Wine Grading

To have skill in the art of wine tasting it isn't necessary to have an advanced degree in oenology (the science of winemaking). However, listening to professional wine tasters, it is easy to get that impression. The terms bouquet, clarity, earthy, crisp, open, and nostalgic could be difficult for many to understand.

To begin it is best to let someone knowledgeable decide how to serve wine. Even serving wine requires some education and experience. Some wines are best served at room temperature (red generally), while some should be served chilled (white generally). Room temperature should be around 60F for reds and chilled wines should start at around 50F and be adjusted to taste.

Some wines should be served right away (whites with many exceptions, while others (reds again with exceptions) should be allowed to breathe or sit uncorked in the bottle, exposed to air for 15 minutes or more. Some require decanting (filtering the sediment out) before they are served particularly Ports and wines that have aged considerably.

Pour the wine into an ordinary wine glass no more than half full and swirl it a bit to generate additional 'winey' vapor. Avoid heavy glasses so the wine can easily be seen. Then examine to determine if it is clear, hazy or opaque.

Smell the wine briefly and pay close attention by closing the eyes. This may seem pretentious but will help to focus on one or two sense taste and smell over sight. Some experts sometimes misidentify wines in blind tests.

Attempt to identify the odor. Determine if the odor is fruity like grapes or apples or oranges. Chardonnay sometimes resembles apples or figs (especially when aged in oak.) Other wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlots smell more like cedar or pine needles. Syrah will bring forth thoughts of black pepper or floral scents. It is not entirely subjective and there is often wide agreement among experts and amateurs alike, however impressions do differ on degree.

Now take a small sip and run it around the tongue to get many different taste buds involved. Different areas of the tongue are more attuned to sweet detection, other more salty or bitter.

Set the wine aside or finish it and return another day. Do not try too much or too many varieties at one time. One per day is preferred but will take a great amount of time. No more than three should be tasted per day; otherwise the ability to discern differences will be diminished.

On a different day try reds and concentrate on sensing the oak storage cask. Some California reds have hints of chocolate or coffee while a fine Merlot may carry a 'tarry' quality preferred by those that favor strong scents.

In all cases, subtlety is the key. Good wines don't have a strong scent. Before long anyone can be swirling around a glass of wine and tossing around 'zesty', 'shy', and 'brave' like an expert.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

Sip of Wine

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  Wine and Cheese
  Wine and Health
  Wine Grading
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