Wine is truly a mystic liquid. It generates an air that can
be both inviting and intimidating. Knowledge of wines, their
varietal nature and learning how to taste are the first steps
in creating a better understanding and appreciation for what
is in your glass.
Begin by setting the atmosphere - The room should have
reasonably good lighting. The tablecloth should be a plain
pale colour or use white paper. Appropriate stemware should
be selected - this will play an important role in your analysis.
If you are in the market to purchase new stemware, I highly
recommend Riedel Crystal, varietal stemware. Alternatively,
a plain crystal tasting glass (ISO) which has a thin narrow
rim and wider base "tulip-shaped" will be sufficient. When
pouring, don't fill the glass to full; 1-2 oz is sufficient,
otherwise swirling can get rather messy! Hold your glass by
the stem or base and tilt to a 45-degree angle...
Seeing: Visually the wine
can tell a few tales. Hold the glass up slightly so you are
still looking down into the wine, and tilt to a 45-degree
angle in front of a white background. You should be able to
benefit visually. Wine colours will vary due to the grape
variety used, the style in which it's produced, the region
in where it's grown and the age of the wine. White wines gain
colour with age (deeper, yellow, gold), red wines get lighter
(brick, garnet). The wine should always be clear and bright,
never cloudy or hazy. Generally, wines, both red and white,
of lighter colour tend to be lighter in style, have not been
aged in oak barrels and may have come from a cooler climate.
Wines with deep intense colours are usually fuller-bodied,
come from a warmer climate, have undergone oak ageing or are
speciality dessert wines.
Swirling: Is an art in itself,
a little tricky to master, but a necessary function. This
aerates the wine allowing the release of it's aromas (nature's
influence) and bouquet (winemakers influence). The wine will
evaporate off the sides of the glass, creating a more intense
smell. Take a good look at the wine before you plunge your
nose into the glass. Wine will cling to the sides and stream
down; these are called legs or tears and simply imply the
viscosity of the wine. Thick usually indicates higher alcohol
or sugar, and thin, the wine is usually light and dry.
Sniffing: 75% of taste is
smell making this sense the most important when evaluating
a wine. Put your nose to the glass and sniff, swirl again
and sniff more deeply a second time. We can distinguish between
5000 and 10000 different smells and smell is very closely
linked to memory. You will hear people use descriptive terms
such as, nutty, buttery, leather, chocolate, tabacco, eucalyptus,
flint, mineral, gasoline and so on……Do not feel intimidated
by this, whatever you smell, or how you perceive the wine
to be is personal and will assist in your analysis.
Sipping: When you release
the wine to your mouth, you actually taste and smell at the
same time. An example of its importance is when you have a
bad cold you are unable to taste your food properly or sometimes
not at all! We can only distinguish tastes of sweet, sour,
bitter and salt (not reflective of wine). Sweet on the tip
of your tongue, salty and sour on the sides, and bitter in
the middle and back palate. You have over 3000 taste buds
so be sure to reach them all. Flow the wine evenly around
in your mouth, and take in a small amount of oxygen, this
will certainly intensify your experience. The finish on your
palate is important. You should be left with a lasting, pleasant
and memorable feeling.
Spitting: If you are a serious
taster or work in the trade, chances are, you could be tasting
over 50 wines a day so spitting is a necessity. Your senses
will dull after tasting 8-10 wines without spitting, however,
if your tasting is of a social nature you should relax, enjoy,
and savour each sip.
In closing, my only advice to you is the more you taste the
better you get, so…Practice, practice, practice!
Written By Maria Moessner, Inniskillin Wines Estate