible. And I’m referring to those aromas that evoke the grapes the wine is made with, the wood in which it was aged, and the complexity the wine has developed after years of aging in its bottle.
Finally, the movement of the arms that takes the glass to the “center” to toast and “inside” to drink, is an invitation to enjoy, taste, and feel the wine passing through the palate, in the mouth. It is perhaps in this territory that we all feel more comfortable, even though we might only rarely be aware of what is going on with our taste buds. The first thing we must remember on this last stage of wine tasting is that we perceive just four different flavors in the mouth: sweet, more intense at the tip of the tongue; salty, above it; bitter, at the end; and acid, on the sides. Then there are the tactile sensations, which include the temperature at which we perceive that liquid, which can have a more or less dense and heavy feeling in the mouth besides, of course, smoothness or sharpness of its touch.
Trying to express all the information and sensations that we are able to perceive at first with the sight, then with the nose and finally, with the mouth, is the most difficult of all tasks. The good news is that to improve in this art, we can do only one thing: keep drinking with awareness and without forgetting that there is an order of “up, down, center, and inside.”