Salvador Dali said “he who knows how to taste never drinks wine again, he tastes its sweet secrets”. But then, how can we have enough knowledge and experience to have the chance to fully savor all the qualities of a wine? It all starts with the art of tasting. Let's see how to learn to taste a wine in 4 steps .
The 4 stages of wine tasting
To taste a wine according to the rules of the art, and learn to understand and appreciate it, you will have to go through 4 crucial stages.
Visual analysis: observing the wine
Before taking the wine in your mouth, you must first analyze its color . The visual examination is an important step that has a major influence on your senses and the perceptions you will experience. Ideally, place your glass of wine on a white background or in front of a white sheet of paper to admire its appearance. This will then reveal 4 pieces of information about the wine:
- Its color and its different shades;
- Its limpidity , or more commonly, its transparency (from opaque to limpid);
- Its intensity (from very light, or pale, to very dark);
- Its shine (from dull to shiny).
You can also swirl the wine in your glass to determine its viscosity. What we call the wine leg will give you an indication of the alcohol content of the wine.
Olfactory analysis: the nose of the wine
After the visual examination, you can move on to the olfactory examination . This is done in 2 steps. Start by bringing the glass closer to your nose, to smell the wine and discover its characteristics:
- The quality of the smells , which can be more or less clear;
- The intensity of the perfumes , which can be more or less marked.
Then, you will need to turn the wine in the glass to release the aromatic compounds of the wine, and thus discover different families of aromas:
- Primary aromas , from the grapes (fruity aromas and floral notes);
- Secondary aromas , resulting from fermentation (wine aromas);
- Tertiary aromas , resulting from the breeding and aging of the wine (reduction or oxidation aromas).
Taste analysis: the wine in the mouth
Let's finally move on to the taste test , which can be carried out using two different techniques. Some prefer to chew the wine in the mouth, while others prefer to chew the wine . Each of these methods has its advantages. When chewing the wine, saliva quickly mixes with the aromas of the wine, allowing you to feel the structure of the wine. By chewing the wine, the wine lover lets a little air into the mouth, to more easily recognize the aromas and flavors of the wine, thanks to retro-olfaction and the diffusion of aromas into the nasal cavity.
Whatever the technique used, the taster then discovers the beginning of the palate, or the attack , then the mid-palate , to finish with the finish . Each stage provides different sensations and aromas.
Summary of the wine tasting: your general impressions
The purpose of a wine tasting is not necessarily to say whether or not you like the wine being studied. The idea is rather to succeed in putting your feelings into words , to best describe the qualities of the wine. Of course, this allows you to subsequently make a connection with your personal assessments, and thus know the characteristics that appeal to you, and those that you don't really like. This information is then valuable in helping you choose a good bottle of wine .
To describe a wine, you must then note each element that you perceive throughout the tasting, to then make a synthesis, and why not establish a score.
The flavors and sensations of wine perceived in the mouth
To help you put precise words to your sensations, it is important to know how our body works, and more precisely our palate. This is capable of distinguishing several types of perceptions and flavors in the mouth.
The sweet flavor
As soon as it hits the palate, the sweet sensation is the first flavor perceived by your taste buds, particularly on the tip of the tongue. This perception comes from the sugars in the grapes, those which have not been transformed into alcohol during alcoholic fermentation. The presence of sugars gives an impression of volume and roundness to the wine.
The sour flavor
Secondly, the acidity of the wine is perceived in the middle of the mouth, on the sides of the tongue. It is responsible for this feeling of freshness that we can perceive, but it is also what makes you salivate.
Generally, wines that offer an acidic sensation tend to come from cool climates. We also find a more marked acidity in white wines, and more lightly in rosé wines.
It is difficult to precisely define the sensations that tannins provide. Between bitterness and roughness, tannin is felt at the back of the tongue, at the end of the mouth. It is he who gives this tactile and raspy impression, and this feeling of dryness in the mouth .
Tannins are mainly present in red wines, and come from grape skins, grape seeds and stems. They are what give this unique and particular texture to red wine.
The alcohol level
The higher the alcohol content of a wine, the more viscosity and smoothness you will feel in the mouth. Conversely, wines containing little alcohol are more liquid, reminiscent of the texture of water.
Alcohol is also responsible for the burning sensation that you can feel in your throat.
Remember that the alcohol in a wine comes from the transformation of sugars into alcohol by yeast, during alcoholic fermentation. Logically, the longer the fermentation process, the more alcoholic the wine.
The consistency in the mouth
Wine tasting also allows you to determine the body of the wine , in other words, whether it is powerful or light. This is essentially defined by the impression of volume that the wine gives in the mouth, and is the result of the clever mixture of alcohol, tannins and sugar.
The different families of wine aromas
As we have seen, the aromas of wines are different on the attack, in the mid-palate and at the finish. But they also vary a lot depending on the type of wine, and the aromatic persistence is more or less marked depending on the wine.
The aromas of white wines
During the olfactory examination and taste analysis of white wines , you will be able to perceive different categories of flavors.
- Fruity aromas: pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, orange, apple, melon, peach, apricot...;
- Floral notes: acacia, honey, violet, hawthorn, linden, rose...;
- Vegetal notes: fresh herbs, anise, mushroom, fern...;
- Spicy aromas: cinnamon, saffron, vanilla, cloves...;
- Empyreumatic aromas: toasted bread, toasted hazelnuts, caramel, butter, coffee...
The aromas of rosé wines
Here again, rosé wine reveals varied aromas on the nose and palate.
- Fruity notes: small red fruits (cherry, redcurrant, raspberry, strawberry...), apple, grapefruit, almond...;
- Floral aromas: rose, dried flowers, violet...;
- Plant flavors: green pepper...;
- Spicy notes: pepper...
The aromas of red wines
Tasting in the mouth and olfactory examination of red wine can, in turn, reveal several types of aromas.
- Fruity aromas: red fruits (cherry, strawberry, redcurrant, etc.) and black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry, etc.);
- Floral notes: rose, peony, violet...;
- Vegetable flavors: pepper, mushroom, tobacco, truffle...;
- Spicy notes: vanilla, cinnamon, pepper...;
- Woody aromas: eucalyptus, oak...;
- Empyreumatic notes: leather, caramel, smoky notes, coffee, dark chocolate...
Would you like to learn to recognize all the specificities of a wine? Nothing better than participating in a wine tasting workshop to perfect your knowledge, and fully appreciate your best bottles.