Wine tasting is an art, and when done correctly, is quite fun.
Therefore, how do you taste and evaluate a glass of wine?
Take charge of the wine experience and try your chances as a master sommelier with the 5 S’s :
See – Swirl – Sniff – Sip – Savor
A wine’s colour is better judged by putting it against a white background. Colours can give the taster clues to the grape variety, and lets you know whether the wine was aged in wood.
Observe the colour and clarity of the wine. Hold the glass up to a white background in a well-lighted room. Notice if the wine is clear and brilliant or cloudy and dull. The intensity of colour within each varietal gives the drinker an idea of how the wine will taste.
TIP: White wine will gain colour with age, while red wine will lose its colour. Colour saturation tends to go hand in hand with flavour intensity.
This aerates the wine and brings the aromas to the surface of the glass. If you’re new to swirling, place your glass on a flat surface, hold the glass stem, and use the stem to draw circles with your glass on the flat surface.
TIP: Beginners often start out by keeping the base of the wine glass on the table and gently swirling in a clockwise motion. Due to sweeter wines being denser, it will leave a thicker streak (known as a leg or tear) down the side of the glass.
Smell is the main sense used in wine tasting, so sniffing the wine before the initial step is essential. A wine’s quality can be judged by its bouquet and taste. The bouquet is the total aromatic experience of the wine. Assessing a wine’s bouquet can also reveal faults such as cork taint, oxidation due to age, overexposure to oxygen, or lack of preservatives and wild yeast contamination. Pausing to experience a wine’s bouquet aids the wine taster in anticipating the wine’s flavors. The “nose” of a wine – its bouquet or aroma – is the major determinate of perceived flavor in the mouth.
TIP: The aroma step of the process is where those magnificent, eccentric terms like “Zesty” “Floral” and “Herbaceous” come from.
Take a slightly larger sip than usual and hold the wine in your mouth for 3-5 seconds letting it coat the surface. Once inside the mouth, the aromatics are further liberated by exposure to body heat, and transferred retronasally to the olfactory receptor site. It is here that the complex taste experience characteristic of a wine actually commences.
TIP: Relax and let it be fun! You do not need to make all of the awkward and uncomfortable sounds that a professional would. No need to gulp, suck in air and make a large scene. This should be enjoyable after all!
Move the wine around your mouth for three or four seconds, so that your entire mouth is coated. The notion here is that you have different taste receptors in different parts of your mouth. So, you want to make sure to activate all of those taste receptors.
The finish is the sensation you get from actually swallowing the wine and it can be very different from the taste you get on your palate. What you want to look for is an alcohol taste (there shouldn’t be one) and the length of time the wine taste stays with you. This length of time is called the finish and truly exceptional wines can be tasted on the pallet for upwards of twenty minutes afterwards. It is this length of a flavour profile that makes certain wines stand out as world class as opposed to others. Also consider the balance of the wine; do any tastes dominate or is this a well-defined bottle.
“A bottle of wine contains more knowledge about a region of the world than any book.” – Michael Cox
Image credited to winefolly.com.
Source credited to pippinhillfarm.co, williamsonsource.com, and bettyswinemusings.com.