Wine tasting may not seem like a complicated task at first. Still, to become a professional one, you need to develop your senses to identify the different smells, flavors, and other elements. Knowing how to evaluate wine is an essential thing to understand all the different varieties that exist. If you're a wine enthusiast, it's the perfect way to find your favorite drink.
A single glass of wine can overwhelm you with its different properties at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can develop a faster way to find something that you like. Keep in mind that wine tasting has a similar principle for every variety. When you got the basics down, you may be able to taste red wine, white wine, champagne, rosé wine, and others!
The Basics of Wine Tasting
Wine tasting entails making the most out of your senses to identify every component of the wine glass. In essence, your working tool is yourself. You're mainly going to use the following senses: Sight, smell, taste, and feel.
It may not seem like it, but your eyes can tell you a lot about wine. The main things you're looking for are clarity, hue, and color depth. These factors can tell you things, such as its age, the grape varietals, acid and alcohol components, and the approximate climate in which the wine was grown. You can view the glass from different sides, and each one is going to tell you something different about it. For example, if you tilt your glass toward you, you can identify the wine's approximate age; in red wine, if the glass has a vibrant color and has little translucence, it's probably young in age. However, if it looks orange on the edges or it loses color, it may suggest that the wine is several years old.
If you look at the glass from the side, you can identify if the wine was adequately filtered. If the wine has a lot of 'stuff' in it, it may have fermentation issues. Last but not least, you can give the glass a subtle swirl to identify additional components such as the wine legs or viscosity. If the wine legs have a high viscosity rate, the drink is probably high in alcohol and glycerin. This means that they are riper, bigger, and denser. Overall, the sight test takes a few seconds once you get the hang of it. When you master the skill, you're ready to go into the next step.
Smelling the wine is a bit trickier than looking at it, but it's not too complicated. The first thing that you need to understand is that you don't need to bury your nose into the drink to identify the smells. The best way to do this is to alternate between short and long sniffs. Smelling can tell you the age of the wine and the climate in which it was grown.
A single glass of wine can have many smells; that's why it's difficult to identify everything, so try to go slowly at first. There are three types of aromas that you can identify, the primary ones, the secondary ones, and the tertiary ones.
The primary aromas come from the grape itself. Here, you are going to identify the fruit and flower flavors. In red wine, you can locate subtle cherry aromas, but it could vary depending on the grape. As for the secondary aromas, you can pick up most of the fermentation smells. These can vary a lot from wine to wine, so it's normal if you don't pick them up right away. In most cases, you are going to pick up "yeasty" smells, such as beer and cheese rind. Last but not least, the tertiary aromas refer to the smells that come from the aging process. If the wine was aged in oak, it's probably going to have a slight vanilla aroma. For example: In vintage Champagne, you can find nutty aromas. Overall, you can find these aromas in a glass of wine: Floral, nutty, chemical, fruity, and yeasty.
Taste and Feel
This is the final step in wine tasting, and it involves a basic concept: Drinking. You need to pay attention to the following factors: Alcohol, acidity, sweetness, tannin, and wine body. These can tell you how the wine was aged and how long it can age without getting spoiled. You can also determine the intensity of the wine and the ripe grade of the grapes. As for the "Feel" part, it's about identifying how the wine feels in your mouth. For example, if the wine has a high alcohol rate, it can feel denser and with more texture. You can also feel the tannins in the center on your tongue.
Keep in mind that as with the smelling, you are going to pick up many flavors, and you have to work through them to identify them more accurately. Alternate between small and big sips to isolate each flavor.
Identifying Specific Types of Wines
Red Wine – Red wine is usually dark in color, and it may vary from dark purple to red. The best way to identify the color is by tilting the glass towards you. As for the aromas and flavor, the most common ones are fruits such as blackberry, cherry, and plum. You can also find subtle touches of green pepper and mushroom, chocolate, coffee, spices, oak, vanilla, and pine. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, etc.)
Rosé Wine – As the name suggests, rosé wine has a pale pink color that can go toward a slight orange tone. You can find many kinds of fruit flavors and aromas, such as pineapple, mango, peach, strawberry candy, cherry, etc. Overall, rosé wine feels tender in the mouth, and it has a refreshing taste. (Grenache Rosé, Tempranillo Rosé, Syrah Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, etc.)
Sparkling Wine (Champagne) – All kinds of champagne are known as sparkling wine. This type of wine can taste either sour or sweet; most bottles indicate the acidity level. As for the look, it's mostly a clear or opaque golden color, alongside small to large bubbles. The most common aromas and flavors are cinnamon, mint, tobacco, grapefruit, lemon, apricots, apples, pears, strawberries, and peaches. You can also taste a slight touch of gingerbread, straw, or biscuits. (Brut, Demi-Sec, Blanc de Noirs, Brut Millésimé, etc.)
White Wine – White wine has a slight variation of colors; it can look from yellow to gold tones. This type of wine is usually more light-bodied than red wine, and they provide a refreshing pear, lemon, or apple taste, alongside floral aromas. (Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, etc.)
Dessert Wine – A dessert wine fortifies the product with spirits, giving them a sweeter taste. As the name suggests, they work perfectly as a companion to desserts. You can find them in various color hues, and you can find many flavors, such as peach, pear, honey, ginger, or spices. (Ice Wine, Moscato d'Asti, Sauternes, Rutherglen Muscat, etc.)
Keep in mind that there are many different types of wines, and not every kind has the same properties. If you're a wine enthusiast, the best thing to do would be to go to a wine tasting event and start practicing your skills.
Becoming a professional wine taster takes time, and you may take a lot of time to identify and evaluate a specific type of wine at first. However, if you occasionally practice, you are going to be able to profile a particular wine in a matter of minutes.