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Tasting Wines is a Fun and Delicious Learning Experience

Jun 21, 2008
You'll learn about and come to appreciate wine and the craft of winemaking. Learning how to taste wine engages several senses at once; sight, taste and smell beginning with these senses and expanding your knowledge and appreciation outward from these will have you tasting wine like a professional very quickly.

There are countless unique scents to be detected in wine, but taste is limited to just four elements (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). The senses of smell and taste work in conjunction to let you experience flavor.

Here's How:

Examine Color and Clarity. Pour wine into a glass. Have a close look at the wine; tilt the glass (away from, not towards you) and look at the color of the wine, looking from the edge to the middle. For this it is useful to have a white tablecloth, piece of paper or other white background so that the color can be assessed better.

So what color is the wine? You need to think past just red or white. Is it purplish, brick red, garnet, maroon or some other shade if it is a red wine? If a white wine, is it straw-colored, greenish, pale yellow, almost clear or golden in color?

Still Looking: Next, evaluate the clarity (or opacity) of the wine.

Is it translucent? Opaque? Is the wine clear or cloudy can you see any sediment in the glass? You can better check this by giving your glass a gentle swirl this will reveal anything floating in the wine. A younger wine will have more sediment than an older one; older reds especially tens towards a translucent character.

The sense of smell is a crucial element in tasting a wine. To best assess aroma, you should again gently swirl your glass, which will release the aromas of the wine. Take a quick sniff and evaluate.

Still Smelling: Next, put your nose into the glass, but not into the wine, and inhale the aroma deeply. What do you think now? What do you smell? Oak, floral notes, fruit scents such as citrus; perhaps even tobacco or vanilla are all common elements of the aroma of a wine. Swirl again ad give it another quick sniff.

I know you've been waiting for this step; patience is a part of learning how to taste wines, however. Take just a small sip and roll it around your tongue. You will now assess three parts of the taste of wine attack, evolution and finish.

Attack refers to the first impression made upon your palate by the wine. There are four elements to the attack phase: tannin, acidity, alcohol content and residual sugar content. These are the things which come together to create the part of flavor which is sensed by your palate.

The four elements should be balanced, with one not being too overwhelming when compared to the other components. Together, these four elements create the sensations of complexity, intensity and the mouth feels creamy or crisp, sweet or dry, but not flavors as such like fruit or spice flavors.

Next is the Evolution Phase, which is also known as the middle range or mid-palate phase. This is where the flavor as such develops on the palate. During this phase, you can experience the flavor of the wine.

A red wine may reveal fruit flavors at first, such as cherry, plum or fig, as well as spice flavors like black pepper and clove, even woodsy flavors like oak.

In a white wine, the Evolution Phase will have you tasting fruit flavors like apple, pear or citrus, floral flavors or even herbs, honey or butter (especially in malolactic fermented wines).

The Finish comes last, as the name suggests. The finish is how long the flavor lasts in your mouth after you have swallowed the wine. Aftertaste is a big part of this phase. Did the aftertaste last in your mouth just for a moment, or for several seconds? Was it light or heavy in body The sensation of being like water or heavier such as cream. Can you still taste it at the back of your throat? Does it leave a bitter aftertaste or do you want another sip right away? Most importantly, what was the last impression the wine left: was it wood, spice, fruit or something else?

After tasting your wine, write down what you thought of it. All in all, do you feel favorably about the wine? Did it tend towards bitter, sweet or sour? Was the acidity of the wine well balanced with the other elements? What foods did it go well with? Would you drink this wine again? If you did like the wine, write down the name of the wine, the producer and year of vintage so that you can find this wine again.
About the Author
Robert Paul Williams is the publisher of Spirits Wines Blog which features a wide range of spirits wines for just about any occasion. Come learn more about tasting and selecting just the right spirits&wines with us.
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