Purpose of tasting
The purpose of tasting wine is to estimate its quality, to look at its general balance and condition, and to try to assess its maturity at the time of tasting, if possible, its future development.
It is most important to keep a permanent record of your tastings, and a loose leaf folder is one of the most satisfactory methods of doing this. The sheets in the folder should be ruled vertically into five columns, headed, from left to right, name of wine, year, appearance, nose, taste and general remarks. It is a good thing to get into the habit of making notes right from the start, however silly they may seem at first. The important thing is that whatever you write should mean something to you.
Always make sure that glasses are absolutely clean, and free from the slightest trace of detergent. A tasting sample need be no more than one third of a glass, allowing plenty of room for the bouquet to gather in the upper, narrower part of the glass.
Order of tasting
Wines should be tasted in the most suitable order eg. White before Red, Dry before Sweet, Young before Old, Cheap before Expensive.
The best time of the day to taste wine is in the morning, but not too soon after breakfast. Always look at the wine first, then smell it, and finally taste it.
When looking at a wine study the following points:
- Clarity—This is important in all wines. Cloudiness or hazy suspended matter are danger signals. Tiny pieces of cork or loose sediment can be caused by rough handling and are not harmful. Tantaric acid crystals can sometimes be seen in White Wines, and in Fortified Wines. These, too, are harmless and soon settle.
- Colour—Tilt the glass over a white surface and look at the colour near the edge of the wine. The colour can be a helpful guide to age. In red wines purple indicates extreme youth; as it gains age a red wine becomes browner. In white wines a greenish tinge shows youth; it is particularly characteristis of Moselle and Chablis. With age white wines darken through various degrees of yellow and gold. Sweeter white wines usually start life with a deeper colour.
- Cleanness: A wine should smell like wine. Anything like cabbage, mustiness or pear drops indicates something amiss.
- Age: Only experience can give you an accurate guide to the age of a wine from the nose; the bouquet becomes mellower and more fragrant as it matures.
- Fruit: A good quality on the nose of a wine, but not the same as grapiness. Experience will teach you the distinctive smells given by different grape varieties.
- Depth: Light, deep, full, rounded are descriptions applying to the degree of development of the bouquet. Note that a wine or poor quality can have a full bouquet, while really fine wines may have an undeveloped one, especially when young.
- Taste: When tasting the wine, note:
Dryness or Sweetness—a particularly important constituent of white wines.
Flavour—Even if hard to describe, state whether agreeable or not.
Body—The weight of the wine in the mouth, derived from the alcohol. This is an important keeping quality,
Tannin—Noticeable by a harsh dryness in the mouth. Although disagreeable in a young red wine, it is an essential component for long life.
Acid—Essential constituent of any wine, giving it purpose and life. Extremes are, of course, undesirable.
Quality, Finesse, Elegance, Breed—This is judged by the conmpletenes and balance of the component parts, the length of time the flavour lingers in the mouth, and the aftertaste.