Do you enjoy wine and want to know more about it and how to properly taste it? Wine tasting is an art, and with the proper knowledge, you can learn how to tell the difference between a bad and a good quality wine.
There is a variety of factors that matter when tasting wine. The temperature should be right, you have to look at the colour, the smell, and more. With all of this, plus knowledge about the history of wine, you will be tasting wine like an expert in a matter of no time. Let’s take a look at the three simple steps it takes to taste wine like an expert.
Step 1: Look At The Wine
The first step of the wine tasting is actually looking at the wine. You will want to hold the glass above a white background, such as a piece of paper or tablecloth.
Look at the clarity and the colour of the wine. The wine should not be murky or cloudy; it should be clear if it’s a white wine such as Gavi. White wines will naturally turn a darker or more intense golden colour when they age, but they should not be dark.
Red wine, on the other hand, will lose its colour over time. It may also have darker red sediment at the bottom of the glass or bottle, which is perfectly harmless and is the result of natural process. Older red wine may also have an orange tint to it, especially Barolo and Amarone wine.
If you’re evaluating a sparkling Italian wine, such as Prosecco or Champagne, you’ll want to pay close attention to the bubbles. Are they small or large? Do they linger or disappear shortly after being poured? Are the bubbles aggressive or soft? These are all key factors in observing Italian sparkling wine or any sparkling wine for that matter.
Step 2: Smell The Wine
Have you ever seen someone swirl their wine and then smell it? This is a crucial factor in wine tasting. After you have looked at it, next comes the swirling. You’re looking for legs or tears that run down the sides of the glass. Wines that have more alcohol and higher glycerin content will have good legs. This indicates a riper and bigger taste. Once you do the swirl technique, hover your nose over the top and take a couple of short sniffs and then remove the glass from under your nose to let your brain process the smell.
How to identify a Bad Wine?
There are a few things you should smell for:
- Burnt Matches: If the wine smells like burnt matches, this means it was bottled with a large dose of S02.
- Vinegar: If you smell vinegar, this indicates volatile acidity. This may mean the wine was oxidized or exposed to air for too long.
- Nail Polish: A nail polish scent indicates ethyl acetate.
- Brettanomyces: If you smell sweaty saddles, this indicates Brettanomyces. Too little gives the wine leathery component, and too much destroys the fruit flavor of the wine.
- Musty Attic: This means the wine has been contaminated with cork taint. It’s what they call “corked,”and It’s an unfixable flaw.
- And finally, if you smell cork or oak: this means that the wine is ‘corked’. The reason for the wine getting corked is bacteria in the cork itself, that with time develops an unpleasant aroma in wine. This can be spotted, when the bottle is opened. Sometimes one can tell it by smelling the wine, and sometimes it comes out only when tasting the wine.
Primary aromas are split into herbs, flowers, fruit, and even vegetable-style scents. In white wine and rose wine, you will most likely smell fruits such as lemon, pear, cherry, and strawberry. You may also smell orange, grapefruit, quince, peach, and apples.
Red wines will smell like strawberries, red plum, and red cherries. If it’s a deeper red wine, it will smell like black cherry, blackberries, blueberries, and plums.
Wine may also smell of parsley, mint, bay leaves, and cut grass. These are herbal aromas.
Lastly, you may smell flowers. These are floral aromas such as jasmine, rose, honeysuckle, and violet. Floral scents are described as soft and fresh. A Muscat will smell like orange blossom, Torrontes will smell like honeysuckle and jasmine, a Pinot Noir will smell like rose petals and a mature Pinot Noir may smell of violet.
A secondary aroma is what you smell when there are chemical changes in the wine due to the fermentation process. In secondary wine bouquets, there may be a yeast or fungal overtone. It may have a sourdough, yogurt, creme fraiche, beer, parmesan, mushroom, soy sauce, or yeast aroma.
Some may call Brettanomyces a wine flaw, but most experts appreciate the bouquet the Brett provides. This can include cloves, spice, bacon, and wild game at its best and bad cheese, a band-aid, barnyard, and sweaty socks at its worst.
Malolactic fermentation is another reason for secondary aromas. Rather than being from yeast, it’s from a type of bacteria. This can create a bouquet of aromas that include butter, cream, chocolate, and hazelnut. On the other hand, if not properly handled, you may smell fetid milk, sweat, bad butter, or sauerkraut.
Tertiary aromas stem from wine aging. Two main elements of the aging of wine are the exposure to both oak and oxygen.
If the wine has been exposed to oxygen, you will smell roasted peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts. If the wine was exposed to oak, it would smell vanilla, cinnamon, molasses, allspice, cedar, and clove.
Step 3: Taste the Wine
Finally, after observing and smelling the wine, it’s time to taste it. You’ll want to take a small sip as if you were drinking it out of a straw. You’ll want to taste for balance. It needs to have the necessary flavor components in proper proportions. We can taste salty, bitter, sour, and sweet. Is your wine tannic, fresh, smooth, dry, or sweet? White wine and dessert wine will usually taste sweet, whereas a tannic wine will be bitter.
A dry wine, such as Chianti, will put off a variety of flavors that come from the aromas you wafted. They should not be too sugary, sour, astringent, bitter, or bitter. If you taste any of this in a young wine, it may not age. If you taste it in aged wine, it may be falling apart or maybe gone entirely.
You also want the wine to be harmonious. All of the flavors will come together beautifully, but they should all be able to stick out individually. This is a sign of exquisite winemaking.
Temperature Is Everything
Temperature means everything when it comes to wine, both tasting and keeping. Avoid the wine to be too cold – low temperature hides wine aromas and makes red wines taste more tannic and astringent. Too high temperature will not be pleasant for either white or red either. Ideal temperature for tasting sparkling and white wine is 8-10 degrees Celsius, and red wines - 18-20 degrees Celsius. This will allow the wine to show a beautiful bouquet of aroma and complexity.
There are a few aspects of the wine tasting experience to think about once you’re done. Was the wine harmonious and pleasant to drink? Or did it leave a bitter, unpleasant taste in your mouth and your mind? Make sure you remember what you liked and did not like and why. Did you like the smell? Did the scent match the taste? If you follow the steps above and try to take them when tasting wine, you will be able to sniff out a great wine anywhere you go.