Wine tastings, and more specifically blind tastings, are complex exercises that require a good wine knowledge or background. But, performed seriously with a systematic approach and regular practice, it will become a routine that develops one’s tasting abilities.by Jérôme Chambon
Wine tasting is the sensory examination of a wine sample to assess its quality. This exercise requires the use of three of our senses in a specific order: sight, smell, and taste. No definite conclusion of a wine should be made before all of these three analyses have been conducted.
The visual examination gives some idea on the condition and the age of the wine. Its clarity, intensity, color and any other distinctive elements such as particles and small bubbles should all be observed. In red wines, purple is an indication of youth, while orange and amber are signs of aging. For white wines, green indicates it is a young wine, while gold suggests it is older.
When conducting the olfactory examination, the glass that is used has a great influence on perception, thus it is recommended to check that it is odor-free before pouring any wine. Glasses should be washed with a minimal amount of cleaning product or, if possible, without any product at all, just using hot water and drying with a micro-fiber cloth. The taster should start to smell the wine without swirling the glass to be able to catch the most fragile aromas first. Then they should swirl the glass to expose the wine to oxygen and to release more aromas.
For the tasting, a clean palate is essential. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration, and even if most of the wine is not swallowed but spat out, it is important to regularly drink water and chew a piece of bread to clean one’s palate.
The following elements have to be assessed:
– Sweetness indicates the level of residual sugar contained in the wine.
– Acidity is mainly felt on the sides of the tongue and makes a wine fresh and lively, when present in proper proportion.
– Tannin provides a sensation of dryness. Tannin originates mainly from the skin of the grape and eventually from the wood of the barrel in which the wine is matured.
– Alcohol results from the sugar being transformed by yeast during fermentation and provides a hot sensation in the mouth.
– Body is measured by the feeling of the wine in the mouth.
– Flavor intensity can be identified from a group of flavors including fruits, flowers, spices, vegetables, oak etc
– The finish is the taste of the wine after swallowing. The flavors in good quality wines will last much longer that the ones of entry level wines.
When all of these elements have been evaluated, a quality assessment can be made.
In professional conditions, a methodical preparation is necessary. To start with, the tasting room must be odor-free, with natural light and be equipped with white surfaces. The wine must be prepared and eventually decanted, so that it can be served at the right temperature at the time of the tasting. Glasses should be selected according to the types of wine that are being tasted, and should also be in perfect condition: odor free, and without any trace of cleaning residues. Bread, water, and spittoons must be widely available
Wine tastings, and more specifically blind tastings, are complex exercises that require a good wine knowledge background. If performed seriously with a systematic approach and regular practice, it will become a routine that will develop one’s tasting abilities.