Wine Tasting

Explore a Nearby
Winery or Vineyard

Those who enjoy sipping from a bottle of red, white or blush wine but find that a trip to the Bordeaux region of France simply isn’t in the cards right now needn’t give up their desires to visit a winery or vineyard.

Wineries and fully functioning vineyards dot the landscape of North America. In fact, wine afficionados may be surprised to learn of a winery or vineyard is just a short drive from home.

Wineries in Southern Middle Tennessee include:

Amber Falls Winery and Cellars at 794 Ridgetop Road, Hampshire, Tenn. and tasting room at 349 Opry Mills Drive, Suite 751A, Nashville.

Big Creek Winery at 1800 Campbellsville Road, Pulaski and tasting room at 7027 Main Street, Christiana, Tenn.

Grinders Switch Winery at 2119 Hwy 50 West Loop, Centerville, Tenn. and tasting room at 1310 Clinton Street, Suite 125, Nashville.

Natchez Hills Vineyard and Winery at 109 Overhead Bridge Road, Hampshire, Tenn. and tasting room at 900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville.

Lexington Vineyard and Winery at 2000 Dog Hollow Road, Lynnville.

The American Winery Guide offers that visitors can find a winery and tasting room in just about every state.

Visiting a local winery or vineyard can be educational and fun. Wine tours can be entertaining because some allow visitors to choose their own tasting adventure depending on their level of interest in wine, their budget and what they would like to get out of the experience.

Some wineries and vineyards offer extensive tours of the harvesting and production aspects of wine-making. Others will give visitors a chance to mingle among wine barrels and witness the fermentation process. Still, some wineries or vineyards may limit visitors to tasting rooms where they can sample select vintages.

If the goal is to travel to northern regions of North America, Alaska has four wineries, and areas of Novia Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec have famed wineries for Canadian oenophiles.

In regions such as Napa Valley where there are many wineries and vineyards in close proximity to one another, guided tours may be available, or wine aficionados can explore areas on their own.

Thanks to the diverse North American climate, the types of grape varietals available in one state or province to the next will be quite different. For example, vineyards that thrive in New Jersey are subject to similar climates to those in many areas of France and Germany. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find varieties like Cabernet, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir available at facilities in New Jersey.

According to viniculture experts from Professional Friends of Wine, grapevines are fairly adaptable plants that can thrive in a variety of soil types and temperatures. Soil, sun exposure, drainage, and topography all play roles in how the grapes will ripen and taste.

The chance to support a local business is another reason to make a trip to a nearby winery or vineyard. These facilities often produce wine and sell it close to home. By supporting small business, consumers can contribute to the success and the diversity of offerings where they live.

Wine tastings are an enjoyable recreational pursuit. Remember to drink responsibly, and join the mailing lists of nearby wineries and vineyards to learn more about tasting events and food pairings.

Top 10 Wine Grapes

These are the 10 most prevalent wine grape varieties in the world, as reported by Forbes Magazine

Cabernet Sauvignon /ka-ber-NAY so-vin-YON/ • Merlot /mare-LOW/ • Tempranillo /tem-pra-NEE-oh/ • Airén /I-rin/ • Chardonnay /SHAR-duh-nay/ • Syrah /see-RA/ • Grenache Noir /gruh-nosh nuh-WAAR/ • Sauvignon Blanc /so-vin-YON blahng/ • Pinot Noir /pee-no nuh-WAAR/ • Trebbiano Toscano/Ugni Blanc /treb-bee-AH-no toss-KAH-no/ /OO-nee blahng/

Ranking Source: Forbes Magazine, The Top Ten Grape Varieties In The World, Per and Britt Karlsson, January 2018

Tasting Terminology

Bouquet: A combination of aromas formed in a wine’s post-fermentation stage as it ages.

Body: The texture and intensity of a wine can be light, medium or full
bodied. Full-bodied wines generally have higher amounts of alcohol.

