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The 5 Key Elements of Wine Tasting

Most of us are totally unaware of what goes through our heads while we are tasting a wine. We just slurp it down with perhaps a comment or two like, "that was a good wine" or "too sharp for me". But how do we know what we are actually tasting or experiencing when the wine has been sampled? I want to introduce you to the five principal elements to look for in a wine tasting.

The secret to analyzing the complexities in a wine is to fully understand the following five principals. Learn how to concentrate on each one in turn while tasting, and in no time at all you will have the analytical tools with which to complete a full evaluation of the quality of any wine.

  1. 5 principles of tastingDryness/Sweetness
    The easiest attribute to be noticed is the amount of natural sugar in the wine. At one end of the spectrum is a crisp, bone-dry Chablis to a rich, luscious Liqueur Muscat at the other, with a huge range of styles in between.

  2. Acidity
    Wine contains many different types of acid, with tartaric being the most important. This tartaric acid is present in unfermented grape juice. The acidity or sharpness is felt at the side of the tongue. Good acidity is vital to a wine, it contributes to the feeling of freshness of a young wine, and helps in the aging of the best wines.

    However, in a poor vintage when the grapes have not ripened properly, the eventual wine can appear sour or very sharp. Whilst in a very hot year, if the grapes have been allowed to over-ripen, the acid level will be very low resulting in a soft wine that will not be able to age, i.e. it must be drunk young. Dryness and bitterness should not be confused. Take a really sweet Sauternes, and you will find off-setting the sugar there will be sufficient acidity, and likewise a very dry fino sherry can often be low in acid.

  3. Tannin
    Tannin is found in the pips and stalks of grapes, and especially in the skins. It is from the skins that red wine gets its colour, although red grapes contain the same colour flesh as their white counterparts. Tannin in the mouth will give a dry, furry feel causing a puckering sensation, this is what makes drinking young red wines very difficult. Nevertheless, it will disappear gradually as the wine matures.

  4. Oak
    Winemakers can influence oaky flavours into their wines should they so wish. This can be done by fermenting the wine in oak barrels, or merely just aging them for a shorter while prior to bottling. The flavour imparted to the wine by the wood contact is easy to appreciate, especially with whites. A vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg aroma in the wine will be the first indicator of the presence of oak. With a red wine, the palate will have a feeling of creamy smoothness coming out of a light charred barrel. However, if the barrel had been heavily charred, there would be a notable smokiness like burnt toast.

  5. Fruit
    Detecting different fruit flavours in a wine becomes a skill once you have mastered the principles of tasting, practice will make perfect in no time. Soon you will be likening the fruit flavours in the wine to raspberries, passion fruit, lychees, elderflower, citrus and so on - the list is endless, and relies on your memory of experienced flavours. There are sound biochemical reasons why wines resemble flavours of other foods, so let you imagination run free whenever you are tasting. Lovely fruit flavours are among the most desirable features that a wine can possess.

Learn the five principal elements of tasting and enhance your overall appreciation of wine. It really does come down to - "the more you know, the more you desire and the better the experience".

Wine knowledge can be addictive when you embark on the great tasting trail.

Enjoy the journey!


EzineArticle Source: The 5 Principle Elements of Wine Tasting

By Rob Hemphill