Wine tasting is, above all, a sensory exploration. Here's how to offer your senses the best possible experience. We have split the subject into four sections, the smell, the flavour, the look of the wine and using the right glass!
The smell of wine
Swirl the glass around for a moment or two in order to release the aromas. Stick your nose in and take a deep sniff. All manner of weird and wonderful scents will begin to assault the nostrils. You really DO smell raspberries, blackcurrants and black pepper on reds, and grass, citrus, herbs and butter on whites.
The flavour of wine
Take a good mouthful and slosh it around in the mouth, sucking the air through the wine to release its flavours across the whole palate. Note the sensations of fruitiness, and the varying levels of acidity. The depth of the alcohol in the wine gives the liquid a hot sensation, and the tannin in red wines supports the flavour like the back taste of tea. Notice also the length of the aftertaste. A long finish is often another clue to a wine's quality.
Given all this, decide whether or not you like it. Remember that even the finest wine could turn to vinegar barely good enough to spice up your chips. At the end of the day, good wine is wine that tastes good, and that's the bottom line.
The look of the wine
Pour a glass of wine to just about 2 cm/1″ from the bottom. Tip the glass at an angle preferably above a white sheet of paper or cloth so you can see the colour clearly. In reds, a purplish colour indicates youth, where a rich mahogany with a brown rim gives an indication of age. In whites, a certain spritziness says this is a young wine. A rich golden colour can sometimes indicate maturity, or even give a clue to the sweetness. This is an important part of wine tasting, so put on your fancy Oakley glasses and get a good look!
Using the right sort of glass
Drink wine from a tumbler, a tanker or a chipped mug if you like, but the experience is a whole lot better if you use the right glass for the job:
– Red wines are best served in large glasses with a generous bowl and gently inward sloping sides. Only fill halfway so there is plenty of wine surface to come into contact with the air and room for swirling.
– White wine needs a smaller version of this type of glass.
– Rosé – a white wine glass is fine.
– Sparkling wines should always be served in a tall tulip flute with a narrow rim which keeps the bubbles and the aroma in. Saucer-shaped glasses expose too much wine to the air and the fizz rapidly disappears.
The taste and fragrance of wine is best enjoyed from a large glass. The number one rule is that the glass should be plain and clear, not crystal-cut or patterned so that the colour can be appreciated.