What are the basics of tasting wine?

wine tasting in the style of keith harling · Tasting Experience

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Look at the wine

  1. Color: The color of a wine can indicate its age, grape variety, and winemaking techniques used. For example, a young red wine will be a brighter, deeper red, while an older red wine will have a more garnet or brick color.
  2. Clarity: A wine should be clear and free of any particles or sediment.
  3. Viscosity: The “legs” of a wine, or the way the wine clings to the side of the glass, can indicate the wine’s alcohol content and sweetness.
  4. Bouquet: The aroma of a wine can reveal a lot about its flavors and origin. Tasters will often use descriptive terms such as “fruity,” “earthy,” “spicy,” and “herbaceous” to describe a wine’s bouquet.
  5. Taste: Tasters will evaluate the wine’s acidity, tannins, sweetness, and finish.
  6. Body: Tasters will pay attention to the weight of the wine in the mouth, which can be light, medium or full-bodied.
  7. Overall Impression: Tasters will take a holistic view of the wine, considering all of its characteristics and making an overall assessment of its quality and drinkability.

Smell the wine

When smelling a wine, tasters are looking for the wine’s bouquet, which can reveal a lot about its flavors, origin and overall quality. The bouquet of a wine can be influenced by many factors, such as the grape variety, winemaking techniques, and the wine’s age.

Some common descriptors used to describe a wine’s bouquet include:

  • Fruity: Wines with a fruity bouquet will have aromas of fresh or dried fruits such as berries, citrus, or stone fruits.
  • Floral: Wines with a floral bouquet will have aromas of flowers such as roses, violets, or lavender.
  • Earthy: Wines with an earthy bouquet will have aromas of soil, mushrooms, or other natural elements.
  • Spicy: Wines with a spicy bouquet will have aromas of spices such as black pepper, clove, or nutmeg.
  • Woody: Wines with a woody bouquet will have aromas of oak, cedar, or other woods, which can be imparted by aging the wine in oak barrels.
  • Herbaceous: Wines with an herbaceous bouquet will have aromas of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or sage.

It’s important to note that a wine’s bouquet can change over time, so it’s worth smelling the wine a few times throughout the tasting process to get a sense of how it evolves.

Taste the wine

When tasting a wine, tasters are evaluating several key characteristics related to the taste of the wine:

  1. Acidity: The level of acidity in a wine can affect its taste and mouthfeel. A wine with high acidity will taste tart and refreshing, while a wine with low acidity will taste flatter and less lively.
  2. Tannins: Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. They can make a wine taste astringent, bitter, or dry. Tannins also act as a preservative and can contribute to a wine’s aging potential.
  3. Sweetness: A wine’s sweetness can be described in levels of dry, off-dry, medium-sweet and sweet. The sweetness can come from residual sugar or from the grape variety itself.
  4. Finish: The finish of a wine refers to the aftertaste or sensation that remains in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed. A long finish indicates a wine with a good balance of acidity and tannins, while a short finish indicates a wine that is lacking in complexity.
  5. Overall Impression: Tasters will take a holistic view of the wine, considering all of its characteristics and making an overall assessment of its quality and drinkability.

It’s important to note that a wine’s taste can change over time, so it’s worth tasting the wine a few times throughout the tasting process to get a sense of how it evolves.

Taste the body

The body of a wine refers to the weight and sensation of the wine in the mouth. The body of a wine can be light, medium, or full-bodied.

  1. Light-bodied wines: These wines have a thin, delicate texture and a relatively low alcohol content. They tend to be less flavorful and less intense than medium or full-bodied wines. Examples of light-bodied wines include Pinot Grigio and Riesling.
  2. Medium-bodied wines: These wines have a medium texture and a moderate alcohol content. They tend to be more flavorful and more complex than light-bodied wines, but less intense than full-bodied wines. Examples of medium-bodied wines include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
  3. Full-bodied wines: These wines have a rich, robust texture and a relatively high alcohol content. They tend to be the most flavorful and intense of all the wines. Examples of full-bodied wines include Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

The body of a wine can be influenced by factors such as the grape variety, winemaking techniques, and alcohol content. For example, a wine made from a grape variety that naturally has a high sugar content will tend to be more full-bodied than a wine made from a grape variety with a lower sugar content.

The body of a wine can also change over time, depending on how the wine is stored and aged.

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