Knowledge Centre

Tasting Wine

Tasting is for pleasure, which is what we do every time we open a bottle of wine, requiring nothing more complicated than a moment's concentration and an open mind.

A combination of the senses: sight, smell and taste bring these senses together which makes us appreciate the art of wine tasting. To start our tasting we need a good glass that preferably has a small rim so that it can keep the aromas in the glass. We start by looking at a glass of wine first the thing we see are the tears which trickle down the glass showing us the amount of alcohol in a glass. Wine should be crystal clear and you should be able to see all the shades of colours through the glass. Looking at a glass in front of a white card you can see the colour much more easily.

Lack of clarity makes us aware that if it is cloudy it is a faulty wine or on occasions that the wine have been unfiltered and needs to be decanted. The colour varies greatly depending on the grape variety: the darkest usually being syrah/shiraz in reds and Gewurztraminer in whites; and the lightest is being a pinot noir in reds and pinot blanc in whites. The hue is colour on the edge of the glass showing the age: in reds blue if it is young and age if the colour is orange and yellow if there is oxidation meaning that the wine is off; in whites green if it is young and golden/ yellow with age.

To smell the wine it is best to try and retain as much of the aromas in the glass and to serve the wines at a higher temperature between 15c- 20c. For sparkling wines it is best to serve them at a lower temperature to keep their effervescence. Move the glass around with your hand in a clockwise motion, this creates aeration and then put your nose to the wine to get an idea of the smell, pull back and then again penetrate your nose again further into the glass and take a deep smell. By smelling the wines will indicate if the wine is fresh and clean or corked. By identifying that this could be corked, the smell would be sawdust /cork or damp cloths. This is caused by oxidization in the cork either an infected cork or the cork being dried out. Wines can also smell yeasty or vinegary due mostly to excessive amounts of sulphur or additives in the wine.

A good wine smells of a complexes bouquet of different aromas from fruity to oaky. Finally, it is time to taste the wine. This includes most particularly considering whether the measurements taken by the mouth suggest that the wine is in balance, and monitoring the length of the aftertaste, these last two factors being important indicators of quality. A fine wine should continue to make favorable sensory impressions throughout the entire tasting process. When tasting a wine take a small amount and swill it around your mouth without drinking to take advantage of the flavours. If it tastes of cork, dish clothes or it is fizzy this will mean it is off and it is advised to spit it out. This is a result as mentioned above in the smell section.

The balance involves a harmony of alcoholic strength, acidity residual sugar, tannins and fruit. If wines are very fruity and are high in tannins it means that they are probably very young. If they are high in alcohol with complexes flavours of the forest floor, vanilla, creamy, honey and spice and or sweet it means that there is some bottle age. Please remember as Individuals we vary in our sensitivity to different compounds and dimensions of wine and our brains processes vary which have a different effect on us depending on the state of our palate. So we all taste wines differently!

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