When it comes to describing the smell and taste of a wine, there is no wrong or right. However, you need to know the basics of wine tasting for you to be able to make a well-informed judgement.
Many people know how to drink wine, but they do not know how to taste it. Drinking wine is not the same thing as tasting it. For you to experience the true flavor and taste of a wine, you need to calm down and pay close attention to your sense of smell, sight, taste, and touch.
If you want to learn the basics of tasting and evaluating wines like professionals, keep reading.
The Basics of Wine Tasting
Create the Perfect Wine Tasting Environment
When tasting wine, the first thing you need to do is to create the ideal tasting condition. The situations surrounding your tasting experience can affect your judgment. For example, you might find it difficult to concentrate in a crowded and noisy environment. Tasting wine in an environment with pet odor, perfume, or cooking smells can also make it difficult for you to get a clear sense of the aromas of the wine.
The wrong shape and size of glass can also affect your experience. If the glass has dust or smells of detergent, it would affect the flavor of the wine. When tasting a wine, you need to use a clear wine glass. You should use a glass with a rim that is bent inwards, as this would help to channel the aromas of the wine to the nose.
Other things that could affect your impression of the wine include what you ate or drank before the wine tasting. The age of the wine, as well as its temperature, would also play a role in your impression of the wine. Hence, you should ensure the tasting conditions are neutralized as much as possible to enable the wine to be on its own.
If the wine is served above its recommended temperature, you can cup the bowl with your hands to make it warm a bit. You should also use wine to rinse musty glasses instead of water. Make sure the wine touches every part of the glass when rinsing it – this process is referred to as conditioning the glass. You should also avoid tasting the wine in an environment occupied with strong aromas – look for a neutral environment with no aromas in the air.
Holding the Wine Glass
The way you hold the wine glass also makes a difference, as there is a wrong and right way of holding it. When holding a wine glass, do not hold it by its bowl. You should only hold the glass by its stem. When you hold the glass by its bowl, heat from your hand will alter the temperature of the wine, and this might change its taste.
For those tasting many wines, you should start with the lighter white wines and move on to the heaviest red wines, as it would help to enhance the sensitivity of your taste buds. Sipping water in between will also help in preserving your palate.
Color, Opacity, and Viscosity
To test the color and opacity of the wine, pour it into a glass and tilt it towards a white, plain surface. This will allow you to assess the opacity and color of the wine. If the wine is hazy with some brown hints, it means that it has been corked or is faulty.
You can also see the intensity of the color when you tilt the glass slightly at an angle. From the color of the wine, you would be able to tell if it is a light style of wine. It if is colorless or almost like water at the edge when you tilt the glass, then it is a light wine.
For red wines, if you see purple hues, then it is youthful but if you see ruby-brick, then it is aged. For white wines, if you see pale yellow-green, it is youthful, but if it is deep lemon-gold, then it is aged. You can determine the viscosity of the wine by the residue that clings and drops down the glass after taking a sip. It creates what is known as the tears or legs. The viscosity shows how thick or light the wine is, and it is determined by the residual sugar and alcohol content.
This is one of the most vital aspects of the basics of wine tasting. There is a common rule that you have to swirl the wine before sniffing it. However, we recommend that you sniff it before swirling it and then sniff it after swirling. This will give you an idea of how the aroma of the wine is before and after swirling it.
Swirling the wine will make the aromas jump out, and sniffing it afterward will help you determine if the wine’s gone off as well as the style of wine it is. The smell of the wine can also tell you where it is from. For example, you can tell if a wine is from a hot climate region if it smells like tropical fruits while a toasty aroma indicates that it has been aged in oak.
If you can still perceive the smell of the wine when the glass is distanced from your nose, it means the intensity of the wine is high. The further away you can smell it, the more intense the wine is, and the higher the intensity of the wine, the better the quality.
When it comes to wine tasting, the nose does more work than the tongue. The tongue can only perceive four flavors – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. For the tasting aspect of wine tasting, you should start with a little sip. While sipping, open your mouth slightly for air to enter, as this would highlight the flavor of the wine.
Some people spit out the wine after tasting it while others swallow it. Whichever one you do, you would still get a mouthfeel and an idea of the wine’s flavors. With a sip, you can also determine the acidity, fullness of body, and tannins level in the wine.
For you to be able to judge the quality of wine very well, you need to consider the complexity, intensity, and balance of the flavors in the wine. This means you have to spend some time tasting, smelling, and looking at the color and opacity of the wine. Don’t forget, you need to create the ideal environment before you can start tasting the wine.