Tasting Basics – Understanding the Taste of a Wine

The Basics of Tasting or Understanding the Taste of a WineThe Basics – Tasting or Understanding the Taste of a Wine

Have you ever been to a wine tasting or met people, who just with one sip of wine know the specific details of that wine? Have you ever wondered what makes a glass of wine so special in its taste compared to any other drink?

Wine is majestic naturally as it is and the way it dances in a cup with its beautiful redness makes it exquisite and expensive. But then, the taste is a whole new thing to be explored on its own. To describe wine is not an obvious thing; it’s a bit like asking someone to describe the aroma of chocolate that has never been tasted. For this, you will try to transcribe the sensations provided by aromas or textures related to it. A tasting is therefore quite personal as it makes a call to your own experience. Schematizing it is not because your table neighbor finds that a glass of wine has a taste of cherry that you will agree with him.

Knowing the fundamentals of a tasting must, above all, allow you to know how to express the reasons that make you like wine or not. With consistent tasting, you will be able to refine your senses and vocabulary that will allow you to excel in this exercise. But before you get there, here are the basics to properly conduct a good tasting.

Bring together the right conditions, which include;

  1. The visual examination
  2. The first nose
  3. The second nose
  4. The taste examination

It may sound silly to call it back, but a taste appeals to your senses, and we are not all equal to it. Some people have sensory predispositions or have already experienced sensory experiences in the past (e.g. a perfumer) that will influence their impressions differently from yours. To properly appreciate wine you will need your eyes, your tongue, and your nose. In other words, if you have a cold you can already put away your bottle. It is for these same reasons that you should not have eaten strong foods in taste (garlic) or drunken coffee before tasting. The ideal moment is before a meal because it is at this moment that your senses are more awake.

Other things to be considered; The tasting glass

Install in a lit area without odor and at a reasonable temperature. Regarding glasses, prefer that shaped tulip, they have the distinction of offering the wine a good contact surface with air that will develop the aromas and imprison them with its lower part. When your glasses are stored in a closet or a carton, residual odors may have permeated them. In this case, vine (pour a little wine and rinse) your glasses and carafe. Fill your glass to its widest part to maximize contact with the air. Finally always hold your glass by his foot to prevent your hand warms the contents.

Now that all the conditions are right let’s get right to the point.

The Visual Examination

Tilt the glass over a white surface and at first, observe its clarity. The presence of particles will indicate the degree of filtration that the winemaker has exerted.

Limpidity: limpid or cloudy

Then look at the liquid at the edge of the glass. A shiny appearance will reveal a certain acidity that will bring liveliness in the mouth, whether crystalline, shiny, brilliant or otherwise dull, dull, extinguished.

Let’s go to the examination of the dress (the color) and its intensity. It can be pale, average, intense. You must know that the dress evolves with time. For the reds, the dress of a young wine will be rather purplish while that of a very old wine will have brick tones.

Red wine dress: purple, ruby, garnet, brown

For white wines, a young wine has green highlights to become amber for the older ones.

White wine dress: lemon, gold, amber, brown

For the roses, a purplish pink is a sign of youth whereas if it turns on the orange tones, it will be older. The color of the wine will allow you to get a rough idea of ​​the age of the wine but be careful not to make it a rule because there are many exceptions depending on the grape varieties used, the regions and methods of winemaking. Now tilt and then straighten the glass and observe how the liquid comes down along the walls to determine its viscosity. A wine with a good degree of alcohol and / or a good sugar content will slip forming drops that are called tears. Expect a certain roundness in the mouth. Otherwise, the wine will be rather lively. If you enjoy a sparkling wine, watch the size and abundance of bubbles that tend to reveal the finesse and smoothness of the wine.

The First Nose

Go there, do not be afraid, plunge your nose into the glass and inhale. At this point determine what is your first impression? Is it frank or “doubtful”? If you are already able to determine certain aromas we say that the wine is open or otherwise it will be closed. Do not necessarily seek to immediately identify specific flavors but rather a trend. Families: floral, green / red / citrus fruit, citrus, spice, vegetal, mineral.

The Second Nose

Rotate the wine in your glass to bring it into contact with the air and release the aromas it contains. If you notice a much higher aromatic intensity may be necessary to consider decanting. If not, do not carafe it; the wine has reached maturity and oxygenating it would only degrade it. Continue your sensory analysis, if you had already identified a family of aromas at the first nose, try to determine aromas more precisely.

Here is a list summarizing the most common flavors you are likely to encounter in wine.

  1. Fruity;  Raspberry, Cherry, Cassis, blackberry, Apricot, Lemon, Orange, Peach, Perry,  Apple, Grapefruit, Mandarin,  Fig, Mango, Pineapple etc
  2. Floral; Violet, Pink, Honey, Acacia, lime, Hawthorn, Jasmine, Chamomile.
  3. Vegetal; Mushroom, hay, Grass, Undergrowth, etc
  4. Spice; Cinnamon, Pepper, nutmeg, Licorice, Laurel, etc
  5. Wooded; Bark, Pine, Fir, Cedar, Vanilla, Resin.
  6. The Taste Examination

If the olfactory examination is quite personal because it appeals to your own experience, the taste test is much less. The sensitive areas of the tongue Indeed, the different parts of your language (see diagram) will bring you additional complementary sensations: sweet, salty, acidity and bitterness. The tannins will be detected mainly by your gums. The sensitivity of these mouth areas varies between each individual, it is important to turn the wine well in the mouth. Just like the first nose, watch your first sensation. Is she disappointing or outspoken and intense? Subsequently determine if the wine is rather acidic or mellow. The acidity salivates the mouth and makes the wine lively and refreshing. The wine always in the mouth, inhale a trickle of air to reactivate the aromas. Your palate communicating directly with your olfactory glands located in your nose, the sensations will be even more intense.

The tasting is over, you are now able to judge the quality of a wine and to explain the reasons that make you appreciate it or not. Before any final judgment, make a good distinction between your personal taste and the quality of the wine (it is not because you do not like acidic wines that the one you have just tasted is bad).

If the wine has no defect, some criteria make the difference between a mediocre wine, a good wine and a grand cru:

Balance: too much fruit and sugar can be disgusting. On the other hand, excess acidity and tannins make the wine unpleasant and austere. It is therefore necessary that these four parameters are in perfect harmony.

The Length: Once swallowed, or spat out, the wine can leave lingering aromas in the mouth. This is called length. It is expressed in caudalie (a caudalie = a second). Note, the length must not take into account the acidity, the bitterness, or the sweetness but only the aromas. We begin to speak of quality wine when its length in the mouth reaches between 8 and 10 caudalies. The greatest wines can reach up to 20 caudalies, you can imagine.

The Complexity: Wines with one or two simple flavors can become boring quickly. A quality wine will have multiple aromatic nuances.

The Expression: A wine of less quality gives the impression that it can come from anywhere and have been made from any variety. A great wine will express the quality of the grape used or its region of production. You now have all the elements that will allow you to express all the sensations provided by the wines you will taste. Exercise regularly and work your senses, because only a regular training will allow you to progress.

Once you’re feeling confident, or wish to pursue more information about wine tastings, visit any one of the stops along the Verde Valley Wine Trail and get a delicious high education in wine.


Be sure to follow our blog Wine101 for great ideas and keep up with the news and current events on our Facebook and Twitter!