The art of wine tasting (P.1)

Finding out about wine is like space travel: Once you get going, there’s no end in sight. Fortunately for those who choose to be educated wine drinkers, learning about wine is a fascinating experience, full of new flavors, new places, and new friends.

Wine tasting

Wine tastings of all shapes and sizes

Wine tastings are events designed to give enthusiasts the opportunity to sample a range of wines. The events can be very much like classes (seated, seminar-like events), or they can be more like parties (tasters milling around informally). Compared to a wine class, the participants at a wine tasting are more likely to have various levels of knowledge. Tastings don’t come in beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels — one size fits all.

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Wine tastings are popular because they override the limitations of sampling wine alone, at home. At wine tastings, you can learn from your fellow tasters, as well as make new friends who share your interest in wine. Most importantly, you can taste wine in the company of some individuals who are more experienced than you, which is a real boon in training your palate.

Wine Tasting Techniques

The three steps in wine tasting: Look, Smell and Taste

Look

You can tell much about a wine simply by studying its appearance. The wine should be poured into a clear glass and held in front of a white background (a tablecloth or piece of paper will serve nicely) so that you can examine the colour.

The colour of wine varies tremendously, even within the same type of wine. For example, white wines are not actually white; they range from green to yellow to brown. Red wines are not just red; they range from a pale red to a deep brown red, usually becoming lighter in colour as they age.

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Rim colour: You can guess the age of a red wine by observing its “rim.” Tilt the glass slightly and look at the edge of the wine. A purple tint may indicate youth while orange to brown indicates maturity.

Swirling: Swirling the wine serves many purposes, but visually it allows you to observe the body of the wine. “Good legs” may indicate a thicker body and a higher alcohol content and/or sweetness level.

Smell

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Swirl your wine. This releases molecules in the wine allowing you to smell the aroma, also called the bouquet or nose. The two main techniques that wine tasters use are:

  1. Take a quick whiff and formulate an initial impression, then take a second deeper whiff or
  2. Take only one deep whiff.

Either way, after you smell the wine, sit back and contemplate the aroma. Don’t try to “taste” the wine yet, concentrate only on what you smell.

Taste

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The most important quality of a wine is its balance between sweetness and acidity. To get the full taste of a wine follow the following three steps:

  1. Initial taste (or first impression): This is where the wine awakens your senses (your taste buds respond to sensations).
  2. Taste: Slosh the wine around and draw in some air (even if you do look funny in front of your dinner guests). Examine the body and texture of the wine. Is it light or rich? Smooth or harsh?
  3. Aftertaste: The taste that remains in your mouth after you have swallowed the wine. How long did the taste last? Was it pleasant?

After tasting the wine, take a moment to value its overall flavour and balance. Is the taste appropriate for that type of wine? If the wine is very dry, is it supposed to be?

* La Badiane is well-known not only for exquisite foods but also for a fine selection of wines. Check out one of our wine tastings which took place in August 2015.

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(With reference information from Tasting Wines and Dummies).