How to learn to taste wine

How to learn to taste wine

“A person, expanding his knowledge and sensory perceptions, can get infinite pleasure from wine.”

Ernest Hemingway

Most people are unable to correctly evaluate wine without prior knowledge. As in any other case a minimum of skills is needed for tasting. Schools and special trainings that teach how to handle wine are very popular in the West. Desire for knowledge of wine is explained not only by the utilitarian wish to understand the product which you pay money for. Tasting is the knowledge of yourself, your sensory skills and emotional comfort.

Our sense of smell distinguishes almost 10,000 different shades of wine. Pleasant shades are called fragrances; the unpleasant ones are called smells. Emil Payneau, one of the founders of wine fragrances classification, identified ten classes of scents. This wonderful man, who has recently passed away, in fact, created the 20th century aromatic school of wines. Its basis is the influence of fermentation temperature on bouquets of wine. Now, according to his methodology, both sommeliers and amateurs are trained. Today’s sommelier skill is expressed in the ability to identify about 84 types of bouquets of wine. They are formed into groups. Animals, balsamic, woody, chemical, essential, spicy, airy, floral, fruit and vegetable …

In English-speaking countries, a special “Wheel of Fragrances” is used to teach tasting skills. It looks like a circle divided into sectors. At the very center of the circle is the tip of the sector, indicating the general type of fragrance for red, white or rosé wine. Sectors are painted in appropriate colors. For example, you select white wine and determine its fragrance as, let’s say, fruity. Like in casino, you put a glass opposite the sector and read the information above: pineapple, apple, apricot. This tip comes from the typical varietal fragrances. Each wine from a particular grape variety has its own set of fragrances: Cabernet-currant, Merlot – cherry, Chardonnay – pound. This does not mean that they cannot have specific shades. To prepare sommeliers and professional tasters, kits with “canned” typical varietal fragrances are produced. Take this bottle with the name “Cabernet” and, smelling it, you can remember his tone.

To understand the fragrance of wine at an unprofessional level, experts recommend a simple technique. First you need to smell the cork from a freshly opened bottle. If you like that you have caught with your nose, it means that the wine is alright. Then, you should look at the light through a filled glass. The French, as great experts, believe: wines with pleasant fragrances cannot have an unpleasant color. Ink, muddy, faded and opaque shades in wine indicate only one thing: a violation of manufacturing techniques. After these simple operations breathe air from a wine glass and try to determine what it reminds you of: fruits, flowers, plants, wood, etc. If you do everything properly, your first tasting experience has occurred. Klaus Riedel is a great expert of the ways of wine perceiving with nose and mouth, and I maintain friendly relations with his son Georg Riedel. Riedels have created wonderful shapes of glasses. They concentrate fragrances well and help to better understand the taste of wine. The shape is designed so that while you tasting wine from Riedel glass, you direct it to certain areas of the mouth that are responsible for the perception of bitter, sweet, spicy. In this way the shape of the glass takes into account the location of the receptors. Therefore, for those who want to learn how to feel the wine correctly, I advise to purchase these glasses.

Some believe that the fragrance of wine we feel with the nose, and the wine taste we feel with the mouth. In fact, after taking a sip of wine, we continue to feel the fragrance, but in a different way. The French call it retro sense of smell. Take a sip of wine, hold it in your mouth and then draw a little air. It provides the best perception of fragrances that are combined with taste.

Finally comes the sexiest stage in assessing wine – its body definition. Although more talk is about color, fragrance and taste, the body is an equally important element in the characterization of wine. You cannot identify by eye whether it is thin or flat, tight or friable, but you will always understand it by the feeling of heaviness or lightness in the mouth or, if we say officially, by consistency.

Another aspect of the tasting is the aftertaste, or the length of the taste, as the French say. It is believed that if the taste lasts more than 12 seconds after a sip, it is a good wine. But there are wines whose taste remains with us for several hours. They are those that one should look up to.

But remember that semi-sweet and fortified wines are more difficult to recognize by their fragrance than dry wines, because artificial sugar additions while fermentation (so-called chaptalization) reduce the quality of a natural bouquet. In winemaking, the problems associated with fragrances are more complicated than in perfumery, since we do not drink perfumes, we just smell them. Secondly, we extract fragrances from only one product – from grapes, but not from all plants and substances that emit scents. That is why dry wine with its aura of fragrances is always in fashion and to feel the wine with your nose is the common courtesy for a modern person and the very sexual aspect of human relationships.