This is what wine tasting is about !
Wine tastings have become a common practice.
They are organized with great regularity, but quite often the explanation of how, what and where is very insufficient or lacking at all. We will try to give you some insight. Wine is natural product. All aromas come from the grape juice. They develop during the fermentation or later on in the wine as a result of the reaction between several components of that wine or reactions with oxygen. The only aroma that can be added is the one of oak. Aging the wine in oak barrels does this. Hence, all aromas are purely natural!
There are a few basic rules that should be observed for any serious wine tasting:
- A clean, quiet and well ventilated space without any odours
- Good light
- Clean glasses, preferably tulip shaped
- Spittoons, or a bucket with sawdust or wood-wool
- Sufficient room for every taster to take notes
- For a blind tasting all wines should be in the same type of
- No perfume or after-shave please
- Some bread or dry crackers and water
These rules may appear to be simple, but only at very few tastings all of them are being respected.
In the now following explanation about the how and what of tasting, some French expressions will be used. Simply because they are hard to translate. We hope you will have some knowledge of the French language and/or a rich imagination.
THE SENSES :
Three organs are used during the process of wine tasting: EYES, NOSE, and PALATE.
We use our eyes to judge the wine's:
Two aspects can be judged: the intensity and the hue of a colour. Often these two aspects are combined. The best way to judge the colour is with a white, well lighted background.
• White wine:
Intensity: watery, pale, clear, deep, dark
Hue: greenish, straw, gold, amber, yellow brown, orange
• Rosé wine:
Intensity: gris (very light), pale, clear, deep, dark
Hue: gris, violet pink, orange pink (pelure d'oignon), amber, brownish
• Red wine:
Intensity: clear, profound, dark, dull
Hue: violet, ruby, garnet, tile, reddish brown, brown
cloudy, slightly cloudy, hazy, clear
dull, brilliant, crystal clear (observe with a source of light)
liquid, dense, thick, syrupy
In this case the tears of the wine are used as an indication. They form a thin film that goes down after swirling the wine in the glass.
The nose is a very sensitive organ. It plays an extremely important role in wine tasting. Elements like mercaptane can be registered by even one nanogram per liter of air. The nose registers aromatic signals in two ways:
1) By olfaction - aromas that are registered by inhaling the air through the nose
2) By retroolfaction - aromas that enter the nose through the mouth.
Olfactive examination of aromas:
Intensity: very weak, weak, average, slightly aromatic, aromatic, strong.
Quality: simple, rich, complex, faulty, coarse, ordinary, remarkable, fine, very fine.
Character: indicates the type of aroma. There are several ways of defining them, like fresh fruit, transformed fruit (boiled, preserve etc.), dried fruit...
Aroma groups include:
Floral: acacia, violets, daffodil, hyacinth, rose, blossom....
Fruit: apricot, banana, black currant, (stewing) pear, strawberry, lemon, red currant, raspberry, peach, apple, cherry, grape...
Dried fruit: hazelnut, walnut, prune, fig, almond....
Plants: grass, fern, mowed grass, mint, pine, resin, tobacco, ginger, humus, mushroom, moss, eucalyptus....
Herbs and spices: cinnamon, laurel, thyme, basil, pepper, nutmeg, truffle....
Animal: musk, leather, foxy, fur, chicken coop, gamy, jugged hare....
Roasted: biscuit, grilled almonds, toasted bread, coffee....
Bakery: vanilla, anise, bergamot, peardrups, liquorice...
Other: caramel, cacao, tea, honey, smoky, bee wax, beer, butter, eau de vie, kirsch, ashes, dust...
The palate has many zones that detect flavour components:
tongue (sweet, sour, salty and bitter), mucous membranes, gums (dry, tannic), nose, throat (sharpness, length) and cheeks. They allow us tot register properties like texture (thin, round, clinging), thermal sensations (warm or cold) or chemical sensations like the drying astringency of the tannins, burning alcohol or irritating acidity.
Other flavours can be identified as well, like sweetened, carbonic, bitter... Another important element of the palate is the aftertaste and its length: very long, long, average, short, or very short. The character of the aftertaste is also determined.
After judging every component, it is time for the final verdict. This verdict comprises one of the following terms and a rating:
Very well balanced, balanced, lack of balance
Very good (1), good (2), pleasant (3), average (4), mediocre (5), bad (6), very bad (7).
This way of tasting on the basis of a protocol allows the comparison of wines.
Some practical suggestions:
- Don't inhale the aroma at once, but 'nose' the wine by sniffing the air little by little.
- In order to loosen up the aromas on the palate, it is best to fill the mouth with wine and suck it in through the lips.
- Don't forget to spit out the wine. Otherwise the tasting will turn into a party.
- Take a piece of bread to neutralize the palate from time to time. In order to neutralize the nose, smell your wrist or hand (provided you didn't use any perfume or strong soap).
- Never try to taste too many wines in a row. For every taster, the number he or she can handle is different. For a novice a number of 8 wines are the limit. And keep in mind: practice makes perfect!
- Always have paper and pen available for the tasters. Don't try to influence each other. Everyone is different!