Wheels and Wine – Taking the Test Drive

Posted By admin on March 10, 2009

By Thomas Rowland
Wine & Leisure enthusiast and car guy at large

WineTasting a wine is like driving a car, its all about the “experience”. With some 4,700 wineries in the US alone and more Americans drinking wine today, understanding the “Drivers Ed” basics won’t turn your water into wine but it will help you navigate without the use of a Magellan.

Tracing your fingers over its body you can almost feel the emotion waiting to be unleashed. You open it and the soft sound of the seal being broken soothes your ear. You climb in and breathe in the bouquet, the layers of scent tease your mind as you smile recognizing the levels of complexity behind the aroma. You settle in, your olfactory senses causing you to salivate as you prepare for that first blast to each of your five senses…

Tasting a wine or test driving the car of your dreams?


For many of us the thought of wandering into a dealership and taking a car for a test drive pales in comparison to venturing into the world of wine. The mystique surrounding wine is by design complex, but not mysterious. When the day is done it’s about your senses and your emotion, how does the wine feel to you, how does it taste to you.

When you test drive a car you have to connect with the emotion and how your senses react. That emotion and sensory stimulation begin with the “label” or brand. As you run your hand over the exterior your sight and touch translate the curves and harmony indicating what this car has to offer. Breaking the seal of the door climbing in the bouquet of leather, wood, and other components each layer up to give you that new car smell. Gripping the wheel and firing up the ignition brings the car to life releasing the first indicator of “what’s inside”. Revving the engine opens up the car’s character just a little more. Get on the road and take a taste, hit the accelerator and let the pedigree of the car feed your senses. How does it feel? How does it handle? How does it make you feel? Young, old, sophisticated, cool, hot? Is your mouth dry yet? Need another “taste”? Hit the accelerator and take it through the next turn.

Likewise when tasting a wine your senses and emotions are drawn into the “experience” bringing the outcome to fruition.

Holding the bottle in your hands, immediately its shape and label pull your attention. It’s no mistake that the soft gentle curves of the bottle are sensuous. What kind of wine is it? Where is if from? What is the varietal? Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Champagne, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc? Is it a blend? Like cars the list of possibilities continues similar pedigrees with different characteristics. Breaking the seal and uncorking the wine releases the bouquet mixing it with the air, pouring a sample into a glass, swirling the glass mixing more air, allowing the wine to “breathe” and releasing the first hints of what the wine has to offer. Smelling the wine in the glass lets you take in more of the wine’s scent, that new wine’s “interior” smell. Pepper, oak, berry, vanilla, leather, earth just to name a few. Turn the ignition, taste the wine, immediately what you smelled translates to your sense of taste, releasing its emotions over your tongue as you mull the wine around your mouth. Swallowing the wine brings on the “finish”. How does it make you feel? Was it smooth, soft, sharp, acidic? Does the sensation linger after you’ve swallowed? Was it enjoyable, pleasant? Rev it up again and take another taste, what else do you feel?

The French have a saying: “you don’t know a bad wine until you’ve had a good one”. Now that you’ve achieved your “license to taste”, what about food pairings…?

Bonne dégustation!



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