The basics of
tasting wine are relatively simple to learn. Once the fundamentals
are mastered, the nuances and details can be enhanced over a
lifetime. Like any other skill, tasting wine requires practice, and
consistency is probably the most important factor.
strategy an aspiring wine taster can pursue is tasting with a friend
that has superior knowledge. Questions can be addressed, and you will
quickly become comfortable with this unnecessarily intimidating subject.
strategy for a beginning wine taster is to taste several wines
side-by-side that share at least one common variable. This could be
the varietal, style, AVA of origin, or any combination of the three.
Tasting blind will
minimize any prior opinions or stereotypes. You may be surprised to
discover that less-expensive wines are more pleasing to you.
of Tasting Wine
It is imperative
that you taste in spotlessly clean glasses. The most common
contaminants in unclean glasses are invisible molecules left behind
by cleaning products. Even high-end restaurants can be guilty of this
faux pas. It is best to thoroughly hand wash glasses with unabrasive
soaps and hot water.
It is beneficial,
but not necessary to use varietal-specific glasses when tasting wine.
Research has shown that the shape of glasses really does make a
difference in the sensory experience.
Overview of the
employs much more than just the taste buds, although they are very
important. Your palate is a term for how taste buds on your tongue
translate particular flavors to your brain. The palate can perceive
only four basic flavors: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and
bitterness. Most of the subtle flavor components of wine are actually
picked up by one's sense of smell.
Although many of
our daily perceptions are unconscious, making a concerted effort to
pay attention to several things makes the tasting process more
educational and rewarding. Despite the mystique that surrounds many
wine "experts", tasting wine can be broken into simple
steps. Wine knowledge usually stems from practice and confidence, not
any inherent superiority.
Of course, some
people have more developed senses than others. An extreme example is
Robert Parker, widely regarded as the most influential wine critic in
the world. Mr. Parker's tasting ability is derived from his natural
ability to be keenly aware of his senses.
It is within the
grasp of the vast majority of people to confidently differentiate
varietals, styles, flavor profiles, and flaws when tasting wine.
Tasting wine requires not only a grasp of your senses, but also the
ability to articulate (with the proper vernacular) your thoughts
about a particular wine.
Sense of Sight
in Tasting Wine
Your sense of
sight will reveal a lot about a particular wine before smelling and
tasting it. Immediately after pouring, check to see how clear the
wine is. While haziness may simply indicate a full-bodied, unfiltered
red wine, in any other style it is usually cause for concern. Wines
will often taste the way that they look (an unrefined look may
indicate a clumsy, unfocused wine).
Viewing the color
of the edge of a wine in a glass will give you an indication of its
maturity (or lack thereof). Mature, aged-worthy reds will have a deep
crimson, or even brownish look. Too much brown usually means that the
wine is past its prime. the rim of a white wine will generally be
light yellow in youth, and and progress to an amber color with age.
After your initial
visual impressions, swirl the wine in your glass. While this may be
tricky at first, you will pick it up quickly. This reveals the
"legs". The more wine sticks to the side of a glass, the
higher the alcohol content.
The Role of the
Sense of Smell During Wine Tasting
earlier, many of the subtle "tastes" of wine are actually
perceived by your sense of smell. While there are only four
perceptible tastes, there are thousands of different scents.
Revealingly, sinus congestion will stop even the most experienced and
accomplished wine taster in his/her tracks. Smell is perceived
through the upper nose as well as through the back of the throat.
Molecules of different scents are registed by the olfactory bulb in
Before smelling a
wine, swirl the glass again to reveal the aroma. When smelling a
wine, attempt to put any familiar aromas into the context of previous
tastings. This is the fundamental basis for increasing your knowledge
of tasting wine.
After smelling the
wine, the majority of registered perceptions occur very quickly.
Sense of smell is very delicate and easily overwhelmed. Smelling the
same thing repeatedly becomes less and less revelatory in rapid
succession. If you do not immediately pick out the array of aromas in
a wine, relax for a minute or two, then try again.
the aroma of a wine, it is logically time to taste. Swirl the wine
once more, and then swallow a small sip. After your initial
impression, take a slightly larger sip and make an effort to coat
your entire mouth. This is called, "chewing" the wine.
Before swallowing, aerate the wine in your mouth. While this makes a
slightly strange sound, the enhanced flavors and aromas that are
released are more than worth it.
component in the tasting process is touch, or how the wine feels in
your mouth. Major variables to be aware of are the body of the wine,
serving temperature, and astringency. The body of a wine includes the
depth of flavor and alcohol content. If these components are
underrepresented, a wine will taste dilluted.
temperature is an important variable that mainly hinges on the
varietal(s) that compose a particular wine. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc
will taste flat at room temperature, and should be chilled. On the
contrary, a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon will not reveal its true
complexity when served too cold. The incorrect serving temperature
for a wine will adversely affect both the aroma and flavor.
basically a synonym for bitterness, and is caused by excessive or
unmellowed tannins. Great red wines often taste astringent in their
youth, but develop into opulent masterpieces when mature.
As you now see,
proper wine tasting skills are right within your reach. Mankind's
ancient enjoyment of wine is largely derived from the fact that our
senses, feelings, and preferences are the basic components of what
makes us human.
About The Author
Ben Bicais lives
in the Napa Valley and is the webmaster of www.california-wine-tours-and-accessories.com.
Wine Tasting Kit:
Official 100-Point Wine Tasting System
the Editors of Wine Spectator
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