07/21/2022 Federico Oldenburg, journalist specializing in wines
August 30 2021
Although for those who are not familiar with wine tasting, it may seem an unusual activity, whose ceremonial rituals command some respect, the fact is that it is nothing more than the sensory evaluation method used to evoke, measure, analyze and interpret a wine or any other beverage or foodstuff.
In particular, wine tasting is performed in three phases, each of which corresponds to the evaluation of this beverage by one of the senses: sight, smell, and taste.
Even though there are many wine tasting experts -those who analyze and evaluate thousands of samples every year to prepare the wine guides published from time to time worldwide, among others-, as well as other experts who also rely on this evaluation method to develop their professional activity (winemakers, sommeliers, salesmen, wine critics...), wine tasting is not an activity limited exclusively to wine gurus. Any wine lover may do it. You just must keep your senses on guard, trust your own criteria when interpreting the feelings offered by wine and have the right vocabulary to express them.
Even though the wine tasting environment must have good lighting conditions (so that the liquid in the glass can be appreciated), be free of strange scents and be reasonably peaceful and quiet (so that the tasters can concentrate on their work), there is no need to be obsessed in the search for the perfect space: even the best professionals do not taste in operating rooms or sanctuaries. However, no one should go to a tasting perfumed.
Obviously, it is not possible to hold a wine tasting as professionals do without the necessary means. These are not many, but essential. This begins with the oenological design of glasses. The brand does not matter there are good, better, and excellent brands, depending on the budget. There are also brands for very specific types of wines. However, it is important to have a versatile glass for tasting to be able to evaluate very different wines in a neutral manner. The wine tasting glass does not usually work, as it paradoxically obscures the aromatic expression. A good alternative is the basic model for white wines offered by most oenological glass manufacturers. It is also recommended having a glass for each wine to be tasted and multiplying this figure by the number of tasters involved.
Regarding the temperature, it is preferable that the environment where the tasting takes place is relatively cool -at 18-20º-so that wine does not heat up in the glass. As for the wine temperature, the best temperature is 9º for white wines and 15º for red wines, so that they are tempered in the glass but do not exceed 10º for white wines and 16º for red wines.
Finally, it is important to bear in mind the spittoons, gadgets that beginners often refuse to use but which are highly recommended when tasting more than four wines: losing control is never a good thing.
Once the wine samples to be tasted have been selected and all the requirements and equipment mentioned above are prepared, it is time to start the wine tasting, which will take place, as mentioned above, in three phases, testing each wine by one of the senses: sight, smell and taste.
The appearance of the wine -its color, clarity, brightness- is not only important for the impression it generates, but also for certain characteristics, such as opacity, rim, or density, which may provide hints as to its age, ageing and winemaking process. Therefore, a red wine with an intense violet color reflects youth, while a russet or copper tone is usually a sign of oxidation, due to a long maturation process in barrels or many years of bottle aging.
This is the most important part of the tasting. In this phase, aromatic molecules -in a volatile state- trigger chemical reactions that the brain translates as “sensations” that we associate with already known aromas. Due to these neuro-physiological mechanisms, the many nuances that wine holds are perceived, thus recognizing the rich complexity of the best wines.
When we finally pour the wine in our mouth, the taste buds detect the presence of different flavors: bitter, sour, salty and sweet. By holding the liquid in the mouth for a few moments - so that its temperature increases - the aftertaste phenomenon will be favored: the recovery of aromatic sensations in the mouth. Therefore, the tasting reaches its most sensual and delicate moment, where only the great wines make the grade.
For the novice wine taster, here are some simple tips and hints to avoid getting lost and better enjoy the experience.
Believe in yourself. In any tasting there is subjectivity, and anyone can make a mistake. In addition, first impressions are generally the most accurate.
It is always helpful to share feedback with other tasters as it enriches the experience. However, we should not get carried away by other people's views either. Do not be overwhelmed if another taster perceives an aroma that you do not detect or has a different criterion than yours.
The color nuances of a wine are best appreciated by putting a white surface behind the glass. The most common elements to use are a sheet of paper or a napkin.
Certain wine aromas are more clearly perceived if the wine is not swirled. Therefore, it is better to first sniff the wine "still" before swirling it; then, once it is moving, it will offer other aromas.
Considering that, once the bottle is opened, the wine evolves, it is recommended to keep a little of each of the wines being tasted in the glass to come back to them at different times during the tasting. Thus, it is not unusual that our appraisal will change as they experience this development.
It is preferable to resort to simple descriptors - the definitions of the sensations offered by the wine - rather than stilted, cryptic language. The language of the fine sommelier is old-fashioned.
Nobody comes to wine tastings to get drunk.
Now you have a good basis for tasting and learning on your own, see what each wine suggests to you and which one you like the most, but without a doubt, the best wine will always be the one you like the most on each occasion. Dive into 15Bodegas and taste those wines that you have not tried so far and tell us about them.