To fully enjoy all the complex aromas of wine, it is necessary to take time to enjoy all of its aspects. From the view to its texture, let’s learn together how to taste.
This is an old French word that means ‘watch’. In fact, the look is highly important and can tell a lot of things about the wine you are about to drink. First, carefully look at its color. If it is a white wine, you will see either a green or yellow highlight on the edges. If it is a red wine, you will notice either a purple or orange highlight on the edges. This indicates how old it is.
If the wine is young (up to 2 years depending on the grape variety), the highlight will be green for white, or purple for red. If it is older (from 2 to 4 years depending on the variety, conservation, production,…) it will be more or less yellow/orange.
To be able to see all of its details, hold your glass onto a white/light color surface in a good light and you will be able to catch a sight of the highlights near the edges of the glass. Hold the glass 20cm away from your eyes to be sure to see all details in the light.
If you are an expert, you may be able to guess the grape variety or wine origin from its color… Let’s work hard for that!
Once you carefully watched the color, have a look at the texture. Take your glass and start to spin the wine. Of course, don’t do it too hard otherwise you will spill it everywhere, and wine stains are really hard to remove! Hold your glass by the stem and move your hand in small circles. First, it will help the wine to reveal its aromas and heat up if it has been stored in a fridge. Secondly, you will be able to watch the wine texture. While you are spinning, have a look at how the liquid reacts to the contact of the glass. If the wine seems to cling to the edges, then it means it will be a heavy one. You can expect strong aromas that stay long in your mouth. If it doesn’t, the wine will be lighter. You can then expect it to be easy to drink with a shorter length.
How to 'spin' - slow movements to show the right way to do it!
It simply means ‘smell’. Now that you got some informations from your eyes, let’s get more with your nose. Continue to spin the wine and move your glass closer so you can smell it properly. The first attempt is called ‘premier nez’ (literally ‘first nose’) and allows you to have a global impression about the wine you are about to drink. The smell may be totally different later in a good or bad way. In fact, it depends on the age of the wine, its conservation, the grape varieties, and how it has been produced. Depending on the wine you are tasting, it may be better to put in into a carafe or decanter (to ‘carafer’ in French) for a while before drinking. Usually we need to do it for old wines that needs to get fresh air to reveal its aromas. Another possibility is when the cork’s quality is low: it may affects the taste of the wine so it is better to ‘carafe’ it.
The ‘premier nez’ will tell you more about what you can expect. Of course, inexperience people will just say ‘it just smells like wine’ or ‘that’s grapes, that’s all’. The point here is to couple the smell with other smells you know. You need to imagine, and tell not what it exactly smells like, but what it may look like. It can just be an image, that’s why each person has a different perspective about the same wine.
Basically, all aromas you smell can be grouped into four main categories. During a tasting, you may agree on a category, but smells different aromas. They are divided as following:
We talk a lot about the ‘premier nez’, but continue to carefully smell the wine all along. You may be noticing some differences.
Last but not least, ‘taste’ with your mouth! Now that you had some informations about the wine, and you know more or less how it will taste like, you will finally verify if your expectations were right or wrong. Sometimes you can be highly surprised: for example, you can smell some light fruits and end up finding strong aromas within your mouth.
Of course, don’t drink it easily like water. Take your time. Sip some wine, much enough to fill your mouth. If you don’t take enough, you won’t be able to feel all the aromas. Once again, take your time, and have the liquid travel into your mouth, from the tongue to the palate. It may be looking like you are washing your mouth with the wine. For a white wine, you may feel its mineral taste first, and then some fruits or flowers will reveal. For a red wine, you may feel some strong black fruits that will turn into soft tannins. There are an infinite possibilities of combinations. But as you can imagine, the aromas will change within your mouth, and all along the tasting time.
In order to fully appreciate the aroma, some people let a bit of air enter in their mouth while they are tasting the wine. It is a bit difficult to do it at the beginning, as you have to inspire with an almost closed mouth. The point here is to breathe carefully, as the air will impact the wine, and will reveal some other tastes.
As for the nose, you will experience various feelings about the wine. As it is up to you to tell what it looks like, there are some examples as following that may help you to determine exactly what you feel.
I hope you are now ready to taste wines and fully grasp all of its complexities. But most of all… Always enjoy it ! Don’t stress too much about it, and focus on the unique experience you will live. Share about your feelings, and see how people around reacts. It is also fun to compare opinions as they may be drastically different. After all, wine is all about that: sharing a nice moment with nice people!
If you have any question/feedback/reaction, feel free to write in the comment section.
You can also share this article with your friends/family/colleagues so everyone can be prepared for the next tasting session.