Learning how to taste wines is a straightforward adventure that
will deepen your appreciation for both wines and winemakers.
Look, smell, taste - starting with your basic senses and expanding
from there you will learn how to taste wines like the pros
in no time! Keep in mind that you can smell thousands of unique
scents, but your taste perception is limited to salty, sweet,
sour and bitter. It is the combination of smell and taste that
allows you to discern flavor.
1. Look: Check out the Color and Clarity.
Pour a glass of wine into a suitable wine glass. Then take a
good look at the wine. Tilt the glass away from you and check
out the color of the wine from the rim edges to the middle
of the glass (it's helpful to have a white background - either
paper, napkin or a white tablecloth).
What color is it? Look beyond red, white or blush. If it's
a red wine is the color maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red,
brick or even brownish? If it's a white wine is it clear, pale
yellow, straw-like, light green, golden, amber or brown in
2. Still Looking.Move
on to the wine's Opacity.
Is the wine watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant,
cloudy or clear?
Can you see sediment? Tilt your glass a bit, give it a little
swirl - look again, is there sediment, bits of cork or any
other floaters? An older red wine will be more translucent
than younger red wines.
Our sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing a glass
of wine. To get a good impression of your wine's aroma, gently
swirl your glass (this helps vaporize some of the wine's alcohol
and release more of its natural aromas) and then take a quick
whiff to gain a first impression.
4. Still Smelling.
Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale
through your nose. What are your second impressions?
Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine's
aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.
Gently swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and
Finally, take a taste. Start with a small sip and let it roll
around your tongue. There are three stages of taste:
the Attack phase
the Evolution phase
6. The Attack Phase, is the initial impression that
the wine makes on your palate.
The Attack is comprised of four pieces of the wine puzzle: alcohol
content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar. These four
puzzle pieces display initial sensations on the palate. Ideally
these components will be well-balanced one piece will not be
more prominent than the others. These four pieces do not display
a specific flavor per se, they meld together to offer impressions
in intensity and complexity, soft or firm, light or heavy,
crisp or creamy, sweet or dry, but not necessarily true flavors
like fruit or spice.
7. The Evolution Phase is next, also called the mid-palate
or middle range phase, this is the wine’s actual
taste on the palate.
In this phase you are looking
to discern the flavor profile of the wine. If it’s a red wine you may start noting
fruit – berry, plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice – pepper,
clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavor like oak, cedar, or
a detectable smokiness. If you are in the Evolution Phase of
a white wine you may taste apple, pear, tropical or citrus
fruits, or the taste may be more floral in nature or consist
of honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.
8. The Finish is appropriately labeled as the final
phase. The wine's finish is how long the flavor impression
lasts after it is swallowed.
This is where the wine culminates,
where the aftertaste comes into play. Did it last several
seconds? Was it light-bodied (like water) or full-bodied
(like the consistency of milk)? Can you taste the remnant
of the wine on the back of your mouth and throat? Do you
want another sip or was the wine too bitter at the end?
What was your last flavor impression – fruit,
butter, oak? Does the taste persist or is it short-lived?
9. After you have taken the time to taste your wine, you might
record some of your impressions.
Did you like the wine overall?
Was it sweet, sour or bitter?
How was the wine's acidity?
Was it well balanced?
Does it taste better with cheese, bread or a heavy meal?
Will you buy it again? If so, jot the wine's name, producer
and vintage year down for future reference.