How to Taste Wine©
Education

How to Taste Wine©

Below is a simple aide memoire that we use for our Society meetings on how to taste wine. This gives a total objective score out of 20 – up to:

3 for Appearance,
7 for Nose, and
10 for Palate

I find it useful to make an additional, subjective score out of 10 for ‘Likeability’. This helps me to recall the wines I liked most (or least) and does not always mirror the objective score for quality.

We use our senses to taste wine using 3 objective steps: Appearance, Nose and Palate.

  • Look at the wine tilted away from you at an angle of 45°, holding the glass stem
  • Swirl the glass to increase the aromatic intensity and evaporation
  • Sniff the wine deeply, swirl and sniff again. Think of what you are smelling
  • Sip the wine, a good amount, followed by air
  • Swish it around, to coat all inside your mouth and hold for 3-5 seconds
  • Savour the wine to assess any lingering aftertaste. You don’t need to swallow to taste
  • Clean the palate between with an unsalted cracker

Appearance: (score out of 3) tells you about age, quality, sweetness and condition

  • Figure out the colour and hue:
    • Assess the wine for colour depth by looking from above at the glass stem. Is it light-, medium- or full-bodied?
    • White wines darken by barrels, age, density and sweetness
    • Red wines are darkened by grape-skin compounds; lightened and browned by age
  • Consider clarity and opacity:
    • Wine must be clear and bright, not hazy or cloudy
    • Are there bubbles? What size?
  • Swirl and look at the ‘legs’ or ‘tears’: this viscosity tells you about the alcohol concentration

Nose: (score out of 7) tells you about the cleanliness, fruit intensity and oak presence

  • Off-odours can be caused by oxidation, reduction or poor corks
  • What are the primary (grapes), secondary (yeast and bacteria), tertiary (ageing) odours? Does the smell remind you of anything specific?
  • Aromas are more subtle and make up 75% of taste perception (10,000 smells; 6 tastes)

Palate: (score out of 10) tells you about sweetness, acidity, body, tannin, alcohol, flavour, balance

  • Tastes are sweet (honey), sour (lemon), salty (soy sauce), bitter (tea), fat (butter), umami (MSG)
  • Sweetness (tongue tip) is from residual sugar and tells you if the wine is dry, off-dry or sweet
  • Acidity or sourness is sensed on first contact with the tongue (front sides). It makes your mouth water. Acidity lessens as grapes ripen
  • Body refers to the weight and feel of the wine in the mouth
  • Tannin (red wines) dries your mouth out. It comes from grape pips, stems, skins: also wood
  • Alcohol feels as heat in the throat and as a fuller mouth feel. It conveys aromas to your nose
  • Flavour informs quality and can be simple to complex. Look for those you recognize. Consider the fruit and non-fruit flavours and their intensity
  • Balance is about whether the components are in harmony, or does one dominate
  • Finish (Aftertaste). The longer the finish the better the quality

Likeability: (score out of 10) to remind you how much you liked the wine

You Might Also Like

Exam-WINE-ations!

Little Did I Know What I Had Started – A New Passion

Taint, Mould, Sweet-Sour, Elastoplast, Stale Honey, Bee Wax and Potato Skin With the Wine Prof

Fish (and other foods) with Wanda!

From South Africa to a Whole New (and Old) World

Judge and be Judged!

What Is Over the Legal Limit? Some Surprising, Scary Thoughts for Tasting and Drinking

Wine can be so Humbling

Wine and Food Pairing – 10 Points ©

Brut Force and Less Ignorance

A Cape Wine Master-class

Marching into France

Cork and Talk with Dave

0 Comments

  1. A nice, informative article. Thank you for writing it. We’ve been tasting for years scoring out of 10, ignoring the traditional ways. Glad to find someone else who does the same – albeit while respecting tradition at the same time 😄

    1. Cape Wine Lovers Society

      Thank you. Please share and look at the Facebook page too 🙂

  2. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading
    it, you are a great author. I will remember to bookmark your blog and
    will come back later on. I want to encourage continue your great job,
    have a nice weekend! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gran_Canaria/074/3

  3. Peter we’ve just launched today! I am desperate to hear your opinion on our scoring system – will you have a look? 🙂 http://www.winepair.co.za

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *