Three senses—sight, smell and taste—are used to appreciate the qualities of a wine.
The visual examination begins when the wine is poured. At this moment, foam that forms on red wine’s surface is coloured (violet red) when it’s a young wine, and essentially colourless (white) when it’s older.
Observe the wine’s surface. A soiled surface (dust, oil, etc.) can distort the examination.
By slightly tilting the glass and observing the colour of the wine (preferably against a white background), a number of characteristics can be identified:
- Colour intensity
Olfactory impressions are affected by three elements:
- The shape and capacity of the glass: Wine’s aromas are better channelled to the taster’s nose if the glass has a narrow opening. A good tasting glass has a total capacity of 220 to 310 ml.
- The volume of wine in the glass: When tasting, pour out 60 to 110 ml of wine, enough to allow for proper agitation and ample expression of aromas. It should fill at least 20 percent of the glass, but not more than 40 percent.
- Agitation: By swirling the wine in the glass, the expression of aromas increases enormously.
A two-sniff technique is used to get olfactory impressions: With the first sniff, before the wine is swirled, you’ll smell the lighter aromas, the delicate and subtle perfumes. The second, after a good swirl to boost the odours, will detect the denser, heavier perfumes.
- The aromas’ degree of intensity (power of sensation)
- The kind of aroma (quality, character, type)
Take a solid sip of wine. Too much, and you’ll have trouble keeping it in your mouth and rolling it around. Too little, and the wine won’t wet your whole mouth and will be diluted by saliva.
As you sip, breathe in through your mouth, slightly open, so you can exhale the aroma. Once it’s in your mouth, swish the wine around with your tongue and crush it against your palate.
How long the wine stays in your mouth depends on the observations you’re looking to make. Two to five seconds are enough to notice the first “attack phase” impressions (sweet, salty or acid), and 10 to 15 seconds are needed to take in impressions of bitterness and tannins.
- Balance between aromas and flavours
- Balance or predominance of fundamental flavours (sweet, salty, acidic, bitter)
- Tactile impressions of the wine (viscosity, body, structure, alcohol content, astringence)
- Persistance of impressions (length in the mouth)