Bear River Winery
Going wine tasting? Here are a few wine tasting tips for the sensory evaluation of wine. Humans are the most sensitive sensory instrument there is for analyzing wine. Most people prefer sweet white wines at first, finding the sometimes bitter flavors of red wines unpleasant. As we become familiar with wine, we begin to perceive and appreciate the detail and complexity found in wine.
When tasting wine, it is helpful to break down the experience into several categories including appearance, aroma, taste and flavor (a combination of aroma and taste). If you look at wine in natural light, white wines will appear light yellow but will darken to amber with age or oxidation. Red wines are ruby red with a purple tinge when young but become somewhat browner with age or oxidation. Intensity of color is related to grape variety and for red wine is also due to skin contact during fermentation. Looking through the wine it should appear somewhat clear. Cloudiness or haziness might be related to microbial spoilage but could also be from an unfiltered wine. Swirling the wine in your glass with small circular motions will help to release the aromas of the wine. You will see lines dripping down the inside of the glass commonly known as tears or legs due to the lower surface tension of alcohol compared to water. Higher alcohol wines will show more legs.
After swirling the wine, place your nose into the top of the glass and breathe in deeply. You will smell varietal and other complex aromas related to how the wine was processed and cellared. You will smell aromas ranging from fruity or spicy to floral or vegetable. There might be earthy, woody or nutty odors. Standardized aroma wheels are commonly found on the internet and can be helpful to describe what you sense. Different noses will detect different aromas and everyone seems to describe wines a little differently.
When you taste wine, you may notice that your tongue really only senses four basic tastes consisting of sweet, sour, bitter or salty. The sweet will be on the tip of your tongue while the sour will be on the sides and the bitter will be in the back. The sweet taste comes from residual sugar while sour is from acid and bitter from tannins. Astringency such as hotness from alcohol or mouth-feel from tannin is a sensation and not really a taste and both usually mellow with age. As the wine hits the back of your mouth you will notice additional flavors from aromas traveling up through your nasal passages in your throat. It is common to talk about lingering flavors after you swallow as the back end of the wine. Have fun tasting.