WineNot class a sommelier for all levels of wine-tasting experience

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire WineNot Boutique on Main Street has hundreds of bottles of wines to choose from, with flavors from around the world

NASHUA- To anyone watching from the outside, the twelve people sitting down to wine and cheese at WineNot probably all looked rather fancy and experienced as we sniffed and sipped our glasses, commenting on the ripe, dark fruit notes and the medium tannins.

However, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I was one of several people, all of varying experience levels attending WineNot Boutique’s “Tasting Like a pro and sommelier secrets” class, which proprietor and teacher Svetlana Yanushkevich promised would help teach wine vocabulary while showing how to discern flavors and aromas and how to describe one’s wine preferences.

Having previously worked in a wine shop, I can tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet and can recommend a decent cheese pairing, but when it comes to actual tasting and describing wines, I fall short.

I was not, by any means, the most experienced person there- the woman sitting next to me was able to identify a California Cabernet Sauvignon simply by the smell.

Others had been to several wine tastings and were looking for a more comprehensive knowledge, and others knew rather little about wine but wanted to learn more.

The event centered around a blind tasting of six wines (three red, three white) paired with various cheeses, a piece of chorizo and chocolate.

The “blind” aspect of the tasting, Yanushkevich said was “crucial,” as many people would have predetermined opinions on certain wines before even beginning the tasting process.

After brief introductions, in which is was determined the majority of the class preferred red wines to white (which Yanushkevich said is common in states with colder climates), the tasting began.

The first step was to look at the wine, rating it’s clarity, brilliance, color and depth.

We were instructed to swirl the wine to the top of the glass. The lines the wine made as it traveled back down the side were the legs; long legs meant a fuller bodied wine.

Swirling the wine also helps to draw in oxygen and release the alcohol and flavors, which intensifies the smells.

The wine sniffing portion of the evening was the only one where I felt out of my element. Perhaps I have a weak nose, as it seemed like everyone else was easily able to pick up notes of honey, mango and even leather for some wines. Once those scents were pointed out I could usually identify them, but not on my own.

However, Yanushkevich said several times that wine is very personal, so one person may pick up the smell of tobacco where another smells a distinct forest earthiness or some may love the wine and want to buy a case while others don’t like it at all.

To taste the wine, we were instructed to take a large sip and swish it around, not unlike mouthwash. Then we were asked to identify the sweetness, acidity, tannins (found in red wine- strong tannins dry out the mouth), body and flavors.

The wines were each paired with a savory and sweet cheese or meat option to see how each either worked with or against the flavors of the wine.

The final step was to evaluate the wines, the price, whether or not we enjoyed it, the finish and whether it “needed more time.”

For my personal tastes, the only wine that stood out was a $25 bottle of Priorat, a Spanish wine I was previously unfamiliar with.

I do not typically care for Chardonnay, but a dessert Chardonnay for only $19 was pleasantly sweet and surprisingly fruity.

Yanushkevich said she picked different wines, like the Priorat, a Valpolicella Ripasso and a Roero Arneis because they had distinct flavor palates, making them ideal teaching tools.

I left the class knowing how to drink wine like the pros (despite my apparently weak nose), having learned more than I expected and tasting wines I had never heard of, and full on delicious cheese samples.

The wines were all priced from $17 to $34

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or