We all enjoy drinking and exploring wines, but how do you actually tell if the wine you’re drinking is good? Where do you go and how do you choose the right bottle?
It’s important to understand what you don’t like about wine and to understand what you do like. When you walk into a shop and there’s a big wall of labels up there, what do you do? It might be really overwhelming.It might be a surprise to you, but there’s only about four basic things you need to know on how to access a wine. Once you understand these four things, you can simply apply them and buy a really great bottle!
First thing we do is all visual. We can look at the wine and see its colour. Is it white? Is it cardinal, crimson, red, reddish or pink? Another thing we are looking for are its impurities. Can you see any chunky bits? Floaty bits are normally a bad sign as those can come from a cork, which is let go and disintegrated. We look at its purity – is it nice and clear and bright? Or is it dull and opaque? Little tip: You can use the white napkin (or any other white background) and look through the glass as you are holding it above the napkin. You may seem that is has nice bright and intense strawberry colour.
Be aware that the colours will change depending on its age. If we were to compare a young wine with no aging whatsoever to let’s say reserve wine (higher quality than usual, or one that has been aged before being sold), you may notice that the colour slightly changed.
You might gone from bright cherry with almost purplish hue to something that’s become more ruby garnet. White wines as they get aged they get more golden in colour.
What you shouldn’t mistake as a bad sign though are natural sediments that occur in many wine varieties. Those would be of dark red colour and in form of very small bits and pieces and it is the tannin from the grapes skin, which give the wine a proper colour. You can see that sediments in this case are a good thing. Difference is quite noticeable as those are only formed at the bottom of the glass and do not float around inside the glass. Once you access its visual appeal, you can proceed to smelling.
Put down your glass and make a swirling motion so that you coat the side of glass. It is always more handy to put it down on the table. Coating the side of the glass gives us more surface area, which allows the aroma to escape. Also, swirling motion sucks air down into the glass and giving us the ability to smell more. It is not always that easy as it may sound. You have to get some practice doing that and you might even end up spilling some wine around the table. It’s always a good idea to start very slow and once you’ll get a hand of it to try it faster.
Now, very important thing – your first smell is your best smell. You never smell as well after the first actual attempt so always make sure you put your nose right inside the glass and take a really deep breath. We want to allow the aroma to get up on our nose so we can smell those flavours. You might smell some nice cherries coming up. Also, a little tip here: If you want to do a second smell, just take a whiff of coffee beans. They neutralize senses in your nose and remove the ghosting after-smell.
When it comes to the proper tasting, instead of just swallowing it quickly, it’s important that you actually hold the wine in your mouth. Tilt your head slightly forward at around 45 degrees and suck some air across the same way you would make a slurpy noice while eating noodles. This will really help to intensify the flavours. We can taste the sweetness (lot of sugar) or you might just feel the tartness on sides of your tongue or the bitterness at the back of your tongue, which comes from a grape tannins. You might even taste some fruit flavours or floral notes or some spice or some wood tannin etc.
The final part to is to actually notice how it feels – the texture of the wine. Not how it tastes, but how it feels. It does not matter who you are as a wine taster. You have to go through all of these processes. You can see the expert to sit up there and go: “Aaah, this is a Pinot Noir, it is from New Zealand, probably from Marlborough…”. All they are doing is applying these four principles and it’s just the level to which you actually apply that, that allows you to understand what the wine actually is.
At the end, watch the video below. It nicely sums up what we already covered here and strengthens your knowledge. It also gives you some other tips and perspectives that might be useful.