Improve Your Wine Tasting Skills

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 at 12:00 am

wine tastingThe best way to improve one’s wine tasting ability is to taste as much wine as possible, on a regular basis. The sensory experience of wine is highly subjective; the wine’s temperature, the ambient temperature, psychological and physical states and many other factors contribute to the impression of a wine. When tasting, the following characteristics of the wine are generally evaluated:

Colour

The colour of the wine. Does its colour give any indication of age or maturity?

Young white wines are often pale in colour while older white wines take on a colour of straw or can even be golden. Young red wines can be dark and opaque purple while older red wines can take on a red brick or even amber hue, particularly at the rim of the glass.

Nose

Distinct aromas. How intense are they? Any wine can have many different aromas and the best will often have a complex collection. As knowledge of different wine grape varieties increases, so will ability to identify different aromas and which belong to each grape.

Wine is not to be sniffed at: smelling should not be rushed. The aroma of the wine, which in most wines corresponds to its flavour, is one of the most important aspects of tasting a wine. It tells the taster about most aspects of the wine’s quality, thus inhale deep and long to learn the wine’s secrets.

Palate

Is the wine acidic? Is it tannic? Are the tannins fine or are they hard and difficult to drink? Is the wine light, medium or full bodied? What does the wine taste like and how intense are those flavours? How alcoholic is it? Is the wine dry or sweet? How long does it persist in the mouth after tasting? To assess the palate of a wine is to look at its structure: sugar, tannin, acid, alcohol and intensity of flavours.

Ideally, these structural attributes should balance each other, except in wines designed to be out of balance (such as Barolo, which is very tannic and acidic, and Rutherglen Muscat, which is very sweet with low acid).

The term Palate as used here is a matter of debate. Both the physiological hard and soft palates have no sensory organs beyond the tactile sensation, though this may impart information about the viscosity, spritzig (carbonation) and, as a counterpoint of friction to the tongue, the astringent (tannic) qualities of wine this information is processed more efficiently and precisely with the tongue.

It has been suggested that Palette (as ‘painter’s palette’) be used as a metaphor to describe the over-all experience of a wine, the cumulative impression on the five senses.

Body

Body is the tasting term referring to viscosity, consistency, thickness, or texture. Wine with "Body" often has a higher alcohol or sugar content than normal. The tannin, also, is a major component of what is called "body" in a wine.

A best way to comprehend the feeling of "body" in a wine is to think of milk. Recall the difference in mouthful of skim then full cream milk, then cream. Wine is usually classified as light / medium/ or full-bodied.

Aftertaste

The sensation that lingers in your mouth just after you swallow the wine is called the aftertaste, or finish. It’s important in wine tasting because it can reveal a lot about the quality of a wine – the longer the finish, the better the wine, generally speaking. The finish can also reveal an extra ‘hidden ‘ attribute which was not apparent on the nose, or sometimes even a fault.

Overall Assessment

Once the aftertaste has vanished, ask yourself what’s the overall general impression of that wine. Did you like it? Are all of its components in balance? If it’s a young red wine and is too astringent, you might want to consider that it could mellow and improve with time. Or is if it’s ready to drink today, what kinds of food will enhance and go nicely?