Click here for: Wine Tasting Basics: Part One
Now we have the wine in the glass, we can now start to examine the wine.
1. Appearance: Tilt the glass against the light and against a white surface.
- Condition: If it looks dull or hazy, the wine may be faulty. However, some wine are naturally hazy or dull. However, if the wine is dull, cloudy, and dark brown, it is almost certainly be faulty.
- Color: Wine is not just simply red or white. It can have all shades of color indicating different characteristics of the wine. Pros can often distinguish wines and identify their age just by looking at the wine. White comes in a spectrum of green to gold with hint of orange, and red goes from light red to deep red with hint of brown. Identifying the color tells people what to expect and narrow down the possible suspects in a blind tasting. This is a knowledge acquired through experience.
- Legs: or "tears of wine" means the streaks of wine forming on the side of the wine glass. This is another way to judge the viscosity and body of the wine without drinking it. The slower the liquid seems to move when you swirl it and the slower wine's "tears" move down the side of the glass after the wine settles down means the wine has a lot of alcohol and is fuller bodied.
- Deposits: Some wine has deposits. This is NOT a sign of spoiled wine. Some wines are unfiltered.
2. Nose: The most important step in wine tasting. During a long wine tasting, I don't even bother tasting the wine at the end. Swirl the glass gently and put the glass to your nose and give it a good size sniff.
- Condition: does it smell good? If it smells like rubbing alcohol, dull, stale, cardboard, wet socks, the wine is most likely spoiled.
- Intensity: how strong and definitive is the aroma? Is the wine so intense you can smell it a room away? Or is the aroma subtle and delicate? Or little bit of both?
- Aroma: This is actually pretty simple and scientific. The basic step is to identify if the wine has: fruit, floral, spice, vegetal, oak, or something else. The the pros go a little further and tell you exactly what type of fruit, spice, etc they smell.
This step is repeated at least a few time to narrow down all the characteristics. Sometimes, there may be several characteristics in a wine and the aroma seems to evolve and change with each sniff - this one would be complex.
3. Palate: now we take a small sip, drawing plenty of air in. Swish the wine around your mouth, making sure every part of your tongue is exposed to the wine. Do this for at least 30 seconds.
- Dryness: (A.K.A Sweetness) Does the wine taste sweet? Little bit sweet (off dry)? Not Sweet (dry)? Not sweet at all (bone dry)?
- Acidity: This is what makes lemon taste sour. Does it make you salivate?
- Tannin: This is the bitter and astringent taste you would also get from strong black tea. Tannin dries your mouth and make your gum feels unpleasant
- Body: This describes the sensation of richness, weight, and viscosity. This is result of alcohol, tannin, sugar, and flavour. Although Vodka has a lot of alcohol, it is still light in body, because it has no other flavours and substance.
- Flavour: flavour is only detected when wine evaporates off the tongue and rise up to the back of the nose. The flavour would be identified in the same way as sniffing for aroma.
- Finish: (A.K.A Length) how long the flavour linger in the mouth after the wine is swallowed or spat out. A long, complex, pleasant finish is an indicator of quality.
- Did you like it?
- Expressiveness: Is it a good example of the style, age, the type of grape, the region it was grown, the climate, and the earth it grew from?
- Balance: Is sweetness, acidity, tannin, and aroma well balanced? Or is it too cloying, sour, or excessive?
- Complexity, intensity, and length.