Knowing about wine tasting
is a handy social skill to have. We have all sat in a restaurant whilst the wine waiter shows us the bottle then pours a tiny amount in our glass, stands back and waits with anticipation and trusts that we know what to do. To be honest most of us don't really know what we're meant to do at this point, so, we take a sip, drink it and say 'yep, that's fine thanks'. Even if it's not when we're eating out our analysis of wine rarely exceeds the limits of 'do I like it or not?'. If this sounds like you then the next few blogs are for you as we will guide you through how to look at wine
, how to smell wine
and, perhaps most importantly, how to taste wine
Purely looking at wine can tell us a lot about what we can expect about the aroma
. To get a really good look we pour about an inch of wine in a glass and tilt it so we get a better view. We'll look at red and white wine separately:
The first thing to always look for when wine tasting, is the wine clean? Does it look like you expect a white wine to look? Most white wine is a shade of yellow, there may be a green tinge which is normal but if the wine is a lot darker or browner than expected then it may be faulty or too old. When white wine is young it has a slight green tinge to it, as it ages it gains colour through oxidation
so the older it is the darker it will be. If it is a young wine and is too dark it has probably been exposed to air too much and is oxidised which is considered a wine fault.
So, if you see a green tinge in the wine it indicates a youthful wine. You can therefore expect that it will be fresh, crisp and zesty. The actual colour of the wine is also indicative of the smells and flavours you will get from the wine. A wine with a greeny-yellow hue will smell and taste of green and yellow things; grass, citrus, grapefruit etc. Sauvignon Blanc
is a good example of this. A deeper yellow wine will be demonstrative of richer more yellow things; butter, honeysuckle or apricots for example. A very yellow wine can indicate that it has spent some time either fermenting or maturing in oak barrels so expect a toasty, caramel quality. New World Chardonnay
in particular will often display this character.
The intensity of the colour also tells us something. Colour in wine is basically particles absorbed into the wine. The deeper and darker the colour, the more particles there are and therefore the denser the wine will be. As the glass is tilted you will notice that the colour doesn't come all the way to the edge of the wine, or the rim as we call it. There is a band of clarity around the rim and the wider this band is the lighter the wine will be.
The final thing to look for is whether or not the wine has legs. Stand the glass back upright and you may see a line where the wine has stuck to the side of the glass. From this line there may be trickles that form and run down the inside of the glass, these are legs. Take a look at our blog piece dedicated to legs
to find out more.
Now we've looked at the wine we can deduce what kind of weight it will have, the style of wine it is, light and fresh or rich and dense, and the kind of aromas and flavours it is likely have. The next part is the smelling which we'll cover on another post.
Wine tasting red wine is exactly the same principle as white wine except now we obviously have more colour in the wine. It is the skins of the grapes that contain the colour so fermenting them will extract it. The density and depth of colour depends on the thickness of the skin; Pinot Noir
has a thin skin so produces a pale coloured, light bodied wine whereas Cabernet Sauvignon
has a very thick skin, hence the wine is dense and dark.
A good tip for checking the density of wine is to stand the glass flat on a surface and look into the top. If you can easily see the circle where the stem meets the glass it is a fairly light wine, if the wine is opaque and the circle is not visible then you have a dense, heavy wine.
As with white wine the colour of red wine is indicative of the aromas and flavours to be expected, but there is more that can be deduced too. When red wine is young it displays vibrant pinky-purple hues so you can expect fresh, crisp fruity smells. As it ages the pinky-purple particles drop out of suspension leaving behind the browny-orange hues that make up red. It is most noticeable at the rim so if you see a brick dust colour you know the wine is a bit older and therefore can expect more dried fruit or fruit cake qualities.
As with the white wine we now know what to expect from our wine so the aroma and flavour should concur, but we'll get to that in a later post