SIGHT, SMELL & TASTE
Sight, smell and taste are the three senses one uses when tasting wine. Start by looking at the wine noticing its colour and then slightly swirl the glass to stimulate the release of other aromas that you will feel once you raise the glass to your nose. The last step is to bring the glass to your mouth and taste the wine by feeling its structure and acidity.
Sight is the most immediate sense used in wine tasting, so the first thing you need to do is simply pour the wine in a glass and look at it in front of a white surface like a napkin or tablecloth. An important point is to tilt the glass and look at it from the middle to the surface edges looking not only for the colour, but also the nuances, clarity, intensity, tears and effervescence.
Basic colour observation tells immediately if we will taste a white, red, sparkling or rosé wine. However, if we focus on the intensity and we spot a dense colour, then it is likely that the wine has richer tannins when comparing with one with a weaker colour.
By the other hand, nuances help determine a wine’s age. Yellow is the leading colour in white wines and can be more or less light because these wines are produced with grapes that don’t ferment in contact with the skins (where the compounds responsible for the colour are located). Many whites get darker with age and may even turn brownish when excessively oxidized.
Red wines are distinguishable by their tones: young reds are darker, sometimes even moving from red to brown. With age, red wines usually get lighter and the red colour turns into tones related with orange.
The ageing method also affects the wine’s colour: when in wood, it loses more colour than when aged in bottle.
Clarity is related to the suspended particles that may be in contact with the wine. Raise the glass to a light source and check if it has particles in suspension and, if needed, remove them since they are unpleasant when tasting.
When one slightly swirls the glass, you can see that the wine runs irregularly down the sides of the glass, forming drops which are known as “tears”. If the “tears” move slowly, the wine has high alcohol content and if the drop quickly runs down, the wine will be lighter and less alcoholic.
The Colours shown are marely illustrative
Before taking the glass to the nose, you should first swirl the wine in order to release its unique aromas that will help to assess the wine’s evolutionary stage (young, old, tired…), the character (floral, fruity, etc) and the intensity (pronounced, medium, low).
Located in the upper part of the nasal cavity we have small receptors that are directly connected to the brain that decodes the signals sent and catalogues them as pleasant or unwanted. This perception is then linked with our pasted experiences and sensory images are created such as berries, flowers or oak, for instance.
In order to simplify such a complex topic, experts classify wine aromas in three main types:
- Primary: related with the grape variety and the region, these are the basic elements that create the wine’s character.
- Secondary: aromas from fermentation and the action of yeasts on the must that are influenced by the compounds and external conditions, such as temperature.
- Tertiary: complex aromas resulting from ageing which result in an oxidising character (when aging, the air passes through the wood pores and oxidises the wine) or a reducing character (the aromas are protected from air in the bottle).
95% of tasting wine has to do with your nose, so make absolutely sure you never wear cologne or any type of perfumed cosmetics when tasting. It not only interferes with the process of tasting, but it also will alert people that you are a novice wine taster, and someone is absolutely sure to single you out!
This is the final part of the wine tasting process where we feel not only the wine’s flavour, but also the tactile (sugar, acidity, roughness) and thermal (hot/cold, effervescence, alcohol) sensations that must be assessed as a whole in order to properly evaluate the wine’s taste.
The tongue places a crucial part in the tasting process and each area has its specific role: the tip detects the level of sweetness, the front aims for saltiness while the back and sides feel the acidity. Finally, levels of bitterness are detected at the very back of the tongue.
Technique: it is now time to take the wine; roughly one-half an ounce to you have enough volume to work it all around your tasting receptors. Let the wine in your mouth around 15 seconds rolling around letting each part to decode a different aspect of the liquid.
If you really want to step up the process, purse your lips and inhale gently through them while the wine is in your mouth in order to accelerate vaporization and intensify the aromas. Then, “chew” the wine to draw every last nuance of flavor before swallowing. The final part is to simply bring together all the sensations you are feeling while exhaling slowly through both your nose and mouth.
Last but not least, pay attention to the flavour that stays in the mouth after swallowing the wine, the so called aftertaste. Usually good wines are known to have a long finish or aftertaste.