Wine Sensory Evaluation
So many wine personalities before us, including the late Len Evans, warned us of the importance to carefully choose every individual wine in our lives. Life is too short to put up with bad wines, and never long enough for all the great ones out there. In this case, wine tasting and appreciation become super-handy. By examining in detail each wine you taste and putting your sensations into words, the impressions become longer lasting in memory. Trying a great wine without remembering is not doing it justice at all!
So, how does wine evaluation begin?
Firstly preparation. An ideal tasting location will have good lighting and minimal odour to help you taste without being influenced by other factors. Find yourself a decent glass with a large, rounded bowl that you can swirl your wine comfortably in.
We shall start with the appearance of a wine – the intensity and colour can tell us many things including faults: purple is an indication of youth in reds and amber an indication of age in whites. Bear in mind that colours are also affected by factors such as grape varieties, winemaking techniques and regions! Whilst brownness and haziness may hint spoilage, they may also be caused by other factors too. Brownness may be the result of prolonged oak ageing and haziness may come from deliberate unfining and unfiltering.
You then swirl the wine to release the aroma particles and take a sniff. Make a note of the condition of the nose - does it smell 'off' in any way? Common faults include oxidation (smells of sherry, sweat and sour apples) and cork taint (damp and musty cardboard). These off-odours strip away the freshness and fruitiness of wine. Make up a list of descriptions – does your wine smell very floral? What kinds of flowers? Perhaps rose petals? How intense are they? Always be as specific as you can.
The next step is to take a decent sip (not a gulp!), and swirl the wine around in your mouth. Different parts of the mouth have different levels of sensitivity to acidity, sweetness and tannins. Acidity tastes sour and makes wine juicy and mouth-watering, while sweetness indicates how much sugar the wine contains – a wine can however taste sweet without having much residual sugar. Almost all the table wines in current trend are dry with minimal sugar, although some whites can be off-dry or sweet in style. Tannins are bitter and astringent, however soft and fine tannins may indicate age and warm climate.White wines and rose wines generally have very low tannins while red wines have much higher level. Body is the mouth-feel of the wine; the level of weight and viscosity you feel. It is the combination of acidity, sweetness, tannins and alcohol level. Take note on the body, acidity, sweetness and tannins of the wine along with the flavours tasted. Length is how long the flavours stay on our tongue after tasting, long and complex finishes are indicators of quality.
After tasting and establishing descriptions for your wines, you can go on to assess its quality and relate it to your preferences. What you need to keep in mind is that the relationship between you and your glass of wine is very intimate and unique. This is a totally subjective topic, so don't worry if you taste something completely different from others, or when you actually prefer a wine $20 dollars cheaper!