Wine Tasting Tips
APPEARANCE: This is the ﬁrst step in assessing a wine. Take a look at the wine in the glass. Is it clear or hazy? Most wines are ﬁned (adding substances such as egg whites, bentonite clay or sometimes even an ingredient obtained from the bladders of ﬁsh that absorb or bind to suspended particles producing larger molecules that are easier to precipitate out of the wine) and/or ﬁltered before bottling in order to ensure the ﬁnal product is clear, stable and free of particles and haze. Next, tilt the glass of wine against a light background (white paper is great) and study the diﬀerence in color between the rim (the lighter edge) and the core (the area where the wine is deepest in the glass). Brown or orange tints at the rim of a red wine can indicate age, oak interaction or oxidation. Typically, youthful red wines have a watery, purplish rim that darkens and increases with age. Young white wines often have a slight green tinge to the rim. Finally, give the wine a swirl and look for any other observations. After swirling, do streaks of wine form on the side of the glass? These streaks are referred to as legs and can be a helpful clue in determining alcohol or sugar content of a wine. Thicker, slower legs = elevated alcohol or higher sugar levels.
NOSE: Now, give the wine another good swirl to really release the aroma compounds (this is where the shape and size of a wine glass become very important) and give it a sniﬀ.
Tip: Shoving your nose deep into the glass only results in a face full of alcohol. To pick up all of the subtle nuances, hold the glass up to your nose at an angle so that one nostril is doing the brunt of the work and breathe in through your nose slowly and gently.
Try breaking down what you smell into clusters ﬁrst (i.e. black fruits/spices) and then consider speciﬁc examples (blackberries, black plum, black cherry/cinnamon, clove, black pepper, etc.). But look out for smells like wet cardboard, boiled cabbage, nail polish remover, Band-Aids, or sweaty saddle leather as these are all aromas associated with common wine faults!
PALATE: Take a small sip of the wine and push it around your mouth gently. Part your lips slightly and breathe in through your teeth to really get a good taste of the wine. Is the wine dry or sweet? Is there a lot of acidity? In other words, does it make your mouth pucker? If the wine’s red, is it very tannic – does it feel like you’ve grown fur on your teeth after taking a sip? Is the alcohol balanced or does it taste hot? What ﬂavors do you detect in the wine? Does it match the aromas you picked out on the nose? And then, how’s the ﬁnish? Do the ﬂavors linger pleasantly for many seconds after swallowing the wine, or do they dissipate quickly?