Some tasters ‘chew’ or ‘knead’ the wine with their tongue.
Allow some of the volatile elements in the wine to vapourise in your mouth to give your taste buds another angle on the taste—so open your lips slightly and breathe in over the wine. That should equip you to assess all the taste components and be able to give your considered opinion as to their balance and effect.
The Appearance of the Wine
Tilt your glass at a 45˚ angle away from you. Look at the wine with a white background, even a white piece of paper will do. The colour can tell you a lot about the wine, quality and age.
The wine should be brilliantly clear and attractive with colour appropriate to its age and variety. Faults to look out for are cloudiness or browning in young wines.
A green tinge with straw or a lemon colour – Indicates a very young wine.
Straw colour with a hint of green – The normal colour for dry, off-dry and semi-sweet wine.
Yellow gold – This is the normal colour for a bottle aged or older dry white, and particularly for a sweet or wooded wine.
Yellow brown/gold –This indicates either a very old wine or a wine that has oxidized.
Purple – This indicates a very young or immature wine.
Ruby red – This shows the transition from a young to a mature wine.
Garnet/brick red – This is a well-matured wine.
Brown/amber – Could be considerably or prematurely old (possibly oxidized).
Swirl the wine in the glass to allow the aroma to escape, then hold it against the nose and breathe deeply to inhale the fragrances.
What can you detect?
The wine should smell pleasantly inviting and typical of the variety from which it was made.
Off odours detract from the general appeal. A mouldy or corky smell may be the fault of a single bottle, but a sour, vinegary smell often denotes that the wine has been badly stored or is too old to be good.
What is detected on the palate?
Acidity –This is the vital spark, a wine that lacks acidity is dull and a wine that has too much acid is tart.
Body – This is how heavy the wine feels in your mouth. It can be full, medium, delicate or thin.
Tannin – Tannin is a very important element of any young red wine to prolong its active life. Tannin is developed from the pips, grape skins and stems and/or from the wood in which the wine was stored.
Flavour – This is an important element with regards to quality. There are three words that are used to describe the flavour: simple, straight forward, or complex.
Balance – Are all the above components in harmony or does one stand out?
Finish (also known as aftertaste) – The longer the aftertaste, the better the quality of the wine. A clean, crisp finish is the mark of a good white wine.
Ten Tips for Tasting Wines:
1. No smoking. It could be offensive to other tasters to smoke in the tasting room.
2. Wine temperature. Ensure the wines are at the correct temperature – white and Rose’s must be chilled and red wines should be served at room temperature.
3. Timing. Our senses are the best earliest in the day, early in the evening will also be okay.
4. Order of tasting. Taste dry wines before sweet; young before old; modest before fine; dry, off-dry and semi-sweet before red; and the sweet wines last after the reds.
5. Come clean. Do not wear perfume or aftershave as this could interfere with the aroma of the wine.
6. Taste blind. Cover the label.
7. Physical hazards. A cold, recent use of toothpaste, spicy foods can all alter your senses. Eat a dry cracker before tasting to clean your palate.
8. Don’t swallow, spit. You don’t need to swallow the wine to taste it. Swirl the wine around in your mouth to ensure that all the taste buds are covered.
9. The drinking vessel. Glass is the ideal material to use. It should be crystal clear, stemmed, tulip shaped with at least 140 ml capacity.10. Make notes. Notes provide you with a reference for comparing your wines afterwards.