Just taking a sip is not the right way to taste wine. Fortunately, learning the process to taste wine doesn’t take too long.
First, you hold your glass by the stem, not up around the top as you can often see in movies and TV series about wine. Look at everything: the appearance of the wine, which must be brilliant and clear; the color, whose depth, intensity and nuances give information about the grape variety or varieties, and its evolution which indicates the possible age of the wine. For example, for a red wine with an earthy red color, you would call it “brick,” which indicates that you are dealing with a rather old wine. The same goes for a white the color of old gold.
The next step is to bring out the aromas, rotate the glass a little. Professionals do it with their arms in the air, but a neophyte risks spilling and staining their clothes. Let your arms rest on the table and create a circular movement that will “shake” the wine and allow it to release aromas.
Using your nose, you can perceive any defects: the smell of cork or sometimes something musty, toasted. This is probably what is called reduction, as opposed to oxidation. This is a sign that the wine needs air; a decanter should help free it. The aromas must be clear and expressive. They could be primary and reminiscent of fresh fruit, with hints of vanilla, characteristic of barrel aging, or more or less evolved, attesting to a long stay in the cellar.
Finally, it is in the mouth that you get a definitive idea of the wine by perceiving, through feedback, the heaviest aromas, and by tasting the flavors. The acidity, sweetness and bitterness (which attest to, among other things, the presence of tannins) constitute the body of the wine. What you’re looking for is an attractive harmony, an equilibrium, and above all, the answer to the only question that is worth asking: do I like this wine?
This article was first published on Le Point