If you are going to be a wine drinker, you need to enjoy it. This should be pretty simple to do…well, maybe. It goes a little beyond open, pour, sip and enjoy. Wine tasting has a few critical steps which we are going to discuss here. Mastering these steps helps you understand what’s in your glass and helps you enjoy your wine more.
The Appearance of Wine
In my July 14, 2021, wine blog I discussed at length the appearance of wine and don’t want to bore you here with another long explanation. If you did not catch that blog, please read it here.
The Smell of Your Wine
Smelling your wine gets your brain ready to sense or taste the many different flavors. Or, if there is something wrong with the wine’s smell (it might be corked and smell like wet cardboard), you will be prepared that the wine might have gone bad.
The first thing you need to do is give the wine a good swirl in the glass. Swirl for about 10 to 15 seconds. After the swirling, stick your nose in the glass and smell the wine. White wines are going to smell differently than red wines.
Primary aromas are derived from the actual grape variety. For example, when you will smell things like fruits, florals and earth notes such as forest floor and mushrooms, and this comes from the way the grape was grown. There are huge amounts of primary aromas.
Secondary wine aromas come from the winemaking. These types of aromas include nuts, vanilla, butter, cedar and oak.
The third type of aroma is tertiary aromas. These are the aromas that come from the wine’s aging process. Examples of these types of aromas include cocoa, cedar, spices, vanilla and coconut.
The most important part of smelling wines is that it lets our brain know what’s coming when you taste the wine. The smelling prepares your senses for the taste, and hopefully, the pleasure of drinking the wine.
Tasting: The Three Stages
There are three main stages to tasting wine: the attack (or the approach) which is when the wine first touches your tongue, the midpalate and the finish.
The Attack: A wine’s attack describes the wine’s first impression in the mouth. The attack provides the initial burst of texture and flavor as the wine first enters your mouth.
Midpalate: The midpalate area is located in the center of your tongue, and it is what registers the wine’s taste, flavors, mouthfeel and balance as you hold the wine in your mouth.
Finish and Length: Finish, or aftertaste, is what’s left of the wine’s taste after swallowing. In my January 31, 2018, blog I wrote about finish and taste. What follows are the important parts of the article:
The last impression you have of a wine is its finish. It is the taste or flavors that stay on your palate or in your mouth after you have swallowed the wine. That taste can be many things depending on the type and style of the wine. The finish describes the very last flavor or textural sensation you have after swallowing or, in some cases, spitting out the wine. There are an unlimited number of terms used to describe the finish of a wine. Professional wine critics and tasters seem to come up unique terms all the time. Terms sometimes used are: spicy, minerality, savory, sweet, bitter, hot, harsh, rich and peppery. Some that I find really interesting are the use of words such as astonishing, lingering finish, with spice box, balanced, long and very elegant, shows personality, persistent and reserved. The terms go on and on. These terms are pretty much the same used to describe the flavor or texture of the wine on your mid palate.
The length of the finish can be the final indicator of the quality of the wine.
Length is the term used to describe how long the finish of a wine lasts in your mouth after the wine has been swallowed. It is one of the parts of a wine’s finish. The length of the finish can be short, medium or long. The length of the finish can be the final indicator of the quality of the wine. Generally, the more extensive finishes/longer length will be present in higher quality wines. Twenty to 30 seconds is good for an average bottle of wine. If the wine finish length is up to 45 seconds it is showing powerful flavors which generally indicates a much better wine.
Generally younger wines, regardless of color, variety or quality, last about 20 seconds or less. Wines that are produced to be enjoyed young with short finish lengths are:
- Merlot (some)
Wines with 20- to 40-second finishes include:
- Riesling (some)
- Sauvignon Blanc
Wines with long length finishes, wines that the length persists for 45 seconds or longer, perhaps as long as a minute, are generally exceptional wines that exhibit powerful flavors. Such wines are:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- California and Burgundy Chardonnay
All wines will have different finishes and lengths of finish. It is a very important part of wine tasting to stop and reflect on what you tasted after you swallowed the wine. As I have mentioned, the nose of a wine, the finish and length are important components of whether or not you like a wine.
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Until next week,