When it comes to wine tasting, how do you learn to educate your palate or your senses for that matter? This experience is a party but only if you know what to look out for. So, should you pencil in any wine tasting event, here are ways to make it worth your while.
Let’s just narrow this down to three major points – the look, aroma, and how it hits your taste buds. This way you can course through the interesting exercise that has always been a pleasure to the senses.
In assessing a wine, the first thing that you observe is its color and character. A quick and easy way to determine the body or age of the wine is to look at its rim in a glass. In wine lingo, a rim is the gradations of color in the glass.
To check this, you just have to tilt your glass at a certain angle and observe the edge of the liquid. Light-bodied wines, like Pinot Noir, have wide watery rims, while medium-bodied wines, such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc, tend to have a medium rim. Full-bodied wines like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon show a distinctly compact rim.
As was mentioned earlier, the rim can also indicate the age of the wine. Older wines have richer colors with wide rims, while a very young bottle shows a dull color with a tight rim.
There is also a certain way to assess the appearance of white wines. Light-bodied whites tend to have a pale yellow-green tinge with a silver glow. You can observe this in Dry Riesling, Unoaked Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio. Medium-bodied wines come in pale gold hue with a platinum glow which is characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscats. A full-bodied wine like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and light blends come in rich yellow to ochre with a copper glow.
Young wines are a more popular age for whites due to its high levels of acidity. However, if you prefer full-bodied sweet wines with significant amounts of nutty aromas, your palate would do well with older white wines. To distinguish the two in terms of color, a young wine shows a saturated color with a bright glow of yellow to green. While an old wine exhibits dull faded colors of yellow to brown.
The best way to check for a wine’s clarity is a side view of the glass held against the light. A good wine would be clear and brilliant with a sparkle. However, wines that encountered problems while in fermentation tend to get murky. One thing also worth noting is that there are unfiltered wines that really don’t have any problem in them but they just had to be shaken up to unsettle the sediments before it is poured.
Why the swirl
The first thing that you would notice after swirling are the “legs” or “tears” that run down the side of the glass. You might have seen this before, but what really is the significance of a swirl in assessing a wine?
Doing this will help you to visually assess the wine and to rate the smell. It may take some time to really get it, but they say that wines that have “good Legs” are those that boast of more alcohol and glycerin. This means that they are bold, riper and dense. Wine legs are not necessarily an indication of quality, but rather, it discloses a wine’s alcohol levels.
Release the aroma
After giving that wine a good look, now it’s time to proceed to sniff it. A swirl is important because doing so releases the aromas that have been contained while enclosed in the bottle. Just give it a careful circular motion to air out the wine as it contains hundreds of volatile odorous compounds ready for you to take in.
The sniff makes a difference
Smelling wine simply requires you to daintily bring your nose over the wine glass instead of burying it in too deep. Take several deep sniffs. It’s different to say that you breathe it in than to sniff. In the former, only 10% of the air you take in meets the epithelium of your nose, whereas sniffing allows you to smell all the layers of aromas in a wine.
There are a plethora of key wine fragrances that you need to be familiar with to determine the good from the bad. But that would be a discussion for another time. However, just to give you a basic knowledge here are some flaws you might want to watch out for:
- Burnt matches – This happens when wine has been bottled with strong doses of SO2
- Musty – This is often described to be reminiscent of wet newspaper or an old attic, and this is often observed in corked wines.
- Vinegar – This is indicative of volatile acidity resulting in that strong smell of ethyl acetate similar to a nail polish smell.
Here’s an easy way to assess wine through the spit test.
First, you sip the wine, move it around your mouth to assess its flavors before you spit it out or swallow. Then prepare to spit by creating a kissing face. Spit your wine with just the right amount of pressure. Too much will cause it to splash, while too little will cause it to dribble on your chin.
If you are a novice at this practice, a good way to assess the wine’s taste is to point out the basic flavor components striking the right proportion. Sweet and sour are the two important tastes that should be present in wine, while bitterness denotes astringency than actual bitter flavors. Saltiness, on the other hand, is rarely encountered in this exercise; but a good wine has all its flavors seamlessly integrated.
Wine complexity requires more experience on your part to distinguish the secondary flavors hidden within. Knowing how to determine this is actually a good telling sign of your overall progress in wine tasting. As a beginner, you may educate yourself with simple flavors which are also easy to recognize such as, jammy fruit, strong vanilla, and very ripe flavors produced by various oak treatments. This may be reminiscent of soft drinks since these are flavors that are familiar to novices. As a wine becomes more complex it evolves to a whole other realm of tasting notes and experience, where usually the real fun starts. So just allow your taste to evolve by slowly introducing yourself to a variety of wines from different brands, age, and region.
Wine tasting shouldn’t have to send your head reeling in confusion, just enjoy the process and learn from all the sensory pleasure it provides. Just like staring at a painting, the more you take it in, the more there is to discover about it.
There are a lot of good bottle of wines out there just waiting for you to discover and enjoy. Follow The Standish on Facebook and get the latest updates and all our upcoming Wine Tasting Events.
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