The art of wine-testing
Wine-tasting is the art of ‘sampling’ or ‘tasting’ a wine. Subjecting it to the scrutiny of our senses, assessing it with the help of our memory and expressing our judgement of its quality with the aid of a specialist ‘vocabulary’, which enables us to describe its distinctive features.
Without taking into account each individual’s subjective criteria, our final judgement is based on the pleasure we derive from the wine we are tasting. And this pleasure consists in the combination of impressions we receive from the colour, aroma and flavour of the wine. So these are the three characteristics we must examine.
First of all: the colour of the wine
We tilt the glass in front of a white background to observe the intensity and variation of hue in the colour – giving us an initial indication of its taste and often also an idea of its age. ‘Young’ white wines, for example, have a bright whitish-yellow colour. But as time passes the colour turns to a more intense yellow or gold, eventually acquiring the chestnut hue which is a sign that the wine has aged. On the other hand, in a red wine a deep purple colour is a sign that the wine is young. But if we can observe orange and chestnut reflections on the rim of the glass, we can conclude that the ageing process is more advanced – the more reflections, the older the wine.
The second feature of the wine to be subjected to scrutiny is its aroma
The best way to determine the aroma of the wine is to turn the glass carefully and then sniff the air above it. We are attempting to determine: The intensity of the aroma. Is it intense, moderate or weak? Its quality. Is it common or refined? Its character. Is it redolent of flowers, fruit, nuts, or perhaps spices, cocoa, tobacco? The aroma of a wine is a complex phenomenon, owing to the presence of a large number of aromatic constituents.
The final characteristic is the flavour
We take a sip of the wine and roll it around on our tongue before swallowing it. As we do this we note the distinctive initial impression of the wine on the palate and try to describe the ‘sensation’ it creates in us. Is it warm, delicate? Does it have an agreeable flavour? Does it leave a smooth aftertaste on the palate or is the sensation coarse and acrid?
As we gradually acquire experience we will begin to appreciate the features which differentiate the wines we taste. And then we will wish to talk about the wines, to describe them and fix them in our memory. What we need now is a special vocabulary allowing us to describe with precision the sensations caused by each wine.
Immature:a very new wine, with a very high acid content
Velvety:a soft wine, agreeable to the palate
Bouchonne or Corked:used to describe a wine whose smell and flavour are spoiled by a bad cork.
Generous:a strongly alcoholic, aromatic, full-flavoured wine.
Balanced:a wine whose various flavours are in pleasant harmony.
Soft:a wine without irritating acidity and acridity of flavour.
Zesty/skittish:a wine with pronounced acidity.
Bite:high acidity in a wine.
Harsh, tannic:a wine with the tart taste of tannins
Rounded:a full-bodied wine with a velvety flavour; none of the individual flavours dominate, none is overshadowed by the others.
Full-bodied:a wine rich in constituents that fills the mouth with flavour.