of the four recognized stages to wine tasting:
- "in glass"
the aroma of the wine
- "in mouth"
in order to establish the following properties of a wine:
(suitability for aging or drinking)
overall quality assessment, based on this examination, follows
further careful description and comparison with recognized standards,
both with respect to other wines in its price range and according
to known factors pertaining to the region or vintage; if it
is typical of the region or diverges in style; if it uses certain
wine-making techniques, such as barrel fermentation or malolactic
fermentation, or any other remarkable or unusual characteristics.
wines are regularly tasted in isolation, a wine's quality assessment
is more objective when performed alongside several other wines,
in what are known as tasting "flights". Wines may be deliberately
selected for their vintage ("horizontal" tasting) or proceed
from a single winery ("vertical" tasting), to better compare
vineyard and vintages, respectively. Alternatively, in order
to promote an unbiased analysis, bottles and even glasses may
be disguised in a "blind" tasting, to rule out any prejudicial
awareness of either vintage or winery.
impartial judgment of a wine, it should be served blind
â€” that is, without the taster(s) having seen the label or
bottle shape. Blind tasting may also involve serving the wine
from a black wine glass to mask the color of the wine. A taster's
judgment can be prejudiced by knowing details of a wine, such
as geographic origin, price, reputation, color, or other considerations.
research has long demonstrated the power of suggestion in perception
as well as the strong effects of expectancies. For example,
people expect more expensive wine to have more desirable characteristics
than less expensive wine. When given wine that they are falsely
told is expensive they virtually always report it as tasting
better than the very same wine when they are told that it is
inexpensive. French researcher Freric Brochet "submitted a mid-range
Bordeaux in two different bottles, one labeled as a cheap table
wine, the other bearing a grand cru etiquette" and obtained
predictable results. Tasters described the supposed grand cru
as "woody, complex, and round" and the supposed cheap wine as
"short, light, and faulty."
people have expectations about wines because of their geographic
origin, producer, vintage, color, and many other factors. For
example, when Brochet served a white wine he received all the
usual descriptions: "fresh, dry, honeyed, lively." Later he
served the same wine dyed red and received the usual red terms:
"intense, spicy, supple, deep."
and horizontal tasting
and horizontal wine tastings are wine tasting events that
are arranged to highlight differences between similar wines.
- In a
vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine
type from the same winery are tasted. This emphasizes differences
between various vintages.
- In a
horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same
vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping wine variety
or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences
in winery styles.
flight is a term used by wine tasters to describe a selection
of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, but sometimes
as many as fifty, presented for the purpose of sampling and
note refers to a taster's written testimony about the aroma,
taste identification, acidity, structure, texture, and balance
of a wine. Online wine communities like Bottlenotes, Winelog.net,
Cellartracker.com, and Snooth allow members to maintain their
tasting notes online and for the reference of others.
that a wine is served at can greatly affect the way it tastes
and smells. Lower temperatures will emphasize acidity and tannins
while muting the aromatics. Higher temperatures will minimize
acidity and tannins while increasing the aromatics. Master of
Wine Jancis Robinson recommends the following temperature range
for different styles of wine.
|Light bodied sweet dessert wines
|White sparkling wines
|Aromatic, light bodied white
||Riesling, Sauvignon blanc
|Red sparkling wines
||Sparkling Shiraz, some frizzante Lambrusco
|Medium bodied whites
|Full bodied dessert wines
||Oloroso Sherry, Madeira
|Light bodied red wines
||Beaujolais, Provence rose
|Full bodied white wines
||Oaked Chardonnay, Rhone whites
|Medium bodied red wines
||Grand Cru Burgundy, Sangiovese
|Full bodied red wines
||Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo based wines
of a wineglass can have a subtle impact on the perception of
wine, especially its bouquet. Typically,
the ideal shape is considered to be wider toward the bottom,
with a narrower aperture at the top ('tulip', 'egg', or perhaps,
'beaker' shaped). Glasses which are widest at the top are considered
the least ideal. Many wine tastings use ISO XL5 glasses[citation
needed], which are 'egg'-shaped. Interestingly, the
effect of glass shape does not appear to be related to whether
the glass is pleasing to look at.
