A LESSON IN WINE: TASTING TIPS

When it comes to wine tasting, the three steps you need to keep in mind are Look, Aroma and Taste.

LOOK:

You can tell much about a wine simply by looking at it. 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 deeper the colour in a white wine usually indicates more flavour and age.

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. More colour in a white wine usuallyindicates more flavour and age. While time improves many red wines, it ruins most whites. 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.

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. Look out for the legs, the streaks of wine forming on the side of the wine glass. “Good legs” that tend to stay and run more slowly down the glass may indicate a thicker body and a higher alcohol content and/or sweetness level.

AROMA:

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

Take a quick whiff and formulate an initial impression, then take a second deeper whiff or take only one deep whiff. Either way, after you smell the wine, sit back and contemplate the aroma. Don’t taste the wine yet, concentrate only on what you smell.

It may be difficult to describe in words when you’re a novice, but after trying many wines you will notice similarities and differences. Sometimes a certain smell will be very strong with underlying hints of other aromas. Take your time. By labeling an aroma you will probably remember it better. You may even want to keep a notebook of your impressions of wines, and save the labels; next time you see the wine you won’t have to purchase it to know if you like it or you don’t!

TASTE:

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:

  • Initial taste (or first impression): This is where the wine awakens your senses (your taste buds respond to sensations).
  • 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?
  • 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 evaluate 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? The more different wines you try, and the more attention you pay to each wine, the better you will become at ascertaining and describing each wine’s characteristics.