HOW TO TASTE WINE:
Intro to sensory evaluation

WINE BASICS | 6 MIN READ
NOVEMBER 1 | 2017

AUTHOR | Alen Juranko

When you ask yourself – how will this glass of wine taste? You have to keep in mind that perception of taste will be different from person to person. For instance, if someone tells you that they can smell or taste a specific flavor (note), that doesn’t mean that you will as well.

In this short article, I will briefly explain what sensory evaluation is, who does it and why is it done the way it is. Let’s begin.

Usually, customers in restaurants or bars will taste a glass of wine to ensure that its condition is good, and its temperature is right. When you consider sommeliers, they (usually) taste wines for the very same reasons and more. Besides fundamentals of condition and temperature, sommeliers also want to assess the quality, it’s drinking potential and potential of paring that specific wine with food. Furthermore, sommeliers are interested in wine’s readiness to drink; whether it is ready for drinking now or will it improve with age.
In short, to become a good taster, you need to taste as many wines as possible, which is one of the more pleasurable parts of wine study!
BASICS OF SENSORY EVALUATION
The term “sensory evaluation” was adopted by the hospitality and food industry not that long ago. It represents a procedure that applies principles of experimental design to the use of human senses (sight, smell, and taste) for the purposes of evaluating consumer products; in this case – wine.
When you ask yourself – how is it done exactly? Or, where should I start? You don’t have to worry. There is a method that you can use and it is quite simple – you look first, smell second and taste last (best for last, right?).
There is a good reason for that specific order and that is our dependence on aroma. To give you an example, try to taste a wine with your nose pinched. You will find it extremely difficult to taste anything. Now taste an unknown wine blindfolded with your nose pinched and you may well find it difficult to even discern the color, let alone the taste of the wine. This demonstrates that clues from the three senses (sight, smell, and taste) must be considered together before forming a conclusion on a wine.

For professionals, the reasons for that tasting order are even more important than just our dependence on aroma. They analyze every aspect of that wine for small pieces of information on which they build their “picture” of what they are drinking. (We will talk about specific tasting procedures for each aspect of wine analysis in one of our following posts). For the purpose of our hypothetical analysis and its insights, we will start with sight (appearance), then continue with aroma and conclude with taste.

WINE APPEARANCE
Appearance can tell you a great deal about your wine before your nose ever picks up its scents and your taste buds ever feel it’s taste. You can learn about the wine’s acidity and tannin content, residual sugar, and alcohol content, as well as the age of your wine just by looking at it. You can gather information on the growing climate of the grape, the maturation stage of the grape at the time of harvest, as well as filtration, storage history and possible issues with the wine.
All of this information can be gathered through a simple visual inspection of the wine. The basic things you will be inspected in the appearance of a wine to obtain this information are its clarity, general overall color, any secondary colors, any particles, and lastly, the legs of the wine.
The smell of a wine is called the nose of a wine. There are two ways to inhale and obtain the nose to a wine. The first, called passive inhalation, is simply where individual sticks their nose in the glass and, using the nose alone, the individual breathes in the aromas or bouquet of a wine. The second, called the active inhalation, is where an individual uses both the nose and the mouth to breathe in the aromas or bouquet of a wine.

WINE AROMA (SMELL)

WINE AROMA (SMELL)

The smell of a wine is called the nose of a wine. There are two ways to inhale and obtain the nose to a wine. The first, called passive inhalation, is simply where individual sticks their nose in the glass and, using the nose alone, the individual breathes in the aromas or bouquet of a wine. The second, called the active inhalation, is where an individual uses both the nose and the mouth to breathe in the aromas or bouquet of a wine.

To properly inhale the nose of a wine, tip the glass forward to about 40˚ and lean your head forward, putting your nose just above and over the glass. Perform passive inhalation, and then note the differences in aromas when using active inhalation.

When evaluating the nose of a wine you can gather information like off character flaws and faults, aromas from fruit qualities followed by the more earthy qualities and finally the wood qualities. After this, you could determine the alcohol content through the nose and then, finally, possible age.

TASTE OF THE WINE

There are two aspects to the palate of wine tasting, texture/taste, and flavor. Texture speaks of the sensation of the wine on the tongue and palate, the perception of weight as well as the reaction of wine on the taste buds to give sensations of the five tastes of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory. Flavour is produced from the variety of tastes and retro-nasal olfactory scents that combine to produce our understanding of flavors.

The aspect of flavor in wine tasting looks to unfold the different flavors recognized in a wine, in the lingering aftertaste and then how well all of these flavors and aftertastes come together.

 

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alen Juranko

Alen Juranko

Wine Consultant

I’m a wine professional with great passion for learning something new and passing that to others.

Alen Juranko

Alen Juranko

Wine Consultant

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