One thing that many people say is that they don’t know how to taste wine properly. So, I thought it would be good to start with a simple process of tasting wine. Take a bottle of your favourite wine, sit down with your friends and go through these few steps and it will completely open up the tasting of wine to you! Tasting wine starts with the appearance of the wine, then on to the nose and palate.
Often overlooked, judging the appearance of wine is a vital first step in wine tasting as it can reveal a lot of information before the bottle is even opened! It is important to look at the wine before you smell it as it can tell you a lot about the wine before you even start! The appearance can be broken down into the colour and tears (legs).
The colour of the wine indicates the age of the wine and also informs us about the body.
Age: A light green/lemon colour represents a young wine. An older wine will be darker yellow, verging on lighter brown. The darker colour comes from the barrels the wine is fermented in.
Body: The darker the colour, the increased depth and body of the wine.
Age: In contrast to white wines, red wines get lighter as they age.
Body: The darker the red colour, the increased depth and body of the wine. A darker red colour represents increased depth and body. Correctly classifying the colour of reds is often challenging, especially when darker, to improve this, look at the edges of the glass.
If you swill the wine around the glass then let it settle, you can see marks on the side of the glass – known as the tears or legs. The legs originate from the glycerol content within the wine. A wine with higher glycerol content will have more intense, thicker legs that will be more obvious on the glass. They represent how ‘heavy’ the wine is. A wine with more legs is typically heavier with more body and higher sugar content. Tears/legs are generally more apparent in red wines and dessert wines.
Much like the appearance, smelling the wine reveals a lot about the wine. It helps to swill the wine around the glass and also to have a sip as this allows the flavours to develop and change in your airways.
Firstly, check the smell is clean and that it does not have a cork taint or smell ‘off’. Often the two easiest aromas to identify are either floral or fruity scents. After the initial smell, take a sip and then smell again. The flavours should intensify and become more apparent, enabling you to identify other scents like vegetal, spicy, earthy etc.
Swilling’ wine brings oxygen into wine causing the release of flavour and the alcoholic scent.
Age: You can smell the age. A younger wine will smell fruitier or more floral. White wines tend to have green fruit notes such as apple and citrus.
This is the enjoyable part! Really let the wine sit in your mouth for a little while and try to inhale through your nose. This will allow for more oxygen to mix with the wine, resulting in more intense flavours.
The younger a wine is, the more acidity it will have.
If a wine has some acidity then it will usually be a dry wine with little or no sweetness. And the sweeter a wine is then the less acidity there will be. Sweetness is registered on the tip of your tongue.
Tannins are mostly found in Red wines – this is the part of wine that sticks to your gums and teeth, making your mouth feel dry. It can be a ripe rounded flavour, or strong and forceful. It is tasted at the back of your tongue and the key is for it to be integrated and well-balanced.
The presence of the alcohol is easy to detect, sometimes it can be a little too over powering. But it can be important in giving balance to a wine.
Is it full or light bodied? How heavy does it feel in your mouth? If you can chew your way through it with little resistance, then its likely to be light-bodied, if it feels more of a mouthful then it will be fuller.
Probably the main thing your interested in! There’s loads to look out for:
Fruit: (floral, green, citrus, stone fruit i.e. peaches, apricots, tropical, red fruit, black fruit, dried fruit). In general, wine from cooler climates will taste more citrusy, wines from warm climates will have stone fruit flavours, and wines from hot climates will taste more tropical and exotic.
Spice/vegetable: (herbaceous, herbal, vegetable, sweet spice, pungent spice).
Oak: (yeast, dairy, oaky, nutty).
The length of the wine is a combination of the sweetness/ alcohol and acidity. It can either have a short or long finish. Usually light wines have a short finish, where as more bodied wines have a long taste that lingers on the palate.