Understanding The Art Of Tasting Wine
Gauging the personality and character of the wine that we are sipping is an awe-inspiring journey. If we want to learn this beautiful art of tasting and understanding great quality wine, the first thing we need to do is create the right ambience for it.
Strong perfumes/pet odours/cooking smells, noisy, crowded rooms, the wrong size or shape of the glass, the bad temperature, etc. are all wine enemies.
Wine beginners will be able to explore and experience the different flavours, aromas and subtle notes of the wine only if they can concentrate on these elements in a neutral environment. The following stages will enhance their experience.
1. Observing The Wine
The wine should occupy a third of the glass. The vertical angle view will help the wine beginner gauge the depth of the colour. We will be able to estimate the density and the aroma of the wine if we gently tilt the glass and look at it in an illuminated area.
We can classify the wine immediately by doing so. A deep dark almost purplish black hue is bound to be a Syrah or a Zinfandel while a lighter brick red tone may well turn out to be a Pinot Noir or a Sangiovese.
Good quality wine should almost always be clear unless it is has been shaken up just before being poured or is an unfiltered wine.
A valid point to keep in mind is that wine with fermentation problems or wines laced with chemicals will also have a dirty look.
A title view will display the age and density of the wine. The wine will thin out and look paler towards the edges when we tilt it. A rather thin and watery looking wine usually spells poor quality while a slight brown shade ( for white wines) or an orange or rusty colour( for red wines) is a sign of an old and mature wine.
We also need to keep in mind that wine well past its prime or one that has been opened and re-corked will also have a similar look.
The final step is swirling the wine. There are two ways in which wine is usually swirled – the first one is the table top swirl (which is highly recommended for beginners) and the free hand style swirl. On looking carefully, we will observe wine “legs” or wine “tears” running down against the sides of the glass.
High alcohol wines with a good level of glycerine usually have good legs/tears and openly tell us that they are bound to have a richer body. Such wines will not be dry and are a sign of a mature, robust wine.
2. Inhaling The Aromas To Identify The Flavours
We can have fun with a glass of wine tooJ! A glass of this heady nectar has hundreds of different aromas in it – so guessing and identifying the aromas will surely cheer us all up!
To find out all these delicate aromas, just inhale deeply from the glass of wine and allow your mind to identify the unique fragrances. Experimenting with different wines will help any wine beginner to create a memory bank of the various aromas found in wines.
The first fragrance that is bound to entice us is the distinctly fruity smell of grapes. A wine beginner may not be able to immediately distinguish among the different grape varieties or the conditions under which they were cultivated.
But with a little more experience, this subtle nuance of smelling and identifying the kind of grapes in the wine can surely be mastered. Generally speaking, the wines will feel of fresh fruits unless of course it is overly sweet or served at the wrong temperature or is an ancient wine.
Next, the floral, leafy, herbaceous, spicy flavours and vegetable notes are the aromas that a wine beginner is sure to recognise immediately. Different wines will have various combinations of their unique blend of aromas – so ultimately it all depends on the wine.
Generally speaking, white wines like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Viognier are made from grapes cultivated in cooler regions, and these wines are bound to have a floral aroma.
A Sauvignon Blanc is reputed for its strong grassy aroma while a typical bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon is required to be scented with herbs and some vegetation. Varietal red wines from the Rhone Valley also tend to have a delightfully herby aroma.
Other red wines are bound to be laced with an earthy, mushroomy, leathery aroma. The finest whites and reds will have distinct nuances of earthy minerals and rocks!! Yes, the smells will be quite involved, but there will be a delicate balance too.
The pure distilled different aromas all seem to fuse together in complete harmony, and that is why it is called a strong relaxing drink!! The third kind of smell that the wine beginner should be aware of is the wine barrel aroma.
If the wine has been aged in new oak barrels, there is a high likelihood that it has aromas of vanilla, chocolate, espresso, roasted nuts or even toast in it. The age of the barrels, the kind of oak in which the wine was allowed to mature, the way in which the barrels were made and the unique way in which the winemaker mixed and matched the components will all contribute to the aromas and the flavour of the wine.
We need to keep in mind that the older the wine is, the more subtle and less fruity the aromas tend to be. In fact, a properly matured wine will be such a beautiful blend of several delicate nuances that we will stop trying to identify the aromas or the flavour because we want to focus on the pleasure that we derive from it..
3. Finally Tasting The Wine
Sipping the wine gently and allowing it to swirl for a moment in our mouths will aerate the wine. We will be able to draw the connection almost immediately between the aromas and the flavours of the wine.
A wine that is overly sweet or too sour or bitter or is boiling or tastes flat is not a well balanced or quality wine. An ancient wine or a very young or improperly aged wine too will not feel stable. A balanced wine will have the right mix of all the different flavours in the right proportion and will be subtly sweet, sour, salty and bitter at the same time.
A harmonious wine is one in which all the unique aromas and flavours have blended and fused together finely and accurately. If a wine beginner is sipping a young wine, he will be able to immediately identify that the flavours and the aromas all seem to be sticking out and have not yet blended properly.
Wine beginners will need a whole lot of experience if they want to discern the finer nuances of a complex wine. They will be able to relate to the most overpowering flavours and aromas like vanilla, or ripe grapes almost immediately because they are already familiar with these characters.
But a complex wine is defined by the abundance of characters that linger in our mouths long after we have taken our first sip of wine. The wine seems to change its flavour even as we taste it simply! A tip for wine beginners tasting such complex wines: Experience the lingering feelings of such wines before taking the next sip – do believe us when we say that each sip is potent enough to transport us to the next realm of free blissJ!
The icing on the cake is a full wine: heady nectar that is balanced, harmonious, sophisticated and evolved at the same time – sipping such wines is a sublime experience that we will cherish for ages!! Wine beginners will love their tryst with such wines and finally understand why every wine is said to have an interesting and intriguing personality of its own!! Time to celebrate folks!! Cheers!!