The basics of wine tasting
Wine tasting is a complex and rewarding art which engages all of our senses. Here are some tips on how to begin with it!
The first things to consider are the three main sensations you can spot: acidity, bitterness and warmth.
Highly acidic wines are young, since acidity is lost as they age. Bitterness comes from the various oxidised substances. Among these are tannins, the root of the sharp, tight feeling we get with red wines. Alcohol is what gives the sense of warmth. All of these factors are essential in allowing the wine to age, for as it ages, all the qualities become softer and give the wine a more rounded flavour.
A wine is said to be balanced when it has the right proportion between softness, given by sugars and alcohols, and harshness, given by acids, tannins and mineral salts. In young wines, the harsh side prevails, while in older wines the softer side is stronger.
When you taste the wine, it is important for the conditions to be right so you can pick up on all of these factors. It’s essential, for example, to serve it at the right temperature. At a warm temperature, you will be able to better perceive softness and sweetness, while the cold emphasises bitterness. So, white wines can be served at colder temperatures, for their taste is more fresh and acidic: their ideal serving temperature goes from 9° to 13°C. Go lower than this, and you will flatten its smell, thus giving a false impression of the taste. Red wines, especially older ones, must never be served at temperatures lower than 14°C, with the ideal temperatures going from 14°C to 18°C.
Another essential factor is what you serve the wine in. Champagne and sparkly wine should be served in a tall and narrow goblet (flute) thanks to which delicate perfumes can gradually reach the nose.
A red wine needs to oxygenise to release aromas, so it must be served in wider glasses, where it can lie at the bottom and remain in contact with the air, highlighting all of its components.
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