Wine Tasting Process
Wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine.
While the practice of wine tasting is as ancient as its production, a more formalized methodology has slowly become established from the 14th century onwards.
Modern, professional wine tasters use a constantly evolving specialized terminology which is used to describe the range of perceived flavors, aromas and general characteristics of a wine.
Step One: Look
Check out the Color and Clarity.
Pour a glass of wine into a suitable wine glass. Then take a good look at the wine. Tilt the glass away from you with a light in the background and check the color of the wine from the rim edges to the middle of the glass.
What color is it?
Look beyond red, white or blush.
If it’s a red wine is the color maroon, purple, ruby, red, brick or even a bit brownish? If it’s a white wine is it clear, pale yellow, straw-like, light green, golden, amber or light brown?
Move on to the wine’s opacity. Is the wine watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant, cloudy or clear? Can you see sediment? Tilt your glass a bit, give it a little swirl – look again.
An older red wine will have more orange tinges on the edges of color than younger red wines. Older white wines are darker, than younger white wines when comparing the same varietal at different ages.
Step Two: Smell
Our sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing a glass of wine. To get a good impression of your wine’s aroma, swirl your glass for a solid 10-12 seconds and then take a quick whiff to gain a first impression.
Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through your nose. What are your second impressions? Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.
Swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and sniff again.
Step Three: Taste
Finally, take a taste. Start with a small sip and let it roll around your mouth.
There are three stages of taste: the Attack phase, the Evolution phase and the Finish.
The initial impression that the wine makes on your palate is comprised of four pieces of the wine puzzle: alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity and residual sugar. These four puzzle pieces display initial sensations on the palate. Ideally these components will be well-balanced one piece will not be more prominent than the others. These four pieces do not display a specific flavor per se, they meld together to offer impressions in intensity and complexity, soft or firm, light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or dry, but not necessarily true flavors like fruit or spice.
The Evolution Phase is next, also called the mid-palate or middle range phase, this is the wine’s actual taste on the palate. In this phase you are looking to discern the flavor profile of the wine. If it’s a red wine you may start noting fruit – berry, plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice – pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavor like oak, cedar, or a detectable smokiness. If you are in the Evolution Phase of a white wine you may taste apple, pear, tropical or citrus fruits, or the taste may be more floral in nature or consist of honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.
The Finish is appropriately labeled as the final phase.
The wine’s finish is how long the flavor impression lasts after it is swallowed. This is where the wine culminates, where the aftertaste comes into play. Did it last several seconds? Was it light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied? Can you taste the remnant of the wine on the back of your mouth and throat? Do you want another sip or was the wine too bitter at the end?
What was your last flavor impression – fruit, butter, oak? Does the taste persist or is it short-lived?
After you have taken the time to taste your wine, you might record some of your impressions. Did you like the wine overall? Was it sweet, sour or bitter? How was the wine’s acidity? Was it well balanced? Does it taste better with cheese, bread or a heavy meal?
Jot the wine’s name, producer and vintage year down for future reference.