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