However, tasting and drinking wine is not the same. Wine is meant to be savoured, so when tasting, one needs to have the appropriate skill set and develop a critic’s nose. With this article and the tips from Quinta dos Vales’ experts, everyone that wishes to refine their tasting skills will be able to learn all the essential basics that will distinguish them from their friends or guests at any party.
How to properly hold the glass
Naturally, we recommend having a clear and curved inwards glass to be able to optimize the wine’s characteristics. Holding the glass is simply a question of temperature transfer, if you want to avoid a wine warming up, hold it by the stem, if a wine needs warming up, hold the glass by the bowl, which will allow your hands to warm up the liquid.
If someone wishes to taste more varieties, they only need to start with lighter ones, such as Quinta dos Vales’ DUO 2020, with Arinto and Viognier, and gradually work their way towards the heavier reds, such as the Grace Touriga Nacional. When pouring, it is crucial to keep an inch of distance, or maybe even less.
Swirling and observing the wine
Another aspect that professional tasters recommend is to simply observe the wine, ideally during daylight hours, or alternatively against a source of light. Begin by holding the stem and swirling for up to 20 seconds. The stem should be held very gently (with the thumb and forefinger) and rotated on the table or other flat surfaces. You probably see this everywhere, so why is the swirl so important? Experts say that this will make room for the oxygen to enter, aerate it and thus release any vapours from the glass. In essence, the wine perfume will be released to be picked up by the nose. This is important as taste is actually mostly derived the sense of smell – around 85% to be exact.
The next step is an analysis of the wine and its colour. For example, is the white wine clearer or slightly cloudy? Does it have a pale greenish-yellow or golden tone? Or, when it comes to the red wine, does it have a light colour or deep red or mahogany tone? As the wine matures, we tend to notice deeper colour tones. White wine becomes more golden with age, and reds have a golden tint when aged in oak barrels.
Smelling the wine
As mentioned previously, with the swirling of the wine, its perfume is released. At that point the taster needs to lower their nose in, or if they wish to sense more, to keep it at an inch above the glass.
Experts suggest that the experience is different for everyone, so one must smell the scents in a way that works best for oneself. But they also send a word of caution - the nose can get easily bored. So either the individual should take 2-3 deep sniffs or simply try by sniffing one nostril at a time.
Basically, they add that there is no wrong way to do it, but they also reveal a little secret - keeping the mouth slightly open picks up on more complexities of the wine’s aromas. When feeling the scent the taster should pay attention to the attractiveness and intensity. For example, they will notice the top being more fruity or floral, and even sense a deeper and richer aroma at the bottom.
Tasting the wine
Now it is time for the next step - evaluating the taste after exploring the wine with the other senses. The taster should begin by taking a reasonable sip and feeling it with their tongue in their mouth, should not swallow immediately. Next, they need to open their mouth a bit to allow some air - in order to feel the flavour and aroma more efficiently. According to many experts, this will generate a comprehensive impression from all of their senses.
- Sweetness - detected by the tip of the tongue - how sweet or dry is the wine? If it is sweeter, then it probably contains more alcohol because of the sugar.
- Sourness - detected by the inner sides of the tongue - too much sourness or bitterness? Then there are high levels of acidity. Too little? The wine is probably very flat. It should feel fresh and slightly crisp.
- Saltiness - detected by the outer sides of the tongue.
- Tannin detection - it is that mouth-drying effect when tasting the wine. Tannins originate in the seeds and skins of the grape and can sometimes be very bitter. How to evaluate if the wine is younger or more mature? That’s simple, professional tasters explain that if the tannin levels are more prominent - it is younger. If the tannins are soft and pleasant, then the wine is more mature.
- Alcohol evaluation - if the wine feels warm upon tasting, then it isn’t balanced with the fruity aromas and tannins - which means higher levels of alcohol.
- Aftertaste evaluation - this is a critical moment. it can actually “make or break” the wine. If the taste feels pleasant with a lovely balance of everything, then naturally, that is a sign of quality. The aftertaste can also make some flaws prominent so it is important for the taster to pay attention to it.
- Final evaluation - as the final step, one should allow some time to pass after the aftertaste. What are their thoughts about the wine? Is everything cohesive? Does it have a pleasant taste? Is the wine mature enough or maybe needs a bit more time?
Expert’s tips to improve the tasting experience
Taste at the right temperature
When it comes to red wines, they should be properly served at 15-18 C, whereas white wines - from 12 to 15 C. This is usually because white wines lose their freshness as they become warmer. Also, red wines become less lively and a bit flabby when the temperature is too high.
Taking a reasonable sip
If the sip is too small, the taster might be missing out on many other sensations, such as the textures and flavours.
Spitting is recommended
If the taster plans on tasting several wines, we recommend spitting in a bucket - which is usually provided.
Simply to not dull the senses for the wines they will be tasting afterwards. However, if they come across an exceptional wine, of course, they can savour the taste and enjoy the wine.
Note that one can evaluate the wine by how long they wish to keep it in their mouth. If it is enjoyable, 20-30 seconds is fantastic, but if the wine is not that good or average then 5-10 seconds will feel enough.
How about the world’s best wines? They can easily stay in anyone’s mouth for up to 1 min to feel all the complex textures and wonderful balance.
Practice makes perfect
In time, tasters gain more refinement and improve the ability to use their whole array of skills. Eventually, they will develop a taste for what they really enjoy and what they do not. This is often individual, but we can all agree - great wines make a great impression on everyone!