AJAR.id – Hello Ajarian! A greater understanding of tasting and appreciating wine can certainly enhance your enjoyment of it, but it should never be the sole object of the exercise.
Wine, although sometimes elevated to a position of cultural reverence, is above all designed for drinking and for pleasure.
The appreciation of wine can be broken down into three different areas:
All three are important aspects of each wine’s character, but taste is considered to be the most critical as it encompasses both flavor and texture and confirms the wine characteristics.
The visual assessment of a wine’s appearance begins before the bottle is open, as clarity is often indicative of the character and condition of the wine. Once poured into a clear glass for drinking, an assessment about the wine’s color, both intensity and hue, can be made. This is best done by slightly tilting the glass over a white surface and looking down through the wine.
If assessing the visual appearance of a wine, note the clarity and color and any changes in color between the edge (or rim) of the wine and the center. Generally a darker color and a difference in color from the center of the glass to the edge can indicate oxidation, which may be a deliberate part of the winemaking, an error, or a part of the natural process of maturation in bottle.
Among white wines it can also be indicative of the amount of time spent on lees or in wood. Much is often made of ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ in a glass – the apparent wine imprint left on the inside side of the glass after swirling. While this can be indicative of the amount of glycerol and alcohol present in the wine, more often than not it is also a sign that there is detergent residue left in the glass!
The next step in wine tasting is to smell the wine with an aim to identify as many flavor compounds as possible.
Swirl the wine gently to coat the interior of the glass and release the wine aromas (very gently for sparkling so as not to release all the gas) and start smelling the wine. As you inhale slowly and smoothly through your nose also draw a small amount of air through the mouth.
The way a wine smells can be divided into two sets of characters:
- Aromas refer to those smells derived from grapes and include fruit descriptors (e.g. lemon) and things like floral notes (e.g. honeysuckle), herbs and spices.
- Bouquet refers to smells derived from the process of winemaking. These characters may be formed by yeasts, specific fermentation techniques and by the type and size of maturation vessel.
When you smell a wine, don’t get too concerned about trying to identify exact fruits or highly specific characters. Look for identifiers such as freshness, intensity of aroma and sensation.
Most wines have a vast array of smells and change with time in the glass, however it is the smell that allows wine experts to discern complex distinguishing marks of a wine and identify specifics such as variety, vintage and even vineyard from where the wine was produced.
Taste is the next and most important step and your mouth, or palate, should confirm what your nose has already determined.
Take a small mouthful of wine and hold it in your mouth. With the wine still in your mouth carefully and slowly draw air in through your lips, bubbling it softly through the wine. This releases more aromas that are perceived as flavor. Finally, wash the wine around your mouth a little and swallow or spit into a spittoon if you are tasting many wines.
The texture of a wine can also provide clues as to how the wine is made, so take note of the way the wine feels in the mouth. It may be hard and sharp or round and soft. Tannins in red wine may give a drying, astringent sensation (similar to tea) and may vary from heavy to light, hard to soft.
Take careful note of the flavors of the wine and the progression of flavor from the time you put the wine in your mouth, through the time you aerate the wine and then through the time during and after you swallow or spit out the wine. Then note the intensity of the aftertaste.
This is referred to as the wine’s ‘finish’, and a long aftertaste is generally a positive indication of quality.
After looking, smelling and tasting, make an overall assessment of the wine. Generally, a lasting impression of harmony and balance is considered more desirable and easiest to enjoy.
Nurturing You to Grow®
Written by: Alan Hickman, Nick Hyland
Subject Matter: Provide advice to patrons on food and beverage services
The above article ‘Wine – Tasting’ is taken from the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation website at http://www.wineaustralia.com/australia/Default.aspx?tabid=804.