Practically anyone can be a good taster! Here are a few tips to get the most out of the experience of tasting wine:
– Make sure you use a good wine glass for tasting – a shape a bit like a tulip is ideal, curving in towards the rim. This will help concentrate the aromas.
– Ensure the wine is at a reasonable temperature before tasting i.e. the whites are not too cold and the reds not too warm, otherwise you can lose the aromatic definition and structure. For whites, cool rather than cold and for reds slightly cool (cellar temperature) is often better than slightly warm!
When you are tasting wine, don’t be afraid to use a spittoon. If you are at a vineyard and intend to taste lots of wines, the winemakers will probably expect you to spit rather than swallow.
We can judge a wine based on the following three things:
Appearance: How the wine looks. Is it bright? How deep or pale is the colour? Any fading to the rim?
Nose: How does the wine smell? Is the wine clean (i.e. fault free)? Can you pick out certain aromas? What do they mean?
Palate: How does the wine taste in the mouth? What flavours and textures can you taste? What do they mean?
When tasting wine, take a quantity of wine into your mouth. A tablespoon full is ideal. Run the wine round your mouth, almost crunching or chewing it, ensuring that all your taste buds get a chance work on it!
Whilst doing this, try and draw in air through your mouth. This helps to release more flavours and aromas whilst the wine is in your mouth.
After spitting or swallowing, think about the length of time the flavours remain in your mouth. The longer the flavours prevail, the better the quality is.
To judge how good the wine is try to think about three key things – the concentration (the depth of fruit flavour), the balance (of acid, tannin, fruit and oak, if used) and the length (how long you can taste the wine after swallowing).
Finally, don’t hesitate to give the wine a score – out of 5, 20 or 100, whatever you prefer. This will help you assess the quality when you glance back at your notes.
Storing your wine
A cellar under the ground is ideal, but not everyone has access to such facilities. Try to find a spot which has a reasonably consistent temperature. The ideal would be between 10-15 degrees. It is important that wild fluctuations in temperature are avoided. Below -4 degrees and above 30 degrees could result in the cork pushing out of the bottle, fatally allowing air into the wine. A wine maturing at lowish temperatures will result in slow (but interesting) evolution. A wine stored at higher temperatures will result in faster maturation and perhaps less interesting aromas and flavours.
Your cellar should also be dark, as wine can be damaged by light, and vibration free. A little humidity is is good as this will help prevent the corks from drying out.