having tasted the wines, one does not know if, for example,
a white is heavy or light. Before taking a sip, the taster tries
to determine the order in which the wines should be assessed
by appearance and nose alone. Heavy wines will be deeper in
color and generally more intense on the nose. Sweeter wines,
being denser, will leave thick, viscous streaks (called legs
or tears) down the inside of the glass when swirled.
color is the first step in tasting wine
five basic steps in tasting wine: color, swirl, smell, taste,
These are also known as the "five S" steps: see, swirl, sniff,
sip, savor. During this process, a taster must look for clarity,
varietal character, integration, expressiveness, complexity,
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
character describes how much a wine presents its inherent grape
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
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, describes the bond between
the wine and its land of origin (terroir).
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 age, overexposure to oxygen, or lack of preservatives
and wild yeast contamination due to Brettanomyces or
acetobacter yeasts. Although low levels of Brettanomyces
aromatic characteristics can be a positive attribute, giving
the wine a distinctive character, generally it is considered
a wine spoilage yeast.
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.
However, sparkling wine is not swirled, as this speeds the release
of the bubbles.
to experience a wine's bouquet aids the wine taster in anticipating
the wine's flavors. 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.
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 to pass slowly through
the mouth it presents the connoisseur with the fullest gustatory
profile available to the human palate.
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.
taste qualities are known to be widely distributed throughout
the oral cavity, the concept of an anatomical "tongue map" yet
persists in the wine tasting arena, in which different tastes
are believed to map to different areas of the tongue. A widely
accepted example is the misperception that the tip of the tongue
uniquely tells how sweet a wine is and the upper edges tell
of the tasting process, and as a way of comparing the merits
of the various wines, wines are given scores according to a
relatively set system. This may be either by explicitly weighting
different aspects, or by global judgment (although the same
aspects would be considered). These aspects are 1) the appearance
of the wine, 2) the nose or smell, 3) the palate or taste, and
Different systems weight these differently (e.g., appearance
15%, nose 35%, palate 50%). Typically, no modern wine would
score less than half on any scale (which would effectively indicate
an obvious fault). It is more common for wines to be scored
out of 20 (including half marks) in Europe and parts of Australasia,
and out of 100 in the US. However, different critics tend to
have their own preferred system, and some gradings are also
given out of 5 (again with half marks).
As an alcoholic
drink, wine can affect the consumer's judgment. As such, at
formal tastings, where dozens of wines may be assessed, wine
tasters generally spit the wine out after they have assessed
its quality. However, since wine is absorbed through the skin
inside the mouth, tasting from twenty to twenty-five samplings
can produce an intoxicating effect, depending on the alcoholic
content of the wine.
to wine regions is another way of increasing skill in tasting.
Many wine producers in wine regions all over the world offer
tastings of their wine. Depending on the country or region,
tasting at the winery may incur a small charge to allow the
producer to cover costs.
It is not
considered rude to spit out wine at a winery, even in the presence
of the wine maker or owner. Generally, a spittoon will be provided.
In some regions of the world, tasters simply spit on the floor
or onto gravel surrounding barrels. It is polite to inquire
about where to spit before beginning tasting.
number of wine schools can be found, offering wine tasting classes
to the public. These programs often help a wine taster hone
and develop their abilities in a controlled setting. Some also
offer professional training for sommeliers and winemakers. It
is even possible to learn how to assess wine methodically via
plays an important role in the sensory analysis of wine. Employing
a trained or consumer panel, oenologists may perform a variety
of tests on the taste, aroma, mouthfeel and appeal of wines.
