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How to Taste Wine
to Taste Wine' routine is a learning phase that every wine drinker
has to go through. Wine Tasting is different than wine drinking. Most
of the time we drink our wine and enjoy it with friends and food. After
all, wine is a beverage that is part of a positive lifestyle.
we taste wine instead of just drinking it. When we Taste Wine,
we are paying particular attention to what our senses can tell us about
the wine. Consuming wine gives us feedback from 4 of our senses: sight,
smell, taste and touch.
a simple routine
Wine Tasting is easier if you have a simple routine you use with each
wine. The routine should step you through each of your senses and guide
you along the way. Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch. After you've done this
with enough wines, it will just become natural and you will not even
think about the steps.
I. Sight - Look
at the wine.
- Use a white
background in good light and look through the wine. It should
be clear and brilliant.
- If it is
clouded, that is a fault in the wine. If it is hazy or cloudy, the
cause could be as simple as sediment that has been stirred or it could
be from poor winemaking. If it is sediment, it will settle in about
a day but you should not drink the wine until then.
- The color
and clarity will vary based on the grape variety, winemaking procedures,
age and previous storage conditions of the wine.
- White wines
will vary from almost water-clear to greenish-gold to straw to slightly
- Red wines
are usually ruby red or purple in their youth but gain brown tinges
as they age.
- When tasting
red wines, tilt the glass and look at the edges. There is a
noticeable color loss around the edges as the wine grows older.
- Most of what
you perceive as 'taste' is actually a result of your sense of smell.
- Swirl the
wine in the glass. This spreads the wine over a greater surface
area and allows more wine to evaporate. This releases more aromas in
- Put the glass
close to your nose and sniff the wine. It's not rocket science,
just smell the wine and try to associate words with what you smell.
Is it earthy or herbal or floral or does it smell like old gym socks?
- Each grape
variety will exhibit specific aromas consistently. Try to become
familiar with them as you taste through various wines.
- Wines that
have been aged in oak will often have vanilla overtones. Chardonnays
with a 'buttery' smell have undergone malolactic fermentation.
- Many red
wines will have the smell of berries or cherries. Older red
wines may have cedar or tobacco nuances.
- White wines
may develop the aroma of apples or citrus fruits or even tropical
fruits. Sauvignon Blanc sometimes have grassy or herbal smells
- The strength
of the aroma of a wine will be more subdued in a wine that is chilled.
Some wines will not have much aroma at all.
- Smell the
wine several times. In a complex wine you will find new
aromas with each sniff.
wines will have different smells depending on the grape variety from
which they were made, how they were made, their age and current condition.
- There are
a few smells that you hope not to find in a wine. They may be
the result of bad winemaking, poor storage conditions or a faulty
cork. Smells of vinegar or sulfur indicate poor winemaking while
a mustiness can be a sign of a poor cork.
- Take a sip
of the wine in your mouth and spread it around. Then whistle
in reverse to evaporate wine in all parts of your mouth at once.
This will give you an immediate overall impression of the tastes.
- There are
really only four things you can taste: sweetness, acidity, bitterness
and saltiness. Since wine (other than Cooking Sherry) will not
have salt, we can narrow the tastes down to three items.
(if present) will be noticed on the very front of your tongue.
If there is no sweetness there, the wine is dry. Your mind will
sometimes translate a particularly fruity wine as being sweet since
those characteristics are often found together; but, if you cannot
taste the sweetness at the front of your tongue the wine is dry.
- Acidity or
crispness will be noticed along the sides of your tongue and can also
be detected by the fact that higher acid wines cause an increase in
the production of saliva in your mouth. Acidity is beneficial
in the digestion of food and higher acid wines cut through fish oils.
In a sweet wine, acid is necessary to keep the wine lively and
more than just like having a sugar cube in your mouth.
is found in the back of your mouth and the top of the throat.
This bitterness in red wines is often caused by the presence of tannin.
In especially young Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Bordeaux wines,
it may cause a puckering or drying (cotton-mouth) in your mouth.
This type of bitterness will diminish and mellow as the wine ages.
- If you pick
up a hot sensation or sharpness in the back of your mouth, it might
be that you are tasting a wine with a high level of alcohol or a wine
that is served too warm. Alcohol will begin to bite at about
74 F. degrees.
IV Pay attention
to the 'Touch'
Body, full or thin? Spritz & effervescence? fruity? smooth or rough?
Legs - alcohol and glycerol.
Make a mental note of anything that is special or outstanding.
Deal with smells - spicy, apple, pear and all the other wine words. talk
about the levels of sweetness - medium dry. Fruity versus sweetness. flavor
or lack of it.
Balance - overpowering component, flabby.
The finish - long and lingering - how long isit?