Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

There are five basic steps in tasting wine: color, swirl, smell, taste, and savor. This is also known as the five Ss: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, And Savor. During this process, a taster must look for clarity, varietal character, integration, expressiveness, complexity, and connectedness.

A wine's color is better judged by putting it against a white background. The wine glass is put at an angle in order to see the colors. Colors can give the taster clues to the grape variety, and whether the wine was aged in wood.

Characteristics assessed during tasting

Varietal character describes how much a wine presents its inherent grape aromas. A wine taster also looks for integration, which is a state in which none of the components of the wine (acid, tannin, alcohol, etc) is out of balance with the other components. When a wine is well balanced, the wine is said to have achieved a harmonious fusion.

Another important quality of the wine to look for is its expressiveness. Expressiveness is the quality the "wine possesses when its aromas and flavors are well-defined and clearly projected. The complexity of the wine is affected by many factors, one of which may be the multiplicity of its flavors. The connectedness of the wine, a rather abstract and difficult to ascertain quality, is how connected is the bond between the wine and the land where it comes from.

Connoisseur wine tasting

A wine's quality can be judged by its bouquet and taste. The bouquet is the total aromatic experience of the wine. Assessing a wine's bouquet can also reveal faults such as cork taint, oxidation due to heat overexposure, and yeast contamination (e.g., due to Brettanomyces). To some wine aficionados, the presence of some Brettanomyces aromatic characteristics is considered a positive attribute; however to others, even the slightest hint of Brettanomyces character is cause for a wine's rejection.

The bouquet of wine is best revealed by gently swirling the wine in a wine glass to expose it to more oxygen and release more aromatic etheric, ester, and aldehyde molecules that comprise the essential components of a wine's bouquet.

Pausing to experience a wine's bouquet aids the wine taster in anticipating the wine's flavors and focusing the palate. The "nose" of a wine - its bouquet or aroma - is the major determinate of perceived flavor in the mouth. Once inside the mouth, the aromatics are further liberated by exposure to body heat, and transferred retronasally to the olfactory receptor site. It is here that the complex taste experience characteristic of a wine actually commences.

Thoroughly tasting a wine involves perception of its array of taste and mouthfeel attributes, which involve the combination of textures, flavors, weight,and overall "structure". Following appreciation of its olfactory characteristics, the wine taster savors a wine by holding it in the mouth for a few seconds to saturate the taste buds. By pursing ones lips and breathing through that small opening oxygen will pass over the wine and release even more esters. When the wine is allowed pass slowly through the mouth it presents the connoisseur with the fullest gustatory profile available to the human palate.

The act of pausing and focusing through each step distinguishes wine tasting from simple quaffing. Through this process, the full array of aromatic molecules is captured and interpreted by approximately 15 million olfactory receptors, comprising a few hundred olfactory receptor classes. When tasting several wines in succession, however, key aspects of this fuller experience (length and finish, or aftertaste) must necessarily be sacrificed through expectoration.
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