Everyone loves a good glass of wine. Whether you’re wine tasting, enjoying a tipple with friends or unwinding after a long day’s work, appreciating a fine wine isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, we can all be wine connoisseurs. It’s just about understanding what to do and how to do it.
Here are some simple steps to follow to taste and evaluate wine like an expert.
1. Ensure the conditions are right
If you’ve ever been on a wine-tasting experience, you’ll note that there are some factors they try to control. Temperature is a big one – the temperature of the room and of the wine itself. Wineries also try to control the noise factor in the wine tasting area as too much noise or too many people around can actually hinder your concentration levels.
Additionally, you’ll note that many wine-tasting areas are devoid of any smells, including those from cooking, pets and wildlife or landscaping.This is because part of the wine-tasting experience is actually smelling the wine so any other factors can hinder your ability to get a proper scent of the wine’s aromas. Finally, when it comes to the glass itself, make sure it’s not musty or smells of detergent. If the glass is musty, a good tip is to swirl some wine through it. Importantly, don’t use water as this will most definitely affect the taste.
2. Take a look at the wine
The first step is to actually look at the wine. When inspecting the liquid, check out the colour and opacity. It’s best to do this by looking at the wine from various angles. While many details, such as the vintage and grape variety will be detailed on the bottle, visually analysing the wine will give you a greater idea of its depth and body. Tilt the wine glass so the wine rolls toward the edges – this will show you the full colour range.
Looking at the wine through the side of the glass, held up to the light, will show you how clear or murky the wine is. If it’s murky, chances are it’s had some chemical or fermentation issues, or it’s a wine that is unfiltered. As a tip: a wine that looks clear with a little bit of sparkle is a good sign. Before you move on to the next step, give the glass a swirl. Why? Swirling the wine agitates it, allowing more oxygen to enter the liquid, giving you a better indication of the taste and more importantly, to release the aroma, ready for the next step.
3. Take a whiff
So often you’ll hear people referring to a wine as ‘fruity’ or ‘woody’ but what do they actually mean? Well, they’re generally talking about the scent of the wine. Remember, a lot of what we taste is heavily influenced by the smell. In fact, smelling something before we eat it actually affects how good or bad our brain believes it tastes. It’s understood that 85% of taste actually comes from our sense of smell.
To really get a good sniff of the aromas, stick your nose all the way into the glass and close your eyes. While it may seem and feel silly to close your eyes, you’ll actually notice a lot more than if you kept them open. As you’re smelling the wine, think about what you’re picking up. Are there any flaws your smelling, for example must, burnt matches or vinegar? These indicate that the wine is spoiled. If you can’t smell anything but the good stuff, it’s a positive sign. Also note of any other Fruit aromas such as cherries, plums or bananas.
Of course, the fruit you may be smelling will largely depend on whether the wine is red or white and what grape variety. Once you derived the primary aromas, there will also be some secondary aromas that come from actually making the wine, such as nut husk or cheese rind. And then there’ll be some tertiary aromas, for example, nuts, tobacco, vanilla or cedar.
As a general idea though, red wines produce smells of the earth, tobacco, spice and the forest whereas white wines develop the sweeter scents of caramel, honey and flowers.
4. Have a taste
While you may be tempted to take a big sip, don’t. When tasting wine, it’s always best to start small. Gently swish the wine around – this will release even more of the aroma – and remember, even once you swallow the wine, the aromas may change. As you taste the wine, you should start to taste the aromas that you smelled previously. You’ll also begin to determine whether the wine is balanced, harmonious, complex, evolved and complete. Really savour the wine.
Remember, a lot of the taste step is actually figuring out the texture, so if you gulp the wine down, you won’t be able to experience that element. Once you’ve tasted the wine, breathe out slowly and see how long the flavour lasts. If the flavour lingers, meaning the wine has a long finish, it’s usually an indicator of a quality wine.
At the end of the day, wine tasting should be a positive experience. At the very least, it will help you appreciate the wines you’re drinking a lot more, and help you identify wines that are old, off or spoiled, and no one wants to drink those.
We hope with this guide you’ll now be fully prepared to wine taste and evaluate confidently in front of all your friends. If not, why not practice once or twice beforehand. If you’re in the Mount Isa region, head on over to our bottle shop and grab a bottle today!
Want to partake in our Redearth Wine Dinner? Visit our event for more details!