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The taste of wine

I know that many of you are going Saturday night to the Wine & Cheese Festival, an annual fund-raiser for the Northern Montana Health Care Foundation. So, with help from the foundation's Kathleen Richardson, I'm going to share with you a little knowledge about wines and wine protocol.

You'll have a lot of tasting to do at this event. You'll have chardonnays, Johanisberg reislings and a pinot gris among the white wines, and cabernet sauvignon, merlot and what I suspect may be a very tasty syrah, this particular one from Snoqualmie Vineyards, among the reds. Bush and sparkling wines are also on the table.

With all of this to try, you don't want to make a fool of yourself. If you need help, keep reading.

(And remember, if you do quite a bit of tasting, make sure someone else is driving you home.)

Here are the things you want to look at:

Color. Ever wonder why those fancy wine-drinking people in the movies hold their wine up an at angle and peer through the side of the glass? They're making sure the color is right, or at least trying to convince their dining companion that that's what they're doing.

The Web site of Meridian Vineyards, which made some of the wines that Pennington's provided for sampling Saturday night, advises tasters to hold their glasses at a 45-degree against a white place mat to get the best look at the color.

Look for gold color in chardonnays. Merlots and cabernets may both be red wines, but the merlots will have some purple.

Aroma. Some wines are so good that the smell of them is almost as satisfying as the taste. Not that that should stop you from taking the final step.

It's good to swirl the wine in the glass to release the flavor before you sniff the contents of your glass. Once you've swirled, it's time to inhale. What meets your senses should be a delicious combination of fruits and possibly other flavors like butter and pepper and other spices. Oak barrel aging, if your grapes had the happy circumstance of taking that route, will add a rich, earthy flavor. Delicious and very satisfying.

Taste. You are now permitted to swallow. All of the factors discussed under aroma come into play in this phase as well. After you've swallowed, you'll also want to pay attention to

the wine's finish, which is the impression it leaves in your mouth. Good wines linger on. Wines that aren't so great drop off quickly and leave you with no memories, even short ones.

The wine tasting begins at 7 p.m. at the MSU-Northern SUB Ballroom.


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