Wine tasting does not consist in guessing a wine's vintage, district or domain. When you taste wine you pay attention to the sensations in your eyes, your nose and your mouth. Seeing, smelling and tasting are the activities from which all wine tasting spring. After some practice you will make educated guesses.
What a sommelier does
Open the bottle in advance. Pour two ounces (about 6 cl) of the wine in a glass and place it before a clean and uncluttered white surface. If you cannot see orange notes then you may keep any other bottles and you may give the red wine some air (a carafe may be useful).
Put your nose on top of the glass and smell. Watch for any corkiness. Whirl the glass and smell again. Then pour part of the wine into your mouth.
That basically is it.
You can become a wine tasterAnyone with a sense of smell and an interest in wines can become a wine taster. Only you can know how a wine strikes your senses. There are no rights or wrongs in wine appreciation and no absolutes when it comes to tasting terms, so the opinion of the novice is every bit as valuable as that of the expert. The only difference is that the expert has been allowed to gain self confidence, so they propound their theories rather more loudly than most newcomers. In fact I often find that novice tasters are much better at coming up with the perfect word to describe a wine flavour than professionals who used up their tasting vocabulary years ago.
Taking tasting notes
Pre-requisite: a serious enemy to a wine tasting event is toothpaste. So plan to brush your teeth hours in advance of tasting — and drop that chewing gum too. Some types of food should also be avoided.
Tasting has 4 stages: see, smell, taste aftertaste. We have mentioned the appearance review above. It does not bring pleasure to the taster.
While the wine has not swirled yet, proceed with the nose review.
- Is your first impression good or suspicious?
- Is the aromatic intensity powerful/open or discreet/closed?
- You may qualify the aromatic complexity by the number of olfactory families involved: flower, fruit, vegetable, mineral, oak, spice, toast, undergrowth, animal, and so on. The article on wine varieties gives a list of aromas.
Now, swirl the wine in the glass - this will stir up its aromas and allow you to get a good whiff. Stick your nose in the glass and inhale deeply. What do you smell?
The taste review:
- Does the wine on entry feel onctuous, flattering, powerful or hard?
- Is there much body? Is the wine light or dense?
- The perceived acidity contributes to balance. Is the wine soft, supple, frank, firm or even vivid?
- Does the wine dry the palate or the teeth? This is due to tannins. Are they rough or smooth?
- Is the wine escape pleasing or not?
- Does the alcohol leave some burning sensation?
- Does the wine leave aromas? (It is called the aromatic persistence.)
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