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WINETASTING 101


      To taste a wine efficiently, you need good tools. The most important tool for a wine taster is a good wine glass. Numerous wine glasses are available on the market, from a few dollars to dozen of dollars a piece. The best wine glasses have a wider bottom to increase the surface of the wine in contact with air and a smaller circumference at the rim to focus the aromas to the taster's nose.

      Begin by filling your glass one-third full. The best way to check the color of a wine is to use a white backgound, which help determine the depth of the color. Usually, you will notice a difference between the core of the wine color and the rim, the latter one being lighter in color than the former. Incline the glass to 45 degree and note the color of the wine respectively at the core and the rim of the glass. Young red wines can show a large gamut of color from light ruby to dark purple color, depending on the type of grapes (For example, Pinot noir is lighter in color than Cabernet Sauvignon), while young white wine color can go from a whitish hue to a golden one.

      Cloudiness in a wine is considered to be a default unless the wine is unfiltered, which is more common today since numerous wines are being produced with a minimal or no filtration at all. Studying the color of a wine helps determine its age. Young red wines are darker in color than aged red wines, while young white wine are lighter in color than aged white wine. This fact is explained, in the case of red wine, by the chemical binding of the color pigments and the wine tannins, which creates the wine's deposits and have the direct effect of lightening the wine's color.

       The next step in evaluating a wine is to study its nose. It is easier to divide the aromatic palette of wine in three categories:

      · The primary aromas are directly related to the grape. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon usually develops blackcurrant aromas, or Gewurztraminer based wine develops litchee aromas.

      · The secondary aromas are created during the making of the wine. All the fermentation and barrel related aromas are part of this group, such as buttery and oaky flavors.

      · The tertiary aromas consist of the different aromatic coumpounds developed after the wine spend time in the bottle. These different aromas are called bouquet, and are pretty much the main reason why wine aficionados are aging their wines.

wine tasting glass
The perfect glass for an efficient winetasting

the different hue of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc
The hue of a Pinot Blanc (left) and Chardonnay (right)

The different hue of Pinot Noir and Cabernet sauvignon
The hue of a Pinot Noir (left) and Cabernet Sauvignon (right)


      Professional wine tasters use a logical approach to wine tasting. The best technique is to smell the wine a first time without swirling it in the glass, which gives a better idea of the wine's aromatic palette. It is important to identify the most volatile aromatic compounds that disappear after first swirling. Then, swirl the wine in the glass around five times to develop the intensity of the aromas. The idea is to aerate or oxygenate the wine to denote the main aromatic compounds.

       The last part of the tasting (usually consided the best part!) consists of studying the wine's palate. Once again, you are going to oxygenate the wine, but this time in your mouth. More precisely, professional wine-tasters keep the wine few seconds in your palate and move it to agitate all the aromatic molecules. This technique helps increase the intensity of aromas perceived through your palate. It is a little known fact that the olfactory bulb is directly link to the palate, and that humans are smelling through this conduit too. If you are experienced enough, you can try to introduce some air with you wine and mix both together to increase the aromatic molecules that are liberate by the wine.
       It is easier to divide the wine's palate study in three disctinctive parts:

       · The first impressions or attack: Describe the first sensations when the wine is introduce in your palate.

       · The middle palate: representing all the sensations (aromatic and tactile) felt when the wine is swirl on your palate.

       · The finish or finale: what is left of the wine flavors when it has been swallow or spit. It is usally considered that a good wine will have a long finish. Some wine professionals are counting in seconds how long the wine flavors stay on your palate after it has been swallowed or spitted, to rank the quality of a specific wine.

smelling the aromas of a wine
It is important to study the wine's aromas before tasting it.

spitting the wine
Do not forget to spit the wine!


     Do not forget to add to your tasting notes what you personally thought of the wine. Sometimes, it is not the perfect wine or high scored wine that will procure you the most pleasure. Everybody has different taste!!

     I put together a typical tasting sheet that will be of good help for your future tastings.