When traveling, one of the best ways to understand the local culture is by visiting a winery. Wineries are always found in beautiful environments surrounded by nature. Dourakis Winery is found in the hillsides of the Cretan mountains, tucked away in a picturesque spot with incredible views; the perfect place for a wine tasting in Chania. All the wines you’ll taste are grown in small parcels near the winery.
There is a process to tasting wine properly to get the most out of the experience. When tasting wine, engage all of your senses; sight, smell, taste, touch, and even sound.
First, be sure to hold your wine glass properly. Hold your glass by the stem or foot but not by the bulb; you don’t want to warm the wine up with your body temperature.
Next look at the wine. Observe the color. Hold your wine glass at an angle against a white background. White wine colors range from pale straw to gold. The lighter it is in color, the younger the wine is. You’ll notice the Dourakis Aromatica is almost completely clear, it’s a very young wine. If you see gold highlights in your white wine, like in the Dourakis Lihnos Vidiano, though it’s also young, this tells us the wine has been aged in oak barrels.
Red wine ranges from inky purple to crimson brick. Opposite of white wine, red wine gets lighter in color as it ages. Some red wines are opaque and some are more transparent. This can tell us which grape variety it is. Compare the Rizitis red and the Kudos Kostifali/Syrah. Notice that you can see through the Rizitis and the Kudos is nearly opaque. This has to do with the pigmentation of the grapes.
Next onto smell. Smelling your wine is the most important step. About 80% of what we taste is what we smell. Be sure to swirl your glass to unlock the aromas of the wine. Smell your wine several times. Pay attention to what you’re smelling. Do you smell citrus? Flowers? Peaches? These are common descriptors in white wine. You’ll smell these aromas in the Dourakis Muscat of Spina. Strawberries, cherries, vanilla, and leather are some descriptors of red wine. You’ll smell these in the Dourakis Mantilari.
Take notes so you can remember the wines as you taste. Discuss with your friends what aromos they’re smelling, too.
Everyone’s favorite step in wine tasting is, well, tasting the wine! When you taste the wine, swirl it and smell it before your first sip. Then take a good amount of wine in your mouth. Don’t swallow right away. Swish it around gently so it touches all the surfaces of your mouth. You may feel the sides of your tongue start to tingle, this is acidity. Is the acidity high or low? You may feel a creaminess to the wine, this is the body of the wine. Does it feel watery? That’s light-bodied. If it feels thick and creamy, that’s full-bodied.
On your second sip, think about the flavors. Do they match what you smelled? The Dourakis Muscat of Spina smells like flowers and peaches but it may taste like green apples to you. Comparing and contrasting what we smell versus what we taste is part of the fun of wine tasting.
In addition to acidity and body, red wine also contains tannins. When you taste red wine, you may feel a drying sensation in your gums and cheeks. This is how we identify tannins. Tannins add structure to the wine and also help red wines age.
Now you may be wondering about sound and touch. While you can’t hear wine, you can take in your surroundings as you sip. The clinking of the glasses as you cheers, the leaves rustling in the Cretan wind, and even the pecking of the chickens who like to wander into the tasting area. Listen to your friends as they describe the aromas they’re smelling. Feel the Cretan sun on your face and with enough wine, you’ll really start to feel it. You’re tasting wine in Crete! Take it all in and enjoy!
After you’ve tasted the wine a few times and taken notes of your discoveries, decide if you like the wine. If you did like the wine, try to understand what it was that you enjoyed. Did you like the bright acidity of the Rizitis white? The slight sweetness in the Dourakis Faros rose? Keeping track of what you like and don’t like about every wine you taste, will help you understand your palate. Once you know your likes and dislikes, it’ll better help you communicate to always get the wines that you want! Head into the wine museum and take a bottle or two of the wines you liked home with you two cherish the memories of your visit to Crete.
Written by Anna Maria Kambourakis
Anna Maria is a Certified Sommelier and owner of Chania Wine Tours. You can book the Olive You Berry Much tour with her and enjoy a guided tasting of our wines. For more tips on wine tasting and winery etiquette, check out her article on the Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting a Winery.