Now that we have chosen a bottle of wine based on our favourite grape(s), stored it carefully, prepared the perfect matching food, decanted it and just served it, we are finally ready for the most interesting part of the wine process, which is of course, the tasting.
Wine tasting involves three out of our five senses: sight, smell and taste. Or from up to down: eyes, nose and mouth.
The first step – and our first article of three – the visual. Usually the most underrated, yet it gives plenty of information.
First, make sure to always hold your glass by the stem. This is primarily to not warm it – supposedly it is already served at the optimum temperature. But it is also easier to swirl and look at, and ultimately it just looks more elegant than holding it like a mug.
Use a white background (tablecloth, napkin etc.) and under natural light if possible. Tilt the glass away to have a clear look at its real colour and at the rim. If the wine is cloudy this could indicate a fault. The darker the wine, the more elements, so the richer.
For white wines, the clearer, the lighter. A deeper colour can indicate the use of oak, that it is a sweet wine, or if turning to a gold/orange colour that it is old. A green hue can indicate that the grapes were under-ripe and/or the wine comes from a cold climate.
For red wines the more tawny the rim the older the wine. If it is of brown colour and the wine looks watery it is most likely too old.
Then bring the glass back upright. Some viscosity appears on the side of the glass which are called “legs” or “tears”. This is created by the evaporation of the alcohol and water, and eventually sugar. The thicker the legs, the more alcohol content in the wine. In the case of red wine, if the legs still show some red-ish colour, it is the indication of a very rich wine coming from a hot climate.
Paolo Basso says that if the legs separate evenly and close to each other, that suggests a wine with a strong bouquet. He is the only one I’ve ever heard saying that, yet he won the title of 2013 World’s Best Sommelier.
Here are two rather old and extremely different French wines from Bordeaux region.
Wines available at : www.501wine.com.
Blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and a little bit of Muscadelle, this is a sweet white wine very representative of the Sauternes style, even if Barsac appellation tends to be less luscious than the usual Sauternes. The tasting was of a half-bottle (375ml) which ages faster than a full bottle, as the micro-oxygenation through the cork has a smaller quantity of wine to influence. Due to its age this wine shows some old gold colour with some orange-like-summer-sunset reflection. The legs are very thick, owing to a 13.5 percent vol. of alcohol and its high sugar content. The nose shows some orange marmalade, caramel, fresh almond and honey wax. The palate is fresh at first with a lively acidity of dried fig flavours, citrus, apricot, and a medium finish on an elegant sweetness. Not too heavy, very good to drink now until 2020.
Much more affordable than its two prestigious neighbours Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, Fronsac offers well-balanced wines where Merlot shines (90 percent in the case of this wine completed with 10 percent Cabernet Franc). After more than fifteen years since harvest, the wine shows a distinctive tawny colour on its rim, and relatively thick tears with its 13.5 percent vol. of alcohol. The bouquet is delicate and elegant with some liquorice, cassis sorbet, cigar box and spices. Very round with smooth tannins (only 30 percent aged in young oak) and refreshing acidity. Medium body with black fruits, liquorice wood-stick, long and elegant finish on ripe cherry which leaves the palate light and clean, calling for another sip. Good value Bordeaux to drink now until late 2018. David Rouault
David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover, holding WSET Level 3,
Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo