Today’s letter is “T”, so we’ll talk about Taste and Tasting. They may seem the same, but they’re not! Trust me.
Taste: For the home winemaker, the need to taste and taste again extensively cannot be over-emphasized. I know it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it, right?
You need to be patient and nurture wine from fermentation to bottling. And throughout the aging and maturation period, you should taste the wine regularly to assess its evolution and also as a preventative measure against any spoilage that may be setting in.
This is especially true of wines that are fermented or aged in barrels, or with the addition of oak chips or powders, because you need to control the amount of tannins and oak aromas and flavors extracted, and again, to prevent any spoilage.
It is important to taste wine after key operations, such as fermentation and fining, since these will invariably alter total acidity, pH, structure and body. I usually to a taste test at each racking – that way I can see how it’s developing every step of the way, and make any adjustments before continuing. Better safe than sorry!
Now on to Tasting: With every state in the union having at least 1 winery, it’s no surprise that wine tasting has become a very popular social event. While there is no specific set of rules as to how you must taste your wine, there are guidelines as to how you should taste your wine.
This is to ensure that you are experiencing the wine’s characteristics as best as possible. There are 5 things to remember when tasting wine, so you won’t regret that bottle purchase later down the line.
First things first – tilt the wine in the glass towards the rim. Look at the color, as you can figure out the quality of a wine just by looking at the color. A white wine with a brown color, or a red wine with an orange color means the wine is probably not in its prime.
Next, swirl the wine in the glass a bit. This will let oxygen into the wine, which will open up its aromas.
Well, OK, maybe not aggressively swirl to where the wine escapes the glass. What you’re looking for is what are called the “legs” of the wine. These are the streaks (or tears) that you will see around the body of the wine glass. This can indicate what the alcohol content of the wine is. If the legs are more pronounced, the alcohol content is higher. It can also indicate a higher sugar content.
Now it’s time to put your nose to work. Sniff the inside of your glass, and note what you smell. Depending on the wine, you may get aromas of vanilla, chocolate, tropical fruit, flowers, pepper, or oak, etc.
Now, it is time to taste. Take a small sip of wine into your mouth, and suck in a bit of air through pursed lips. Roll the wine around on your tongue, so you can assess the structure of the wine: if it’s a white, is it dry or sweet? If it’s a red, does it have a high tannin content (does it taste bitter)? What is the body like (how heavy does the liquid feel in your mouth)? Does it burn a bit, and taste highly alcoholic to you?
After swallowing swallowing the wine, what is the aftertaste you get? This is what is called the finish. Do you feel like the flavors you get are well balanced with the structure? If you do, this is a wine that you can purchase, and will enjoy. A successful wine tasting!
One last quick note – if you should find yourself doing a food and wine tasting, you might want to take a bite of the food before taking a sip of the wine. Then, after the wine sip, take another bite. This is the best way to experience how the wine and food compliment each other.
Winemaking is so much fun – at least for me – and am tickled every time I give the wine I make as gifts to friends and family who love drinking it as much as I love making it. While we go through this alphabetical series on winemaking, if you have any burning questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below, and I’ll reply there – and maybe even highlight your specific question(s) in a future post!
Thanks for joining me in this fun adventure!
Here are the links going backwards for your convenience, in case you missed any:
A for Aromas, Acidity and Appearance
B for Barrels, Bottles and Blackberry Wine
C for Color, Clarity, Carboys and Cherry Wine
D for Decanting and Decanters
E for Equipment
F for Fermentation
G for Glass and Grape
H for Harvest
I for Infusion
J for Jeroboam and Jug
K for Kabinett
L for Leaf, Label and Lees
M for Merlot, Muscat and Must
N – the Nose has it!
O for Oak and Oxidation
P for Palate and Press
Q for Quality
R for Racking and Riddling
S for Sweet and Sanitary