Article - RareWine Academy

The Ultimate Guide To Wine Tasting

When tasting wine, you should activate all your senses to experience the amazing qualities of wine. Read on to learn about all aspects of perfect wine tasting.

Wine tasting is generally subjective, but there are certain factors in the wine that you, as a wine taster, can interpret. In order to taste the wine properly, here is a guide on how to approach the tasting of a wine. If you become experienced in the art of tasting, the magical world of wine will open up for you. 

Wine Tasting Requires Appropriate Wine Glasses

Before we start talking about how you taste the wine, let's ensure the equipment is in place. To give the wine the best conditions, ensure you have a glass appropriate for both the wine and the occasion.

In fact, choosing the right glasses can be a whole science in itself. The different producers have almost developed glasses for each grape variety and region. We've made your glass search more manageable. Find our guide to the right wine glass here.

The Temperature Is Crucial For Your Wine Experience

Once the wine is poured into the right glass, you are faced with a different but very important task. Always hold on to the stem so the wine retains its temperature and beautiful appearance. Too many people unconsciously warm the wine with their hands, and this has an impact on the way you taste the wine.

But what is the right temperature? Red wine should generally be served at 16-18 degrees – white wine at 8-10 degrees. Remember that wine quickly gets hot in the glass. It is better to serve it a little too cold than too hot.

With Wine, It's Also The Appearance That Counts

Now, we have mastered the wine glass and the right temperature. Let's take an analytical look at the wine's appearance. The appearance of a wine can provide a good indication of its age. Appearance can also reveal whether there may be faults in the wine.

To look at the wine, tilt the glass up against a white background. You need to look at and judge the outer 5 millimeters of the wine. Here you can explore the nuances.

First, judge whether the wine looks healthy. This is done by looking to see if it is shiny on the surface. This applies to all wines, but especially to older wines. If the wine is shiny on the surface, it is probably healthy. A dull wine can be flawed in several ways – either by "cork" or by the wine having been stored too warm or too long.

A faulty wine goes only one place, and that's down the drain.

The color, which indicates the age of the wine, generally goes from light to dark and back to light. This means that a young wine is usually light, ages and gets darker, and ends its life light again. Of course, the scale differs from white wine to red wine. Unfortunately, this can only be used as a general guideline, as grapes and production methods can also play a role in the appearance of the wine.

Get To Know Aromas And Multiple Notes

Once you have looked at the appearance of the wine, you can start to define the scent of the wine.

In order to smell the wine, you have to swirl it around in the glass so that the aromas are released and reassembled. First, try to smell the glass without swirling it. Swirl the wine and smell it again. You will notice a very big difference in how much the aroma comes out of the glass before and after.

When you lift the glass to your nose, catch the small nuances on the way. Everything helps to show the complexity of the wine. We have individual preferences as to whether we prefer one or the other nostril – or perhaps both. When the nose gets all the way into the glass, the alcohol also comes into play, slowly but surely numbing the sense of smell.

The trick is to capture as many nuances as possible in the first few sniffs of the wine. Trust what you smell the first time and get it defined.

The smell is gold when we talk about wine tasting. In theory, our sense of smell can distinguish hundreds of nuances, while we only have five senses of taste. We're just not as trained to use these hundreds of nuances. In order to use the sense of smell in wine tasting, we should divide the nuances into categories and sub-categories.

Stick to your intuition and put your nose in the glass

  • Primary aromas coming from the grape
    • Flowers, fruit, berries, spices

  • Secondary aromas from work in the cellar
    • Vanilla, smoke, yogurt, bread

  • Tertiary aromas from storage
    • Dried fruit, tobacco, nuts

Smell, And You Will Learn

It can be challenging to put into words the different aromas. You only learn through practice. The more you practice with your nose, the better you'll get at putting words to it. When it comes to the smell of wine, fruit, in particular, plays a big role. 

The character of the fruit can change a lot depending on the weather conditions in which the grapes have grown. The cooler weather, the fresher and less ripe the fruit will appear. In extreme cases, the fruit will be almost cooked if the weather is hot.

For example, we can use a red wine from Burgundy made from Pinot Noir. It will have notes of red, almost unripe strawberries with high acidity in a cold vintage. The wine will therefore appear very fresh in every way. If, on the other hand, the Pinot Noir grapes are harvested in the Maipo Valley in Chile, where it is warm, the wine will have notes of red plums and medium acidity. The wine here will appear with less intensity and freshness. When we talk about a wine having a body, it refers very much to the complexity and structure of the wine.

The more you work to separate the individual notes, the deeper understanding you will get from the wine.

Read more about the five factors that influence wine taste here

Now You Can Finally Taste The Wine

You probably don't have a complete grasp of aromas yet, but you know that practice makes perfect. Now we're at the point where the wine has to leave the glass.

When you taste the wine, you must have a large mouthful that you swish around inside your mouth. In this way, you hit all the taste receptors and release fragrance aromas to your olfactory center.

First, take a small sip where the wine glides directly over the tongue and is swallowed. Then take a big mouthful and get it properly distributed in your mouth. You will experience a much greater richness and complexity of flavor this way. This is the way to proceed.

There are two processes that need to be clarified when tasting the wine. One is to judge the structure of the wine. The second is to confirm or deny what aromas were in the scent of the wine.

The structure consists of tannin, acidity, alcohol, body, and intensity. These elements help shape the wine and give the feeling you sense in your mouth when tasting. The structure is important; otherwise, we would have the sensation of drinking juice without a body. At best, all these elements should be in balance with each other.

Sweetness, Tannins, And Alcohol

Tannin is a drying effect on your gums. Tannin helps to extend the storage life of wine. In cool climates, you may experience very drying tannins. In warmer climates, the tannins will feel softer and less drying.

The acidity is the direct balance of the tannin. You can feel the acid on the side of your tongue and the fact that you get a lot of mouth water. The acidity gives freshness to the wine. A cooler climate gives higher acidity to the wine.

Alcohol is the "dangerous" element in wine that cannot be excluded. The alcohol comes from the conversion of sugar, so the higher the alcohol, the riper the grapes. If the wine contains no alcohol, it will have no body or structure.

Body and intensity go hand in hand. Often, they are mistakenly mixed up and referred to as light or powerful wines. Nothing could be more wrong.

The body indicates how much the wine fills the oral cavity as an aggregation of the other structural elements. Sweetness, alcohol, and tannin are the main elements. Intensity is more an expression of how much the wine insists on showing its character. A Burgundy Village, for example, will often be low in body but intense on the palate. Some will perceive it as powerful because it is intense – others will refer to it as light because it is light in the body.

The flavors simply need to be confirmed or denied. Maybe they show up differently in taste. The difference in taste can also tell us a lot. One thing worth noticing is whether the nuances are more or less developed in the taste compared to the smell. A wine that seems ripe and big on the nose but tight and immature on the palate can often show that it has good development potential ahead of it.

Is An Objective Assessment Of Wine Even Possible?

In short, a conclusion from a winetaster can end up in many directions. Can we even objectively assess a wine, or will it always be subjective? One thing is certain. The easy thing is to state whether we like the wine or not. Whether the wine is well made or just typical for its category will require tasting experiences. Wherever we start in the process, we can only become more proficient if we taste a lot of wine and pay attention to what we taste.

Enjoy your wine-tasting journey.

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