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How to Taste Wines

WINE TASTING – AN EASY GUIDE


Tasting wine is entirely different to drinking/quaffing wine. Both drinking and tasting wine should be fun and uncomplicated. When you taste wine, you must slow down and pay attention. This is the main difference between “analytical’ tasting and ‘hedonistic’ tasting or quaffing .You must take your time to enjoy and analyse the wine using the below four steps:

Once you have ‘tasted’, the next time you drink that wine, it should be more pleasurable and rewarding. You can quaff with the knowledge that you ‘know’ and ‘understand’ what you are drinking.

You may wine taste alone or with a friend to share the experience. Be in the mood for winetasting, for it should be a most enjoyable learning experience indeed – whether you like the wine or not.

Mood, location, noise, company, state of mental and physical health all can affect your ability to taste wines eg tasting wines in a crowded, busy and noisy railway station would be an entirely different experience to tasting wine in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Your tasting glass should be absolutely clean with the opening narrower than the maximum circumference of the glass, so as to concentrate aromas which enable you to ‘taste’ the wine more easily and effectively. Consider purchasing a proper tasting glass.


Wine tasting glasses

Clean tasting glasses   
1. Look at the wine

  • Hold the wine up, preferably with a white background e.g. a serviette/A4 paper etc. Look for clarity and colour. Is the wine clear or cloudy? Are there any ‘chunks’ or particles floating in it? Does the wine look clean? Does it look inviting? You are looking for a clear and crisp looking wine. These days, it is hard to find colour/clarity faults with most wines.
  • With white wine, generally speaking, a darker colour can indicate an older wine. White wines may go from pale straw, to straw, deep straw, pale gold, gold etc. A brownish edge at the meniscus could indicate some oxidization.
  • Young reds look vibrantly violet/red, whereas older reds are usually of a darker brick or duller red hue. Back to top

2. Nose the wine

Wine is composed of many different compounds, so the ‘nose’ or smell of the wine is usually quite complex and may invoke many smells that remind you of several things at the same time. (Our nose can detect over 10 000 different smells and can detect a concentration of any one smell as low as one part in 10 000)
  • Swirl the wine around in your glass to aerate it. This releases the wine’s volatile compounds/aromas etc. Notice how the wine ‘clings’ to the side of the glass. This ‘clinginess’ is known as the wine’s legs. Should you initially not be confident of swirling, place the base of the glass on a flat surface and swirl this way.
  • Put your nose into the glass and take a good .... long ... sniff. Do this perhaps only twice. Your nose may be your strongest sense, but it tires quickly. As we age, our sense of smell declines less rapidly than our sense of taste. Smell is our most important sense when winetasting.
  • What good things do you smell about the wine? Is there a smell that does not appeal to you? What is it? What do the various smells remind you of? This is a most important step. The wine should smell fresh and clean, not musty and stale.
  • Initially think of one smell (descriptor) that the wine reminds you of. Is it fruit? What sort? Is it flowers or berries? Remember these smells for when you next nose this wine or varieties like it. These ‘smell sensations’ may vary from person to person, yet some wines are universally unmistakable eg the intense passionfruit and tropical fruit aromas contained within Verdelho. It is generally agreed that aroma is the smell of the grape variety in the wine, whereas bouquet is the overall smell for all that has happened to the wine during its creation eg type of oak used etc
  • The nose is part of your palate, so once you have nosed a wine, then you taste. Your palate (mouth) should confirm what your nose has told you. (Remember, when you have a cold, you cannot taste properly. This is not because the cold has overtly affected you tastebuds, but rather that your retronasal passages have been affected by the cold. As these are used in conjunction with your tastebuds when you utilize your sense of taste, having a cold lessons your ability to taste. Back to top

The perfect Qld Rose  
Some of our wine range

3. Taste the wine
  • Take a sip of the wine and move it around to all parts of your mouth and tongue. Roll it thoroughly around. Draw in air through pursed lips to once again aerate the wine to release the volatile compounds. Noise is okay! Only sip a small amount of wine in this step. Keep moving around the mouth.

  • How does the wine feel in your mouth? Is it thin or watery? Does it have a bit of thickness, body or weight? This is the mouthfeel of the wine. How does it taste? Can you taste fruit etc? Can you taste alcohol? What else?

  • Swallow/spit the wine once it has been through this third stage (between 8 and 15 seconds as a guide).

  • Continue to experience the wine after swallowing/spitting to gauge its finish or lingering qualities – long or short finish? Savour the finish! Move your tongue around your mouth. Smack your lips together.

  • Do the above Step 3 two or three times to get to ‘know’ the wine.   Back to top

4. Collate your impressions

Spittoon
Spittoon and tasting glass


  • Now you must evaluate the wine. You will soon learn to do this while you are progressing through the previous three steps. You may omit the first step of looking at the wine unless you wish to reconfirm some aspect of its colour or clarity.
  • In your assessment of the wine, think of all you have experienced through the different steps in context with the following four aspects – F.A.A.S.
  • Fruit – Could you taste any fruit in the wine? This is desirable. What was it? Remember wine does not smell like the grapes it is made from (Muscat wines aside).
  • Alcohol – Could you taste the alcohol, or was it well integrated and balanced with the fruit?
  • Acid – Did the wine taste crisp, perhaps zingy or prickly in the case of some dry white wines, or was it flat and unexciting in your mouth? In the case of a red  wine, could you feel any tannins coating your cheeks and tongue etc? (Tannins are derived from the skins and seeds of the red grapes during initial fermentation. Drink a cup of strong black tea and you’ll also experience tannins).
  • Sweetness – How sweet was the wine - or was it dry? (opposite of sweet in wine lingo) We don’t usually use bitter or sour when describing sweetness/non-sweetness of wine. Wines are usually classified as dry, medium dry, semi sweet and sweet.
HAPPY WINE TASTING

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