Difference tests are important in determining whether different
fermentation conditions or new vineyard treatments alter the
character of a wine, something particularly important to producers
who aim for consistency. Preference testing establishes consumer
preference, while descriptive analysis determines the most prominent
traits of the wine, some of which grace back labels. Blind tasting
and other laboratory controls help mitigate bias and assure
statistically significant results. Many large wine companies
now boast their own sensory team, optimally consisting of a
Ph.D. sensory scientist, a flavor chemist and a trained panel.
varieties are variously evaluated according to a wide range
of descriptors which draw comparisons with other, non-grape
flavors and aromas. The following
table provides a brief and by no means exhaustive summary of
typical descriptors for the better-known varietals.
|Red grape variety
||Common sensory descriptors
||tobacco, green bell pepper, raspberry, freshly-mown
||blackcurrants, eucalyptus, chocolate, tobacco
||smoky, pepper, raspberry
||violet, plums, tart red fruit, earthy minerality
||black cherry, plums, tomato
||thyme, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, violet, blackberry
||leather, tar, stewed prunes, chocolate, liquorice,
||red fruit, elderberries
||earthy, black pepper, dark fruits
||violets (later), pencil shavings
||raspberry, cherry, violets, "farmyard" (with age),
||herbs, black cherry, leathery, earthy
||tobacco, black/white pepper, blackberry, smoke
||vanilla, strawberry, tobacco
||spices, chocolate, red fruits
||black cherry, pepper, mixed spices, mint
|White grape variety
||Common sensory descriptors
||butter, melon, apple, pineapple, vanilla (if oaked,
e.g. vinified or aged in new oak aging barrels)
||wet wool, beeswax, honey, apple, almond
||rose petals, lychee, spice
||green apple, citrus
||almond, honeysuckle, marzipan
|Melon de Bourgogne
||lime, salt, green apple
||honey, grapes, lime
||honeydew, citrus, raw nuts
|Pinot Gris (Pinot
||white peach, pear, apricot
||apple, honey, musk, citrus
||citrus fruits, peach, honey, petrol
||gooseberry, lime, asparagus, cut grass, bell pepper
(capsicum), grapefruit, passionfruit, cat pee (tasters'
term for guava)
||honey, orange, lime
||apple, minerals, citrus
||pear, cream, green fruits
||peach, pear, nutmeg, apricot
Science of Wine Aroma
the Acids in Wine
(Tannins) in Wine
The Basic Wine Pairing Rules
Science of Food and Wine
a Wine Sommelier
Emile (1996) The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation,
London: Macdonald Orbis, p1
S. Jackson, Wine Tasting: A Professional Handbook, pp 2-3
Emile (1996) The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation,
London: Macdonald Orbis, p2
Frederric Brochet Tasting. A study of the chemical representations in the field of
- Wine Snob Scandal - Brochet's work on dyed wine
J. Robinson Jancis Robinson's Wine Course Third
Edition pg 28 Abbeville Press 2003
Huttenbrink, K., Schmidt, C., Delwiche, J., & Hummel,
T. (2001). The aroma of red wine is modified by the form
of the wine glass. Laryno-Rhino-Otologie, 80(2),
Delwiche, J., & Pelchat, M. (2002). Influence of glass
shape on wine aroma. Journal of Sensory Studies,
T., Delwiche, J., Schmidt, C., & Huttenbrink, K. (2003).
Effects of the form of glasses on the perception of wine
flavors: a study in untrained subjects. Appetite,
Kevin. Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course;
Sterling Publishing, 2005.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible; Workman Publishing,
New York (2001).
Karen. The Wine Bible; Workman Publishing, New
York, p.5 (2001).
Willie (1998). The Wine Avenger. Simon & Schuster,
- Champagne Facts, citing "EncyclopÃ©die des Vignes au plaisir" 22. Eviter les erreurs (French)
- Professional Friends of Wine
-  Wine-Searcher
- Walton, Stuart (2005). Cook's Encyclopedia of Wine.
Anness Publishing Limited 2002, 2005. pp. 10,11.
- Wine Campus
offers an Honours Brevet via e-learning
- Varietal Profiles | Professional Friends of Wine
- Grape Varieties Explained