Check out the Color and Clarity.
Pour a glass of wine into a suitable wine
glass. Then take a good look at the wine.
Tilt the glass away from you and check out
the color of the wine from the rim
edges to the middle of the glass (it's
helpful to have a white background - either
paper, napkin or a white tablecloth).
What color is it? Look beyond red, white or
blush. If it's a red wine is the color
maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red, brick or
even brownish? If it's a white wine is it
clear, pale yellow, straw-like, light green,
golden, amber or brown in appearance?
2. Still Looking.
Move on to the wine's opacity. Is the wine
watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull
or brilliant, cloudy or clear? Can you see
sediment? Tilt your glass a bit, give it a
little swirl - look again, is there
sediment, bits of cork or any other
floaters? An older red wine will be more
translucent than younger red wines.
Our sense of smell is critical in properly
analyzing a glass of wine. To get a good
impression of your wine's aroma, gently
swirl your glass (this helps vaporize some
of the wine's alcohol and release more of
its natural aromas) and then take a quick
whiff to gain a first impression.
4. Still Smelling.
Now stick your nose down into the glass and
take a deep inhale through your nose. What
are your second impressions? Do you smell
oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A
wine's aroma is an excellent indicator of
its quality and unique characteristics.
Gently swirl the wine and let the aromas mix
and mingle, and sniff again.
Finally, take a taste. Start with a small
sip and let it roll around your tongue.
There are three stages of taste: the Attack
phase, the Evolution phase and the Finish.
6. The Attack
Phase, is the initial impression that
the wine makes on your palate. The Attack is
comprised of four pieces of the wine puzzle:
alcohol content, tannin levels, acidity
and residual sugar. These four
puzzle pieces display initial sensations on
the palate. Ideally these components will be
well-balanced one piece will not be more
prominent than the others. These four pieces
do not display a specific flavor per se,
they meld together to offer impressions in
intensity and complexity, soft or firm,
light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or
dry, but not necessarily true flavors like
fruit or spice.
7. The Evolution
Phase is next, also called the
mid-palate or middle range phase, this is
the wine’s actual taste on the palate. In
this phase you are looking to discern the
flavor profile of the wine. If it’s a red
wine you may start noting fruit – berry,
plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice –
pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody
flavor like oak, cedar, or a detectable
smokiness. If you are in the Evolution Phase
of a white wine you may taste apple, pear,
tropical or citrus fruits, or the taste may
be more floral in nature or consist of
honey, butter, herbs or a bit of earthiness.
8. The Finish
is appropriately labeled as the final phase.
The wine's finish is how long the flavor
impression lasts after it is swallowed. This
is where the wine culminates, where the
aftertaste comes into play. Did it last
several seconds? Was it light-bodied (like
water) or full-bodied (like the consistency
of milk)? Can you taste the remnant of the
wine on the back of your mouth and throat?
Do you want another sip or was the wine too
bitter at the end? What was your last flavor
impression – fruit, butter, oak? Does the
taste persist or is it short-lived?
After you have taken the time to taste your
wine, you might record some of your
impressions. Did you like the wine overall?
Was it sweet, sour or bitter? How was the
Was it well balanced2?
Does it taste better with cheese, bread or a
heavy meal? Will you buy it again? If so,
jot the wine's name, producer and vintage
year down for future reference.