Legs: The drips that stream down the sides of
a glass when you swirl a
wine. Thick, slow-moving legs indicate a higher alcohol or sugar content.

Tannins: Chemical compounds in grapes that give wine texture you can feel in your mouth. A wine that has an almost astringent mouthfeel and leaves your tongue feeling dry is described as tannic.

Fruit Forward or Sweet

Ordering a fruit-forward wine indicates a wine with dominant flavors of sweet fruit. If you
prefer sour, tart or slightly bitter notes, order a savory wine instead. Ordering a sweet wine indicates a
wine with a high sugar content, generally a dessert wine. A dry wine will have little to no residual sugar, while an off-dry wine will have slightly more residual sugar.

Tasting Technique

Enjoy your glass of wine to the fullest by taking the time to appreciate its sight, smell and taste. 

1. Look

Observe the wine’s depth of color and clarity from the top and side of the glass. Tilt the glass to observe the wine’s color along the edge. This can give you an idea of its acidity and age. Swirl the wine in the glass to release the bouquet. 

2. Smell 

Smelling the wine will help you get a feel for the wine’s aromas and flavors, also known as notes. Hover your nose above the glass and take several brief sniffs, then try to identify the notes. Are they floral, grassy or citrus, or are there wine barrel notes such as vanilla, tobacco or chocolate? 

3. Taste

Take a sip, and let the wine rest on top of your
tongue. Sucking in some air through the wine
will help bring out its flavor, or you can gently swish it around your mouth to aerate it. Observe the wine’s tastes and texture, tilting back your head to swallow.

Get To Know Favorite Wines for Giving

A glass of wine makes a nice accompaniment to a meal or something to enjoy and sip while conversing with friends in social situations. Many people have a favorite style of wine, and some even have a favorite vineyard. In addition, the popularity of wine makes it a versatile gift for the holidays or something to bring along to a holiday party as a hostess present.

Novice wine enthusiasts may be interested in learning more about wine so they can choose their wine selections for gifting and enjoyment more readily.

According to the experts at Wine Enthusiast, learning to taste wine and differentiate between flavors is similar to appreciating art or music.

Understanding the varietals can simplify the process of selecting wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a full-bodied red grape heavily planted in the Bordeaux region of France. Cabernet generally has high levels of alcohol and tannins.

Merlot: The smoothness and mild flavor of this red wine make it a great option for those who need an introduction to red wine. This wine is lower in tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, and it tends to have a more fruity flavor profile as well.

Cabernet Franc: This is a light- to middle-weight wine that features a high acid content and savory flavors.

Malbec and Carménère: Similar to Merlot, these grapes originated in France but then made their way to other regions of the world. Malbec is most popular in Argentina, while Carménère is grown in Chile.

Zinfandel: Although mostly associated with the rosé wine White Zinfandel, Zinfandel is actually a medium-bodied red wine that originated in Croatia.

Pinot Noir: Soft tannins and high acid give this light-bodied red wine its appeal. The grapes were first widely planted in France but can now be found elsewhere.

Chianti: Chianti is the most famous Italian red wine in North America. It’s a dry red that pairs very well with food. Chianti, which comes from the Chianti region in Tuscany, is made exclusively with Sangiovese grapes, or at least 80 percent of them and other blends.

Chardonnay: This is a medium- to full-bodied dry white wine. The Chardonnay grape is a white grape from the Burgundy region of France.

Sauvignon Blanc: Citrus-driven and often light-bodied, Sauvignon Blanc is another dry white grape planted widely in France. It also is a parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio: Pinot Grigio is a zesty, dry white wine that is particularly associated with Italy even though it originated in France, where it is thought to be a mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. Pinot Grigio skins are not green like other white grapes, but have a gray hue, hence the name.

Reisling: Those who prefer a sweet white wine can opt for Reisling, which can be traced to Germany. It can be a good match for those who appreciate other sweet white wines, such as Moscato or Gewürztraminer. There are many wines to tempt palates. When gifting, the selections mentioned above can tempt foodies and budding sommeliers alike.