There are four basic steps to tasting wine efficiently and effectively. The first is of course sight. This allows you to form an initial judgment of how the wine is going to taste. It?s best to hold the wine up against a white or neutral colored surface to ascertain the true color. Generally lighter colored wines have less intensity, tannins and texture than darker wines, but that is not always the case.
As far as age affecting color, red wines lose their color as they mature. A fine claret or Bordeaux from an older vintage will have a much lighter brick or ruby red like color and it can still have considerable length, density and finish. White wines are the opposite. As they age they gain color. Even the lightest Sauvignon Blanc will get darker with age. It won?t gain quite the golden yellowish hue of a Chardonnay but it changes none the less. If you become good with this color association it can actually be helpful when buying white wines in the retail store. As you practice this method of color relativity, you can get an idea of how heavy or light the wine is going to be before you even open it.
The second step of tasting is to swirl the wine in the glass. This is where the novice and the connoisseur differ because often the novice will skip this step. With this step you not only are able to determine the viscosity of the wine but also how talented of a taster your companions are. I personally like to swirl in a clockwise motion, but counter clockwise works just as good! The most important thing about swirling is that it allows oxygen to permeate the wine and release more aromas. I?ve also heard it referred to as ?volatizing the esters?.
This is the stage where you get a lot of people talking about the ?legs? of a wine. Legs are referred to as the way that the wine slides down the inside of the glass after it has been swirled. There is some validity to using this notion as a determinant of alcohol content however it is not a tried and true method.
I feel that the third step is the most important step of all – smelling the wine. Would it not be for our nose we would only be able to decipher five different types of flavors: Sweetness, Sourness, Saltiness, Bitterness and Savoriness. Our nose is what allows us to taste the beautiful flavors of kiwis, raspberries, fresh cut grass, hay, leather and many others. When we get a cold and our sinuses get stuffed up, food just doesn?t taste as good. That?s because we can?t smell anything. Smelling the wine after you swirl is ideal although some people believe that there are subtleties in the wine that swirling evaporates.
To ?nose? the wine, I like to put my nose as deep into the glass while keeping it dry. While keeping your mouth open take a deep relaxing breath of about three to five seconds. Now stop and think about what you smell. Dark fruit, red fruit, earthiness, richness, citrus fruit, tropical fruit, sweetness, dryness, alcohol? Now try to transition those aromas into flavors as we proceed to the best part.
Tasting the wine incorporates all of these components into one ultimate and final judgment. Even in its simplicity it can still be a complex thought process. Does the wine give you a full range of feeling on your tongue? How complex is the wine? How long does it finish for after you?ve swallowed it? All of these questions you may or may not think about but ultimately that is what your subconscious mind is doing as you taste and decide how much you like it. Believe it or not, these are real questions that wine professionals and some connoisseurs ask themselves as they taste a wine. However, they do it all at once consciously and subconsciously.
Tasting wine still can be simple though. Do I like it? Is it just ok? Do I dislike it? Answering these questions is a walk in the park. For some people though that?s just not good enough. They want to know why they don?t like it, why they love it or why it?s just ok. This way of analysis can set you off on a personal tasting journey that never ends. I?ll tell you one thing though, it?s a quest your palate will never spite you for embarking on! However, your wallet may!