Wine Tasting 101



People that I often encounter say they can’t tell the difference between one wine or another. They comment on how it “just tastes like wine or simply, grapes”… Well the key to becoming a “conscious” taster and having fun with wine tasting itself is to pay attention to a wine when tasting it, learn a few key terms and follow some simple techniques. The only real way to get comfortable with the differences is to taste a lot of wine (which is not too bad)… And remember, don’t just drink wine to chug it down and get drunk! Wine is poetry in a bottle, enjoy and savor it.

First off, I will guide you through what acids are. You must have heard mention of them, right? Acids are considered desirable in a wine, and are present in virtually all wines. Malic (green apple), tartaric (cream of tartar), and citric acids are the three most common acids found in wine. Acidity in wine is detected by the feel the wine makes in your mouth. Much like the sensation you get biting into an apple, drinking a glass of lemonade or grapefruit juice. Acidity in wine stimulates the salivary glands in your cheeks to produce saliva.

Tannins, much like acidity in a wine are most easily recognized by their mouth feel. Common in red wine and rare in white wine, tannins are a group of polyphenolic compounds found mainly in grape skins that exhibit the common characteristic of being highly reactive. The reactive nature of tannins produce a puckering astringency on the walls of the mouth, best described as “cotton mouth”. Think of tannins as dry mouth, the opposite of salivation with acidity. Similar to acids, tannins help balance a wine. Tannins provide a contrast to sugars and acids, affecting how sweet or dry a wine tastes. Wines with lots of tannins and fruit aromas are described as being “big”, “bold”, “powerful” or even “massive” wines. Some people prefer wines with more tannins some don’t. Wine is a very personal choice…

The technique is rather simple and refered to as the 5 s’s of wine tasting…

Hold the glass up in the light, in front of your eyes, and tilt it slightly towards you. The color of the wine can tell you something about its age, where it comes from, and its concentration. Wines from cooler climates tend to be lighter in color (color not as intense) as wines from hotter climates.

Swirling the wine in your glass aerates it, bringing oxygen into the wine and allowing it to release its aroma. Remember the wine has been bottled up hermetically for quite some time…

Smell is the most important component of wine tasting. It is often referred to as the “bouquet” or “nose” of a wine. By smelling before sipping, your brain sends a signal to your mouth and communicates senses…

Sip in order to bring the full flavor of the wine to the palate. Be sure to move the wine around in your mouth to cover all of your taste buds. You’ll be able to taste the fruit and varietal characteristics, the acidity, the tannins, and the aftertaste. A long, pleasing aftertaste, or finish, is a sign of a quality wine.

The flavor of wine is associated with the combination of experiences from the senses of sight, smell, and taste. Taste is the way in which the flavor is experienced in the mouth. This may match or differ from the aroma experienced in the nose. The human tongue can detect variances in acidity, bitterness, and sweetness levels in wines. Sit back for a few minutes and savor the taste.

Well, I hope this has been helpful and demystifying… Good luck and remember that practice makes a pro!

Categories: Wine Wisdom

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