THE ESSENTIALS OF WINE TASTING
with SHELVED WINE
“Do you want to know how to taste a wine? Discover more about its colour? Do you know the steps to understand the secrets of a wine? Every wine is different and tells us something”. Follow this Wine Tasting guide by Shelved Wine.
EVERY WINE IS DIFFERENT, so everyone has to tell us different things. If is it true it means that it has something to tell about the others already drunk. Never give anything for granted when you have a glass of wine in your hands because you will always have some great surprises!
I’ll tell you the first steps to follow for a wine tasting. Are you ready?
BEFORE WINE TASTING
But first, let me give you some advice before the beginning!
A – SHOULD BE CURIOUS: you will clash with the huge wine world, and you have to open your mind
B – BE CONCENTRATED: do not approach the wine if you do not want to be concentrated. Sometimes wine producers took years to produce that product, how can you get closer to it? Be focused!
C – FORGET YOUR TASTE: to learn how to taste a wine you have to accept the idea of understanding also kind of wines that are not part of your preferences. Otherwise, you drink an ice cold beer!
I have also some practical suggestions. They may seem discounted, but that is not the case!
A – DO NOT EAT HEAVY FOOD: bad digestion is not a friend of tasting.
B – DO NOT USE FRAGRANCES: you must feel the wine scent, not yours!
C – DO NOT SMOKE: I’m sure you know that smoking alters flavours and smells.
The tasting of wine is divided into three parts, following a logic of steps that will lead you to understand the wine in its true soul. To do it best you have to put in your way the senses that will help you during the tasting. Let me show you three wine tasting pilasters.
A – VISUAL EXAMINATION
The colour is the first thing you notice about a wine but is not enough. So pour the wine to a third of the glass, take it from the stem and bring it in front of your eyes. Start the visual tasting!
• CLEARNESS: turn the glass toward a source of light and check its colour and how clear it is. You have to note if the wine is completely clear or if it has some particles in suspension. If you see some particles may be normal, in case of aged or not filtered the wine, or it may be a defect in case of younger and filtered wines.
• COLOUR: get the WINE COLOUR GRADATION. Say that the wine you’re drinking is red is not enough. Which kind of red is it? Ruby red or Garnet red? It also can have purple or orange shades. In the case of a white wine, ask yourself if it retains a pale or golden yellow colour. I’m pretty sure that you can recognize also amber or greenish reflections.
• CONSISTENCY: if you are tasting a non-sparkling wine, move it in the glass and stop looking at how it “smear” the glass. You will see curved lines, called legs, which will go down, creating tears. This indicates the texture of the wine and gives you an idea of its alcoholicity.
• FIZZ: if you taste a sparkling wine, note how many bubbles go up in the glass. Bubbles can be thin or not, fast or slow, numerous or few. The most important thing is that they last for a long time!
B – OLFACTIVE EXAMINATION
After the sight, you have to test the smell. Bring the glass to the nose, at the beginning you will feel many scents and it will not be easy to understand them all. First of all, look for fragrances of fruits, herbs and spices because many hints in wine remind these elements. Start with the ones you know best.
• INTENSITY: the scents of wine spring in the glass faster or slower. You need to determine if the fragrances are defence or really intense.
• COMPLEXITY: after you understood the strength of the fragrances, look for how many fragrances you find in the wine. Fruity, floral, spicy. Not all wines have many families of perfumes, it depends on their quality and ageing. More perfumes are in the wine plus it is complex.
• FINESSE: even if you did not understand all the scents, ask if those you felt look nice or unpleasant. Do the wine smell strange? If everything seems right, judge the whole set of perfumes.
• DESCRIPTION: there are so many scents in a wine. What do you feel? Fruity, floral, spicy, herbaceous or what else? Do not worry if you do not feel them all! With the workout, you will improve.
C – TASTE EXAMINATION
Time to taste has finally come to complete the tasting. Is this the most important step? Not always, but certainly it is the funniest one. Let’s see together what are the points to look at with Shelved Wine.
• SUGAR: not all wines have a dry taste, in fact, there are also sweet wines. It is easy to perceive sweetness, so ask yourself: is this wine dry, sweet or in the middle?
• HEAT: another important feature of wine is alcohol content. It is not true that a good wine must have a lot of alcohol. Alcohol changes its perception based also on evolution and ageing.
• ROUNDNESS: what characteristic prevails in your wine? Is it sharp in the mouth or wraps the palate in a velvety way? White and sparkling wines will tend to be sharp, while red ones will result softer.
• ACIDITY: the wine has a basic acid PH, but it must be of interest if that acidity gives freshness and salivation to the mouth. Do you feel this salivation? If the answer is yes, how long does it last? In a white wine, acidity is crucial, while in red wine you find it less and it depends generally on the grapes variety.
• TANNINS: be careful! This is a feature that is valued only for red wines. White wines do not have tannins (most of the time…). Does your red wine give you a strong feeling of abstinence and bitterness or not? Make your assessment about how much this sip of wine lets your mouth sweep.
• MINERALS: often you will find mineral notes in the wine, due to the soil where the vineyards grew-up. They make the wine flavour saline and crisp. Is the wine you are drinking tasty? Or does it seem completely shaky? Fine flavour is pleasing to all wines, but especially for white wines is a key feature.
• STRUCTURE: It is a synthesis of the precedents because it tells the “body of wine” as it is structured with respect to typology. Is the wine in the mouth light or pasty? Some long-aged red wines almost give the feeling of chewing. How do you feel?
• BALANCE: a balanced taste is an asset in wine. What does that mean? If a wine has too much alcohol it will not be balanced, as if it has many tannins but very little softness. Some wines come to balance after years of ageing.
• INTENSITY: is this wine intense on your palate? And how much it is intense? Obviously more salt intensity and more wine will be of value. Obviously, the more wine will be intense, the more it will be valuable.
• PERSISTENCE: it is pleasant when the taste of wine remains on the palate for many seconds, right? This is persistence. The longer the taste of the wine remains and the more it persists.
• EVOLUTION/AGING: this is a very personal evaluation. It depends on your taste. Do you prefer to drink young wines when they are still fresh and full of acidity or not? Ripe wines are sometimes more difficult to understand but they always have great surprises.
• HARMONY: it is a definition that encloses all the others. If everything follows a logical consequence then the wine will be harmonious. Otherwise no. You have to do a lot of practice for this, so drink more wine!
Now you know all that you have to think about when you taste a glass of wine. Does it seem tough to you?
In the next article, we will go more specifically, step by step.
For the moment drink good wines, invite friends and follow Shelved Wine 😉
Article of MORRIS LAZZONI