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Top principles and steps of wine tasting

by | Dec 9, 2018

Have you ever wished you could taste a wine like a pro and uncover all its secrets? Read on to discover the method and different steps of wine tasting.

More than an art, wine tasting is really a moment of pleasure. In order to experience the complexity and expression of a wine, however, it is crucial to acquire a little bit of basic knowledge. Conditions, steps, appraisal, we will provide you with all the key insights required to effectively decipher a wine and show off a little on Saturday evenings over drinks or dinner.

I – The key steps of wine tasting

In order to successfully taste and appreciate a wine, there are few principles you must follow. First of all, using adequate material is crucial. Getting specific wine glasses is the first crucial step of a tasting. Last November, during a wine fair called “Sous les pavés de la vigne”, a winemaker even told his team “the glass is 80% of the wine tasting”. INAO glasses are a base requirement in order to enjoy all the aromas the wine has to offer. Other glasses with specific characteristics exist to accommodate particular wines, especially great wines, and let them express the wide range of aromas they can deliver. 

Once you’ve validated the glass, special attention must be paid to the environment: you must be surrounded with neutral scents and benefit from natural lighting, to better observe a wine’s colour. A white background or piece of white paper will be very helpful in observing all the subtleties of a wine’s appearance. Wine writers even speak of dinners during which they saw one of the gentlemen present roll up the sleeve of his smoking jacket to inspect the colour of the wine in his glass against the immaculate white background of his shirt sleeve!

Once all these requirements are satisfied, it is time to proceed to the wine tasting, but in a specific and important order which will depend on the wines you’ve chosen to explore. Generally, you would begin with dry white wines, followed by rosé, then red, and finish with sweet wines and liquors. You mustn’t forget to keep a sharp eye on temperature as the wine is served. To get this right, ask the staff in wine cellars who will certainly be able to give you a recommendation.

II – Wine and the delicate art of making it twirl

The visual step of appreciating a wine is seriously underrated, when really it deserves to capture all of our attention. To master this first step is to uncover a great deal of information, such as the age of a wine, details about its geography and origin, and even the amount of alcohol it contains.

 

If you tip the glass 45°, you will be able to better admire a crucial element: the colour and intensity of the wine. For white wines, the colours will range from translucent to straw to deep gold. Rosés can appear to be any variation of grey, faded salmon, or raspberry pink, while red wines vary from vibrant ruby to brick red, sometimes diverting towards the deep purples.

The hues observed in a wine will give us an clue on the age of the wine.  Green hues in white wine and bluish hues in reds will indicate youth, whereas silvery hues in a white wine and copper, crimson hues in a red will betray its age.

Finally, if you delicately swirl the wine around in your glass, you will discover what we call the legs of wine. That’s right, a wine can surprise you with its fine legs. They look like tears running down the side of you glass when you hold it upright again, and they betray the level of alcohol which is escaping through these discreet trails.

III – The bouquet and aromas

The nose, or bouquet of a wine must be examined in three stages. An exhaustive approach will ensure the wine surrenders all the delightful (and not so delightful) scents it conceals.

During the first exposure of a wine’s aromas, we keep an eye out for potential flaws and the initial aromas. To do this, you simply give it a sniff before even swirling it around. There are 6 main flaws to look for, the most famous of which is the scent of corked wine. You may also encounter a certain scent which some commonly compare to horses or stables, or oxidation, where wine will smell like chards and lose some of its colour and aroma. Other relatively common flaws include volatile acidity (nail polish, glue), a smell comparable to a musty and humid environment, and what is referred to as beady, or slightly gassy wine, which, surprisingly enough, is sometimes appreciated. This last flaw can be corrected by sharply tossing the wine around or by transferring it to a decanter.

The “second nose”, or second exhibition of the wine’s aromas, will help you decipher the subtler aromas or the aroma families. If you are struggling to put a finger on a particular scent, try to take a step back and identify families of aromas instead. Here are the most common:

  • Fruity: citrus (lemon, grapefruit, orange), white fruit (apples, pears), yellow fruit (peach, apricot), red berries (strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry) black berries (blackberry, blueberry, blackcurrant)
  • Floral: white flowers (acacia, hawthorn, jasmine), lime tree, violet, iris, peony, rose
  • Green or vegetal aromas: forest floor, mushroom, scrubland, thyme, moss, ferns
  • Spice: pepper, clove, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, liquorice
  • Mineral: granite, iodine, gasoline, flint
  • Strong and bitter: burnt, toasted aromas, woods, coffee, cacao, caramel, tobacco

The third and last « nose » which the wine will reveal gives you an opportunity to notice the evolution of aromas, since they will shift with time. After a few moments, take another sniff at the wine in your glass, it will probably have opened up and be offering new aromas for you to discover.

IV – Gustatory bliss

You are now prepared, excited, and impatient to bring this delicate liquor to your lips. By this stage, you are certain the wine doesn’t have any major flaws and awaits but your imminent satisfaction. Move on to the next stage with confidence, but keep paying attention to what your senses are telling you.

            The quality of the wine in terms of taste is the first thing you will feel. As you analyse the “attack”, or initial pang of flavour, the mid-tasting feel and the lasting flavours, you can create a comprehensive panel of flavours and sensations you will or won’t appreciate. Try and identify whether the aromas you identified in the previous step carry on to the palate, as they say.

            The second parameter you might think about has to do with balance, whether the sensations you feel weigh each other out or whether one dominates. For white wines you look at acidity, sweetness and alcohol, and for reds you must also consider tannin. An unbalanced wine isn’t necessarily bad, some are actually designed to be more acidic, for example, and very much appreciated. More generally, however, a delicately balanced wine is valued and conveys an agreeable harmony.

Et voilà, vous savez l’essentiel de la dégustation !

            N’hésitez pas à partager cet article avec un maximum de monde afin de connaître les clefs de la dégustation. N’oubliez pas que le vin ça se déguste mais ça se partage, c’est le plus important. Aller chez un caviste vous permettra de savoir dans quelles conditions déguster un vin et avec quoi l’associer au mieux. Vous rendre dans un bar à vin vous permettra de déguster dans des conditions optimales. Alors n’hésitez plus à faire la démarche ! Faites-vous plaisir, mais toujours, faites attention, l’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé ! 

Bonne dégustation et n’hésitez pas à commenter ce que vous aimez déguster 

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