How to taste wine
Wine tasting is an analytical approach in assessing the appearance, smell and taste of the wine.
The best way to judge the appearance of a wine is to hold the glass by the stem on an angle against a white background. As a general rule, lighter coloured wines will be lighter in body. This applies to both red and white wines. The colour can hint what grape variety it may be and also the age of the wine. Most wines are clear but it is becoming more common to see cloudy, unfiltered wines or natural wines in the market place. The legs or tears that form on the glass can give an indication of high levels of alcohol or sugar present in the wine.
The individual aromas from the wine make up the overall bouquet. Before smelling the wine, give it a good swirl to ‘open it up’. Oxygen reacts with the wine, releasing aroma and swirling also creates more surface area on the glass, amplifying the aroma. There is no need to swirl sparkling wines as the bubbles of carbon dioxide bring the aroma to our noses. The bouquet can give an idea of the grape variety, region and oak influence in the wine. It is also possible to determine if there are any flaws present, such as cork taint.
The standard taste at a cellar door in the Hunter Valley is 20ml – about 3 sips. The first sip will react with the previous wine you have had and so it is the second and third sip that give you a better indication of the wine. Hold the wine in your mouth for about 6 to 8 seconds and roll it around to coat all corners of your mouth and tongue. You can suck in a little air to help bring out more flavour in the wine. Then either spit the wine out or swallow and then think about the lingering flavours that follow. Tasting allows us to detect sweetness, acidity, bitterness and texture.
- Don’t ruin your palate before wine tasting. Avoid coffee, mints, chewing gum, spicy foods, garlic etc.
- Also avoid perfumes, aftershave, smoking, lip gloss and other smells that will affect a wines delicate aroma.
- Drink water or eat plain crackers to neutralise your palate. Also give your palate and glass a rinse between white and reds, reds and dessert wines.
- Take notes as you taste.
For a more detailed look at tasting wine visit Wine Folly.