Wine tasting is something taken very seriously by
professional wine tasters and is not just a way of showing off.
It may be something that most people have seen or heard of
and it may appear quite mysterious to the novice. However, all the ritual is
really only a series of steps that can enhance your enjoyment of wine.
The first thing to know is that you do not fill
your glass. This is because you are going to need to swirl the wine in your
glass. Filling your glass to about a third full is about right. (Do not use a
coloured glass – it must be a clear wine glass!)
The next step is to look at your wine. Hold the
glass up to the light. Check to see if your wine is clear or cloudy. Look for
any sediment or any solids in your wine.
With red wines, tilt your glass away from you
and also if possible, with a white background or white surface behind you.
Older wines will fade and present as a deep red or brown at the rim.
Next swirl your wine around In the glass. This
will release the aromatic substances in the wine so that when you put your nose
in the glass, you can appreciate the bouquet (the smell).
As you sniff the aroma tilt your head forward
and inhale gently not ferociously, for about three minutes. The scents may
change as you do this. They can tell you a great deal about the origin of the
wine and the way it was made (once you become more competent).
Now take a mouthful of wine and roll it around
your mouth as thoroughly as possible. This spreads the wine over the taste buds
on your tongue. The tip of your tongue will sense the sweetness in the wine.
The saltiness is tasted a little further back from the tip and acidity at the
sides, along with sourness.
Drawing in a little air helps to maximise the
flavour. So, without dribbling, purse your lips and suck in air very gently
(you may want to practice over a sink!)
Close your lips and breathe down through your
nose. The taste will become more intense. At this stage, think about what you
taste - whether you like the taste, or not.
You can, at this stage, swallow it, which is the
best thing to do if in company. However, if you are to taste a few wines, you
can spit it into buckets or boxes especially for this purpose. This is what
happens in public wine tasting events.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WINE
Dryness or Sweetness: the amount of natural
sugars in a wine is one of the most easily recognised features. An example here
is from a dry Chablis to a Liqueur Muscat there are a range of styles.
Acidity: There are different types of acid, the
most important is tartaric acid which is found in unfermented grape juice.
When tasting your wine, notice how sharp the
acid is at the end of your tongue. A good acidity is needed to help the best
wines to age. However, if the grapes have not ripened enough, as will be
noticed in a poor vintage, an excessive sourness or even bitterness will be noticeable,
and this spoils the wine.
It may be a little confusing to the novice at first.
However, don't confuse dryness with acidity as a dry wine can sometimes be low
in acid while the sweetness of a Sauternes will contain enough acidity to offset
Tannin: This gives a furry, dry feeling that
makes some young red wines difficult to drink. This will disappear in a mature
wine. Tannin is found in the skins, stalks and pips of the grapes.
Oak: Some wines are fermented in oak barrels
and/or matured in oak barrels and this is where some of the flavour comes from.
If you taste a vanilla or a nutmeg or cinnamon, this is a strong indication of
the presence of oak.
Fruit: There are biochemical reasons why some
wines resemble a taste of foods such as fruits or even vegetables, herbs and
spices. These are some of the most pleasant and charming features a wine may