How to Taste Wine
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Tasting wine might be the most enjoyable aspect of owning a bottle but fully appreciating all of the flavours that a wine might contain takes a little skill and a certain amount of knowledge.
It starts not by tasting but by looking. Tilt the glass away from you and examine the colour of the wine from the edge to the middle of the glass. The colour alone will give you a clue to what you can expect and even the climate in which the grapes were grown. Chardonnay grown in warm climates has a darker, orangey tone in comparison to the light pink of hue of the same grapes grown in a cool climate. Older wines also tend to be darker than young ones.
Next, smell the wine, and do it in two stages. The first should come after you’ve swirled the glass for a good ten seconds or so, allowing some of the alcohol to vaporize and releasing more of the wine’s natural scents. That first sniff should provide a quick first impression of the wine’s aromas but dig deeper and continue smelling. Try to identify any woody or fruity smells. The nose is much more sensitive than the tongue although both organs play a vital role in taste. Make sure your nostrils get a chance to enjoy the wine as much as your mouth will.
Once you’ve enjoyed the wine’s aroma, you can move on to the real thing. The tasting itself can be divided into three stages. First comes the “attack phase,” the first impression the wine makes on the palate. That impression is a combination of alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar that together make up the wine’s flavour. They should be balanced so that no one element stands out more than any other and in combination they should produce something unique and harmonious.
The “evolution phase” is the wine’s actual taste. This is the time when all of those distinctive flavours — the berries and plums, figs and cloves in a red, or the citrus, apple or herbs in a white — begin to make their presence felt in the mouth.
Finally, the “finish” is the last phase of the wine’s journey through the taste sensations. It defines how long the wine leaves an impression in the back of the throat. Light-bodied wines have a water-like consistency; medium-bodied wines may have the weight of milk; and full-bodied wines can feel as heavy as cream. A good wine though should leave a pleasant taste on the tongue — and a desire to taste it again.