I was recently asked to provide a simple wine tasting guide for a local magazine and thought that they were looking for help with copy. Had I realised they were going to publish it unedited, I would probably have spent more time on it……
Hold the wine towards a source of light to see if it’s clean and free of deposits. Tartrate crystals in white wines will do you no harm, and may indicate a more natural product without sterile filtering, but deposits tend to be viewed negatively by the public.
White wines range in colour from water white through pale straw to deep golden yellow, dependent on age, degree of oak ageing and grape variety. The deeper the colour the more concentrated the flavour. The colour of white wines deepens as they age – unlike red wines, which grow paler.
Young red wines are purple in colour while older wines tend toward brick red, particularly near the rim. If you tilt the glass against a white background the gradations of colour become more apparent. The colour of a red wine is also determined by the thickness of the grape skins – this varies with variety – and the amount of anthocyanines present. Viscosity or liquid sticking to, or running slowly down, the inside of a glass indicate high alcohol and/or residual sugar.
The smell or ‘nose’ of a wine is extremely important in the determination of faults. The senses of smell and taste are so closely intertwined that if a wine smells bad it will most certainly taste bad.
Use a glass that tapers inwards toward the rim, as this will help to concentrate the aromas. Swirling helps oxygenate the wine releasing its primary (or secondary) characteristics. Stick your nose in the glass and give it a big sniff. Think about that smell for a moment, make a mental note or write it down. What fruit can you discern (wine seldom, if ever, smells of grapes). Is the smell simple or complex, does it evolve and change or stay the same. Concentrate on what you are getting from the glass and forget what’s on the label. Each grape variety has different and distinct characteristics. If there are any ‘off’ odours in the wine, do they disappear as you swirl. If they stay then the wine is faulty.
If the smell is good then the taste will follow. Take a small amount of wine into your mouth and try to suck in some air as it rests on your palate. This increases the flavour and helps reinforce your impressions of the nose. Hold the wine in your mouth for about 20 seconds and see how it ‘feels’. Is it heavy or light? Is the fruit intense or weak? Think about how it finishes, is it long or short? The length determines its quality. The tongues taste receptors indicate sweetness, at the front, acidity along the sides and bitterness at the back. Try to think about these factors as the wines flavours are still apparent.
The full article is available at http://thebristolmag.co.uk/the-smart-and-simple-guide-to-wine-tasting/