The Swirl, Sniff, Drink &...Evaluate!?
Author: Gus Murray
Dispelling the Myths
I remember when I started drinking, the craze was Pinot Grigio and being in my 20's - I won't say how long ago that was! - I was not interested in swirling and sniffing my wine...so much as drinking and wondering where my next glass was from.
Now being nearer to my 40's, than 20's, I took a big step into signing up for my Wines & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 2&3 in Wines & Spirits...who would have known that you could study wine, and that it is a wonderfully complex world. Even more boggling is that there was, what is known as in the WSET and wine world - the Systematic Approach to Tasting (SAT).
Below I will go through learning how to taste wine with you; and you can follow the steps at home reading this, or even better yet - visit us at Stanlake Park Wine and try some of our fantastic wines in our Wine Bar.
1 - Looking at the wine
- Is it clear? - If yes, this would indicate the wine is good to drink although remember that there can also be a totally harmless sediment in wine.
- Swirling it in the glass can give you an idea of its viscosity - high viscosity (what folks call 'legs') indicates High Alcohol levels and good structure.
- What colour am I looking at?
- If its red - a brown tinge on the edge could indicate ageing.
- If its white - a light colour indicates a young wine, not aged in oak. A deep gold wine can either indicate oak ageing, age in general or perhaps it's a sweet wine.
2 - Smelling the wine
To do this give the wine a tilt and really get your nose in - don't worry, wine on the nose is always a hazard! Swirling allows oxygen to react with the wine and helps to fully release the aromas of the wine to reach your nose.
- Does it smell clean?
- Smells of vinegar, boiled cabbage/garbage, wet cardboard would indicate the wine is bad.
- What can you smell; fruits, yeasty or woody aromas?
- Primary aromas (fruits) come from the fermentation of grapes.
- Secondary aromas come from winemaking - specifically from yeast or oak ageing.
- Tertiary aromas come from ageing in the bottle.
3 - Tasting the wine
Take a great big sip to coat your mouth so it hits all your taste buds to help you pick out the flavours.
Along with identifying fruit flavours, you will also be able to identify other elements of the wine in your mouth, such as Tannin, Sweetness, Acidity and Alcohol.
- Tannins - this is detected by how dry it makes your mouth feel. There is a 'Tongue, Teeth and Cheek' rule....'Low, medium & high' respectively in combination.
- Sweetness is from residual sugar left in wine from the winemaking process and is detected at the front of your tongue.
- Acidity is detected by how much your mouth salivates - swallow the wine and immediately look down to the floor and wait to see how much you salivate. High acidity = High Saliva.
- Alcohol is felt as a (nice) heat at the back of your throat.
4 - Assessing Quality
Very simply you are looking for a wine with;
- Balance - Do the flavours and components of the wine complement each other?
- Length - Do the fruity flavours instantly disappear, or do they just keep hanging around in your mouth for a long time?
- Intensity - Do you have to try hard to find the flavours on the nose and palate, or do they hit you in the face?
- Complexity - Is all you can taste basic fruit flavours, or is there a great blend of primary secondary and tertiary flavours?
I hope this helps in some way to dispelling any myths that this is something that is snooty and holds no purpose.
If you have any more questions about learning how to taste wine, why not come see us at Stanlake Park, or join our Wine Tours & Tastings to get a better idea of how wine is made and how to get the most out of your glass!