Tasting wine is a truly sensory experience. From the moment the cork comes out of the bottle with a faint “pop,” to actually drinking and tasting the wine, all the senses are engaged.
First, you hear
Once you’ve chosen your bottle of wine and you’re ready to enjoy it, it’s time to open it! The first sense is stimulated – your hearing. Your sense of hearing is continually stimulated as the wine is poured into the glass.
Second, you touch
The wine glass influences the temperature, bouquet, taste, balance, and finish of the wine. There are many different types of glasses, but generally glasses with smaller bowls are for white wines, larger bowls are for red wines, and flutes are for sparkling wine and champagne. Riedel is a company known for their extensive collection of wine glasses and the science behind each design.
Then, you see
The third step to wine tasting is checking the color and clarity of your wine. It is easiest to distinguish color on a white background. When you are determining color, look past just red and white, because a closer look can enable you to gauge the grape and age of the wine. Red wines tend to lighten as they age, whereas white wines become darker in color.
When tasting, you can also look at the “legs” or as the French say, the “tears” of the wine. When you swirl your wine in your glass, the rate at which the legs fall is a result of the Marangoni Effect, and can help determine alcohol content of the wine.
Next, you smell
When you smell your wine, you first take a quick whiff and gain a first impression of the wine. Next, put your nose into the glass and take a deep breath. You may smell oak, berry, tobacco, pepper, vanilla, or many other scents. Then swirl the wine again, and sniff. You may identify more scents than you did the first time!
Don’t underestimate the power of smell, because what you smell greatly influences what you taste. A master sommelier once said, “You can only taste 5 things – bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and umami – but the number of things you can smell is endless.”
And finally, taste
First, take a small sip and swirl it in your mouth. Different areas on the tongue are sensitive to different types of taste, and incorporating them all enables you to experience the full taste of the wine. After the first impression, your palate gets the chance to distinguish the taste. Finally, after you swallow the wine you are left with the finish. This is the lasting impression the wine has in your mouth, the taste you continue to experience even after the wine is gone.
We hope you enjoyed this break down of the senses and wine tasting, and we’d love to know your thoughts and comments! If you liked this, there will be more, we will be writing soon on how label design and brand image influence your purchasing decision and maybe even how you perceive the taste and quality of the wine. CNN also has added a great addition to their Eatocracy blog- a series called Leggy and Luscious that’s all about wine tasting and experience.
Special thanks to John Banquil, Regional General Manager at Ling and Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill for his input and help writing this article!