The correct steps to follow
And now, in practical terms, how do we go about tasting a wine?
Discovering the colour of a wine
The first step in tasting is a visual examination, in other words looking at it. The aim is to define the intensity of the colour and the reflections of the wine. To do this, simply hold your glass up to the light or look at it against a white surface and describe what you see.
Here are the main colours observed by sommeliers:
Color nuances by type of wine
Color nuances depending on the age of wine
Discovering the nose of a wine
The second step is the olfactive examination, in other words, discovering its fragrances. The aim is to define the main aromas of the wine. For this, smell the wine a first time without swirling the wine around in the glass. The ‘first nose’ will reveal the wine’s main aromas: fruity, floral, spicy, vegetal, woody, animal, etc.
Then give the glass a gentle swirl to open up the wine so that it reveals more detailed aromas: cherry, pineapple, rose, acacia, cinnamon, white pepper, blackcurrant buds, moss, musk, leather, etc. It is this ‘second nose’ that helps to identify and characterise the wine more precisely.
The last step is of course to taste the wine.
Analysing the taste is an important moment since it calls upon your sensorial memory.
When tasting a wine, you can try to define :
- The ‘attack’, the first impressions of the wine in your mouth,
- The ‘finish’ in the mouth, the lingering aromas,
- And the aromatic persistence or ‘length’, i.e. how long the flavours remain in your mouth
For this take a first sip of the wine, then slightly part and purse your lips and breathe in so that air passes through the wine in your mouth and releases its aromas. Then close your lips and breathe in through your nose to intensify these aromas (retro-olfaction). You can then spit out the wine and appreciate its finish and aromatic persistence
You should also think carefully about the serving temperature. A wine served at the wrong temperature will not be able to reveal and fully develop its bouquet: an ill-judged serving temperature can ‘shatter’ the aromas of the wine.
Learn more on How to serve wine