How to taste wine
Pour about 5 cl of wine into a clear, colourless wineglass. You should be able to angle the glass and twist it during the assessment, so do not fill it too much.
Grasp the foot of the glass, not the cup, because the varmth from your hand may affect the wine's temperature and fingerprints may appear on the glass.
Make sure you have good light over the table and that you can study the wine against a white ground, white cloth or white paper. The back of the wine tasting notes can be used if the cloth is coloured.
Avoid perfume and smoking during the wine tasting session as irrelevant smells will disturb the experience.
The wine's colour is assessed against a white surface. Grasp the foot of the glass and tilt it 45 degrees.
The colour can reveal the age of the wine and the colour intensity can provide information about what grape variety it is.
Young red wines often have a purple edge, while mature red wines can have a brick-red, almost brown orange edge.
A white wine has a light green tone when young. With age, it becomes more golden yellow. When it's really old, it becomes brownish and is then probably undrinkable. But the wines stored in oak barrels can have a golden tone even when young, as oak barrels allow the wine to mature more rapidly.
A light red colour of a red wine may suggest that it is a Burgundy (grape Pinot Noir) or a Beaujolais (grape Gamay). The grape Nebbiolo may also give rather light red wine. If the colour of the red wine is dark red it may be a wine from Rhône like Hermitage (grape Syrah) or Chateauneuf-du-Pape (grape mixture) or a Bordeaux wine dominated by the grape Cabernet Sauvignon.
The clarity of the wine is also assessed. The wine can be clear, hazy or cloudy.
If the wine looks thick and viscous it's probably a full-bodied wine with concentrated flavours.
Leave the glass on the table, grab the foot and spin around.
The aroma is much more multifaceted than the taste and can provide much information about the wine.
Is the smell big or small? Is the wine fresh and fruity? Does it smell of fresh fruits or grapes? Then it may be a young wine.
Is the scent one-dimensional or complex?
Does it remind you of port wine - or even petroleum or vinegar. These scents can be found in mature wines. Compare with colour!
Is there a sweet scent or a hint of vanilla - then the wine may have been fermented or aged in oak barrels.
Does it smell of old cellar and mold – then the wine probably has been ruined by a damaged cork.
Try to put words to what you smell: raspberry, citrus, leather, cigar box, tar, strawberry, cherry, chocolate, raisins, etc.
An experienced wine taster can just by smelling the wine reveal the grape variety, sometimes even which region it comes from.
Take a sip of the wine and let it roll around in your mouth. Open your mouth and breath in some air so that the aromas evaporate up to the nose.
Just like the smell, the taste may be big or small. It can also be short or long with aftertaste.
However, we can only distinguish five tastes, sweet, salty, sour and bitter, and so what is called umami. There is no English word for umami, but it is often described as a pleasant savoury taste. Aroma amplifier such as monosodium glutamate (Aromat) is also said to resemble the fifth basic taste umami. Compared with the bouquet however, the flavour does not give you the same amount of information.
Other senses that are useful in wine tasting is the mouthfeel. The wine contains fruit acids that make you feel sharpness and tightness on the inside of the cheeks and tongue sides. It tightens more if the content of fruit acid is high.
In the centre of the tongue and the tip of the tongue you can feel the fullness (body) of a wine, sometimes even a little sweetness. The body indicates how rich the wine is in fruit, but body also comes from the alcohol. Alcohol gives a slightly sweet taste and is often found in wines from the New World where the grapes have matured in a warm and sunny climate. If you get a burning sensation in your mouth it indicates that the wine is high in alcohol, often described as fiery.
For the wine to taste good the body and acidity must be in balance. A wine with too much body and too little acid will taste more like juice and is without character. It is the overall impression of the wine that matters.
On the inside of the lips and at the tip of the tongue you can feel the tannins. You sense a dried-out, bitter, astringent feeling. A wine with much tannins requires that you eat something to it. The greater the astringency is, the stronger the food.
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