In this article accessible to all, we give you the basics of the tasting technique used by professionals, using our different senses in three stages: sight, smell and taste.
Attention, revelation: tasting a wine is not just about tasting it! The colour of the wine, i.e. its colour and appearance, already gives an indication of the nature and quality of the wine you are about to taste. Technical question, nothing complicated, observe the wine with a white background that will allow you to faithfully retranscribe its colour. Tilt your glass slightly (hence the interest of not filling it to the brim), arm stretched out horizontally, and take the time to observe the "colour of the wine".
The colour as such is not an indication of the quality of the wine. While the richness of a dark colour for a red wine can be impressive, the taste is not necessarily better. On the other hand, the intensity of this colour, the brilliance of the disc (i.e. the ease with which the surface of the wine reflects the colour of the wine) and the intensity of the wine's colour are not always the same.The surface of the wine (i.e. the surface of the disk (i.e. the ease with which light can penetrate it) as well as the clarity (is the wine crystalline/transparent or, on the contrary, muddy and opaque) are indicators of the good sanitary quality of the wine.
Another characteristic of wine that can be perceived through visual examination is its "viscosity". Viscosity is observed by rotating the wine in the glass to enlarge the disc formed on the surface. The wine, as it rotates, will be fluid or, conversely, thick and fat. And the thicker the wine has a thick texture, the more we can deduce that it contains alcohol and sugar (or assimilated) in quantity. In reality, unless you are particularly looking for an alcoholic wine, viscosity does not allow you to deduce the quality level of a wine.
Smelling a wine is a preview of the flavour of the wine, not only the current flavour but the future flavour of the wine. Once you get used to peeling off the nose of the wine, you will see that this olfactory dimension will become more and more important.
Smell the wine without moving it, this is the first nose. Is the wine closed (you can't smell anything), discreet or open? If it is closed, you can decant it to open it. Then, turn the wine and smell it, it's the second nose. Close your eyes. What do you feel?
Like Proust's madeleine, the scents evoke memories buried deep inside - let the aromas transport you. Don't be afraid of the associations of ideas provoked by these aromas, even the most unusual ones. Each aroma speaks differently to each of us. Where some will perceive the almond, others will think of the elementary school glue of their childhood. Whatever! The important thing is to put words on sensations and then describe the wine, explain why you like it (or not) and be able to remember it in a more precise way than "Ah it was good wine yesterday! With habit and experience, you will be able to recognize and categorize the aromas and then even more precisely by quoting the precise aroma.
A great wine often has a complex and racy nose, that is to say that you will find many different aromas (or families of aromas) while keeping a great precision of these aromas.
Small point about spitting out: as you know, professionals who taste many wines in a row spit them out in order to keep the palate and the ideas clear. If you are new to tasting, you may find it difficult to perceive the wine if you spit it out completely; at least you may feel that you are not fully enjoying the full range of the wine and its length in the mouth. This is perfectly normal. Learning how to taste wine is not something that happens overnight and learning how to spit it out is part of that learning process. Start by swallowing a few sips and spitting out more, and as you go along, you will be able to spit out more and more.
There are some differences between tasting a wine and simply drinking it as part of a meal. When you taste a wine you will almost "violate" it:
- for the nose, you have made it turn well,
- Soak your mouth in the wine (like a mouthwash) and don't hesitate to practice retro-olfaction. Retro-olfaction is a complicated word for something very simple. In fact, your mouth, i.e. your tongue, can only perceive the 5 flavours (acid, bitter, sweet, salty and umami) but not the aromas of strawberry or toast for example! All the aromas are perceived by your "nose" (more precisely your olfactory bulb). The principle of retro-olfaction is therefore very simple, it will consist in "bringing up" the aromas of the wine towards your olfactory bulb. To do this, use the upward flow of air during the exhalation, propelling backwards from the mouth with cheek and jaw movements, the air having been in contact with the product being tasted.
For a white wine, the balance plays on two dimensions: the acidity and the fatness of the wine. Everyone is more or less used to acidity and knows how to perceive it, it makes you salivate and is felt on the sides of your tongue. On the other hand, the fatness of wine is not an easy notion to grasp. It can be defined as a certain softness, a pleasant, smooth, round and unctuous sensation (without going into detail, the unctuousness is largely due to the alcohol and glycerol).
For a red wine, a third dimension is added to the acidity and fatness, the tannins. Tannins have no "taste" but they are felt both when you have the wine in your mouth, like a powder in the middle of your tongue, and afterwards, when you have the wine in your mouth, like a powder in the middle of your tongue.after swallowing, they feel "dry", as if your tongue had been dried.
To appreciate the balance of a wine is simply to judge if these different dimensions fit well together. If, for example, a white wine is low in acidity with a lot of fat, it will be said to be heavy, which is neither balanced nor positive.
Of course, tasting is a personal exercise with an important subjective dimension and everyone will note the different dimensions of acidity, fat and tannins differently. However, when it comes to judging the harmony of a wine (or its possible technical defects), the exercise is actually quite objective.
Use the famous retro-olfaction to perceive the different aromas of the wine. Are they accurate? Pleasant? Powerful?
The length in the mouth is defined as the intensity in the mouth of the aromatic and tactile persistence that a wine leaves after swallowing it. As you can imagine, the longer a wine is in the mouth, the better it is in general.
Here you are, you know everything (or almost everything) to taste like a professional, see you next week for the second episode of our séThe second episode of our series "Little wine tasting course with friends" will be dedicated more precisely to "Wine Aromas".
And don't forget, it's by going to taste in the middle of the vineyards directly with the winemakers thanks to Les Grappes Oenotourisme that you discover all the facets of wine!