Perhaps you have heard the term, a flight of wine, but aren’t sure what it means. In this article, we will explain what wine flights are, and where the name comes from. In addition, we will give you some ideas for wine flights that you can serve at home to your wine-loving friends.
What is a Wine Flight?
A wine flight is sometimes called a tasting flight. It is basically a tasting of a selection of wines, usually based around a central theme such as production region or varietal. Sometimes a wine flight is directed at wine newbies but quite often the experience is offered to wine connoisseurs who want to learn more about specific wines.
A flight usually includes anywhere between three and eight different wines although it can be more. Wine flights are usually served at tasting bars, restaurants, wineries, or special events. They are typically presented on a board accompanied by tasting notes and snacks such as biscuits and cheese. The participants will usually be provided with a pen and paper to make notes.
Wine flights usually offer a smaller pour than a glass of wine because of the number of tastings. Each is usually 2 or 3 ounces (about 60 – 88 ml.) which is more than you would be given at a wine tasting but less than in a glass. The more tastings you have in the flight, the less wine you will get in each glass but if you only have three tastings, you will get more.
Sometimes extended tastings are held which can last for over two hours. Here, at least three flights will be served, and each will focus on a specific aspect such as region or varietal.
It’s unclear how the name, ‘flight of wine’ came about. Some people believe that it was so named because flight means ‘a group of’. Others believe that it was so called because flight makes you think of travel. Tastings of wine from all over the world can mentally transport you to foreign shores.
The Meaning of a Wine Flight For a Sommelier
A sommelier is so much more than a wine waiter. He or she is a trained wine professional who works in a fine restaurant. Sommeliers work in all aspects of wine service as well as in wine and food pairings. For them, as well as wine business owners, a wine flight is a special kind of tasting that is much more intense than a simple wine tasting.
Wine sommeliers expect to have at least three wines to taste based on a common theme. In this way, they can distinguish the subtle differences between the wines.
A wine flight may compare variants of the same type of grape. For example, it may compare the three types of Chardonnay: oaked, unoaked, and sparkling. A flight might compare different ages of the same wine, for example, a young Cabernet Sauvignon could be compared with a five-year-old vintage as well as a 10-year-old. Another comparison could be between the same wine-producing grape but from different regions. An example would be to compare a Grenache from Spain, with one from Australia, and another from the United States. There are so many possibilities, and it is all a learning process.
Organising a Wine Flight Tasting
Why not arrange a wine flight tasting at home for your wine-lover friends? It’s a great way to have fun and learn at the same time. Remember to serve some nibbles with the wine flight so that people don’t get light-headed. A neutral cheese, such as vintage parmesan, is a good choice as it doesn’t take over the flavour of the wine. A jug of water on the table is also a good idea to clear the palette in between each tasting.
You will need to give each person a wine-tasting sheet. Draw circles at the top of the sheet according to the number of glasses you will be serving. You will put the glasses in these circles so that you don’t muddle them up. Underneath each circle, divide the sheet into four sections. In the first section, everyone will note how the wine looks. You need to lift the glass so that you can see it properly. Write down what colour the wine is and the viscosity. Viscosity is the consistency of the wine. If a wine is viscous, it will appear thick and syrupy. However, a wine with low viscosity will be watery. A full-bodied wine will be viscous and, in addition, high levels of sugar and alcohol contribute to high viscosity. Check for any other characteristics, for example, if the wine has sediment at the bottom of the glass. Sediment is a natural by-product of the winemaking process. It can come from solid grape parts like stems or seeds or dead yeast cells. Most winemakers remove the sediment but it can occur while storing the wine in the cellar. Sediment often appears in older wines. There’s nothing unsafe about it but it isn’t savoury to drink. If you do have a bottle with sediment, you will have to pass it through a sieve.
In the second section, everyone will have to note down the aromas of the wine. It may take some time to take in the different smells. The wine could be sweet or pungent. Perhaps you will get citrusy notes, berry aromas, flowers, or spices. The nose can even be earthy or vegetal. As you get more experienced, you will be able to distinguish the exact fruits, flowers, spices, and so on.
Then comes the best bit. The tasting! Sip the wine slowly so that you get all the flavours. Now you will be able to tell if the wine is sweet or dry, if it is acidic, if it is high in tannins, how full-bodied it is, and how alcoholic it is.
In the fourth section, you should note any unusual characteristics that you particularly want to discuss with your fellow wine tasters.
Once you have done this, it’s time to move on to the second glass of wine. At the end of the tasting, compare notes with your friends.
Ideas For Wine Flights
There are plenty of different themes you can choose when putting together a wine flight and we have collected a few here.
Warm Climate vs Cold Climate
Find varietals that are produced in both warm and cold climates and see what the differences are between them. As an example, try a Riesling produced in Germany with one from Southern Italy. You will learn that the Italian Riesling is much sweeter because of the heat.
Old World vs New World
Choose a wine that is produced both in the Old World such as Portugal, France or Spain and compare it with the same varietal produced in the US or Australia. You will find that the New World wines are fruitier and more full-bodied as well as less acidic.
Oaked vs Unoaked Wines
Oaked wine is aged in oak barrels while unoaked wine is aged in stainless steel containers. Chardonnay is the wine that comes to mind when comparing the two. An oaked Chardonnay will become fuller-bodied and a deeper yellow colour the longer it sits in the barrel. It will have a buttery and vanilla taste while an unoaked Chardonnay will be more minerally and dry. Comparing the two is a good way to learn about wine-making techniques. It is a good idea to compare the wines from the same region or even the same winery.
Syrah vs Shiraz
Syrah and Shiraz are made from the same grape but Syrah is the original and is from the Rhone Valley in France, while Shiraz is from Australia. You will find that, because of the climate, Syrah is lighter in body and tannins. Shiraz, on the other hand, is more intense, full-bodied, and higher in alcohol.
Young vs Aged Port
Ageing any wine has a big effect and this is especially true with port. Choose two or three ports from the same winery which have been aged for different times. You will learn how the port changes the longer it is aged, how its body evolves, and how the flavour is enhanced.
Wine Blend Comparisons
Why not choose some wine blends from different regions and see how they differ? Wine blends include Bordeaux, Chianti, and Rioja.