Wine tasting is an art form that requires a keen sense of observation and understanding. It’s not just about sipping while you catch up with friends (though that part is fun too). True wine tasting is about dissecting the intricate layers of flavors and unraveling the aromas and textures that make each wine unique. This guide below will walk you through a four-step checklist to assess the quality of wine, helping you become a true connoisseur.
Note: Before you start tasting, ensure that your environment is conducive to it. External factors like loud winery equipment, strong odors, or extreme heat can affect your ability to accurately assess a wine. Try to neutralize these conditions as much as possible so that the wine can truly shine. With that covered, let’s begin!
Balance is the cornerstone of a quality wine. To assess this metric, consider the harmony between opposing and complementary components. Think fruit with tannin, alcohol with sugar, and acid with fruit.
A balanced wine feels like a well-balanced orchestra, where no single instrument overpowers another. Instead, they work together to create a beautiful symphony. If you find that no component is clashing with or overpowering another, then your wine has passed the balance test.
Take some time between sips to get a feel for how long each flavor lingers on your palate. For this step, you should also assess whether the flavors change over time. A quality wine will have a long, satisfying finish that leaves you yearning for the next sip. If the flavors quickly dissipate or become harsh, astringent, or bitter, that’s not a great sign.
A simple wine generally displays only one or two standout characteristics. For example, a simple Pinot Grigio might taste acidic, with a hint of citrus. Though you couldn’t call such a wine complex, it may still be delicious and well-made.
Complex wines aren’t necessarily better, but they do bring an abundance of aromas and flavors to your palate. You can generally break these down into primary (arising from the fruity, spiced, and/or floral notes of the grape), secondary (arising from the maturation and fermentation techniques), and tertiary (arising from bottle aging).
In a complex wine, you should also be able to identify the presence of acidity and/or tannins that lend body and personality to each sip. If a wine is presenting you with a tapestry of aromas and flavors to unravel, that’s a strong sign of complexity. If you find yourself drawn in for sip after sip by the mouthwatering acidity and tannic taste, this full-bodied drop is undeniably complex.
When assessing a wine for intensity, you’re considering how pronounced the flavors and aromas are. The aromas of an intense wine will leap out of the glass, while the flavors will feel almost three-dimensional.
Expressiveness refers to how well the wine reflects its grape variety or region. If you can clearly identify characteristics tied to the wine’s grape variety or region, then you can classify it as expressive.
Wine tasting is about more than just drinking – it’s an experience that teaches you to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each bottle. Use the steps above on your journey through the world of wine, and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the subtle nuances that make each wine unique. All that’s left now is to grab a bottle of your favorite wine and start tasting!