Some call it science. Some call it art. But to wine enthusiasts, it's a glass act.
It's wine tasting — a fun and easy way to sample the fruits of a vineyard owner's labor.
Over the past decade, such events have become popular pastimes.
You can enjoy wine tasting in fields of grapes, at your neighborhood liquor store or in your own home, where wine parties are gaining on Tupperware.
But you don't have to be a connoisseur to participate.
In fact, said Mike Johnston, wine tasting is a great way for novices to decide if wine really suits their taste.
A Hagerstown wine enthusiast, Johnston is lending a hand with the wine and food planning at the third annual Grapes For Girls, a fundraiser for Girls Inc. of Washington County.
The event will be Saturday, Oct. 15, at Cortland Mansion in Hagerstown.
Dubbed "a red and white affair," the evening will include a four-course dinner with wines to complement each course. A wine expert will be on hand to discuss each variety.
The menu will include petit mini crab cakes with meyer lemon relish, duck confit with mango caviar tartlets and filet au poive served with truffle-whipped potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Attendees also will be able to sample other wines throughout the evening, as well as unique beer at the International Beer Garden sponsored by Wantz Distributors Inc.
In addition, cheese samples from Palmyra Farms and chocolates from The Perfect Truffle will be featured.
Last year's event raised more than $32,000 to support the local Girls Inc. — the only Girls Inc. in the state of Maryland. It has served the community for more than 60 years and today has about 3,000 girls enrolled in outreach and after-school programs.
If you've never been to a wine-tasting event, Johnston said there's no need to be intimidated.
"Everybody will always be willing to help," he said. "And don't be afraid to ask questions. Questions and comments are welcome. This is how you can find what you like — and not everyone likes the same wine. It's very personal."
At a wine-tasting event, swirl, sniff, sip is the mantra. But what is the importance of each step?
When you pour a little wine into your glass (an inch or less is best), you observe the "legs" or adhesion to the side of the glass, Johnson explained. You also look at the color. White wines can visibly darken with age. It is difficult to see color changes in red wines.
Swirling then aerates, or opens, the wine so it can be properly smelled or tasted, he said.
Your nose will tell you if the wine is pleasing to you, and you might sense hints of berries, peaches or even smoky aromas. Every wine is different, which is part of the fun of wine appreciation.
When it's time to take a sip, don't gulp. Just take a small amount. At small tastings, Johnson said most people swallow the wine, although it can be poured out if desired.
During this process, you'll notice a number of things about the wine — how sweet or acidic it is, how fruity it tastes and how silky or rough the wine feels.
If you're sampling a variety of wines, Johnston said water, sorbet or crackers often can cleanse the palate.
Attending a wine-tasting event is a great way to learn about the many wines that are available, and, Johnston said, "Great wines exist from all over the world. The styles and preferences vary."
Johnston said he has been a wine enthusiast for many years "and I enjoy sampling all types of wine for their individual benefit or paired with proper food."
Johnston said white wines should be served at around 50 degrees and reds around 60 degrees.
"Proper temperature is important to fully appreciate the wine," he noted.
If you are building a wine collection at home, Johnston said placing bottles on their sides is proper for long-term storage of wines with true corks. It doesn't matter for the short term or for screw caps.
If you go ...
WHAT: Grapes for Girls
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15
WHERE: Cortland Mansion, 19411 Cortland Drive, Hagerstown
COST: $100 per ticket
CONTACT: Call Girls Inc. at 301-733-5430
MORE: The evening will include a four-course dinner with wines to complement each course, sampling of other wines throughout the evening, beer tasting, plus local cheeses and chocolates.