Nothing is set in stone when it comes to wine tasting. However, let me give you a few tips to help you enjoy your glass of wine!
First, you need to find the right environment.
Don’t plan your tasting in a place with lot of scents: you won’t be able to smell and appreciate the whole aroma of your wine. For example, you should choose the living room rather than the kitchen.
Before tasting the wine, you should also avoid coffees, hard spirits and spicy food because it will alter your flavors perception. Likewise, if you are suffering from a cold, you should postpone your tasting.
The first step is eye contact. You will appreciate the wine’s color and brilliance. Once the wine is poured, tilt your glass and hold it against a white background to see if the wine is clear. The brightness is a sign of intensity and droplets - that fall back down the sides of the glass - give an indication of the wine’s viscosity, sugar and alcohol level.
You will also be able to estimate its concentration and age by looking at its color:
For a glass of white wine: the color goes from green to bronze. A wine of the current year will have green highlights.
For a glass of rosé: if it looks pink-purple, the wine is probably still young . As the wine gets older, it will become more orange.
For a glass of red wine: its color will be more purple or red, depending on the grapes used and the age of the wine.
The sense of smell gives you the wine’s bouquet. It should help you identify all savors. We call it the olfactory analysis and it is probably the hardest phase of a tasting. The process must be progressive, which means that you should do it step by step.
The First Nose delivers the overall style of the wine. Inhale deeply and you will know instantly if the wine is corked or oxidized.
Then, swirl the wine in its glass to air it. Smell the volatile substances released by aeration. You will identify new savors and details such as the grape variety, the vineyard, etc. However, the bouquet analysis takes time so simply try to identify the dominant aromas (fruity, floral…) during the first smells.
Next step : agitate the wine to break its surface and, after a few minutes, you will be able to detect some new flavors again such as the first and secondary aromas.
Which scent(s) do you smell now?
Vegetal: hay, herbal tea
Fruity: cassis, banana, apricot, quince
Floral: rose, acacia, violet
Chemical: oxidized, aired
Balsamic: pine, vanilla, resinous
Animal: musky, truffled
Spicy: pepper, nutmeg, clove
Woody: cooked, fumed, caramelized
Even after you started tasting the wine, don’t hesitate to smell it again: you can alternate smelling and tasting as much as you need. Smelling is probably the most crucial but also interesting time of the tasting. There is only one solution: train!
There are three essential steps when you taste:
The Entry / The Attack / Fore-palate
The Middle Palate / The Evolution
First, it’s the attack phase. You will feel the sweetness of the wine and its powerful (or not) aroma. You will discover the body, longer and depth of your wine.
You will then enjoy the middle palate, where the structure and flavours are perceived. How is the palate? Rich or not, marked by something or not particularly… How are the tannins? Delicate or aggressive? How is the structure? How would you qualify this wine? Think about how you detect in this wine during the taste : you will confirm what you smelled during the tasting phase.
Finally, the wine taste will change again during the finish phase. You should ask yourselves what’s the persistence in mouth and the aromatic qualities? By then, you should normally be able to identify the balance between savours. For example, the wine’s sweetness and acidity (and also tannins for reds).
You are allowed to make noises when you taste a good glass of wine! Sip a small quantity of wine, roll it around in your mouth to wash it over your palate, whilst sucking in a little air. It’s the “grumage” or retro-olfaction.