Tasting wine is a source of entertainment and pleasure, and it’s a way of reviewing the quality of wine your restaurant offers. Just as a chef verifies the excellence of every ingredient, you can taste and review wines to ensure the maximum enjoyment for your customers.
Using your sense of sight, smell and taste, you can learn to evaluate wines and gain confidence in selecting wines for yourself and your customers.
The quality of a wine can be assessed in part by looking at its color, depth and clarity. Observe the color and clarity of a wine by holding your glass up to a white background (placemat or tablecloth) in a well-lit room.
White wines can range from light green, clear, straw yellow or gold to brown in color. Dry white wines usually begin pale and slowly gain color with age. Sweet white wines will generally start off a deeper shade of yellow.
Red wines may be purple, ruby, brick red or brownish red. Their color is determined in part by the length of fermentation during the winemaking process, the amount of skin contact the wine received, and different aging vessels (barrels, or stainless steel). As red wins mature, they will lose color and take on a brick-brown hue.
What is the very first thing that you think of when you smell a wine? Do you smell pumpkin pie? Freshly mown grass? Strawberries? A cigar box? These associations make wine tasting fun, and they make it easier to remember wines.
Much of our sense of taste is actually our ability to smell. To release the bouguet of a wine, swirl the glass. As the swine clings to the inside of the glass, the alcohol evaporates and carries with it the aroma of the wine. Aerating the wine before you take the first sniff will enable you to better judge the wine.
Tasting is the final way to assess the quality of a wine. After your first sip, ask yourself: Do you like the wine? Why or why not? Is it a light, medium or full-bodied? Is the wine in balance, meaning do the components of aroma acidity, tannin and level of sweetness work together?
The qualities you evaluate through taste are defined as follows:
Body – The weight and feel of the wine on the palate.
Acidity – Derived from the natural malic and tartaric acids from the grapes, creating astringency.
Tannin – Complex phenolic molecules that affect the proteins in your saliva. When tannins are excessive, they can produce a drying sensation on the palate.
Sweetness – This comes from the residual sugar left in a wine after fermentation has converted most of the grapes’ natural sugar into alcohol.
You will also want to pay attention to a wine’s finish. A clean crisp finish is the mark of a good, well-made wine. Poor quality wines finish short or fall off to a watery and insubstantial end. Top quality wines also have a measurable length of taste or beautiful flavor that remains in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed.