If I ever found a pot of gold, I’d buy bottles untold of the nectar of the vines” – The Cat Empire


Sorry about the delay but have been busy the last month or so!!
To make it up to ye lovely people, I’ve decided to add a bumper post about some of the info I learned in my fancy pants wine course (which i passed with merit *brushes dirt of my shoulder*).  The next few posts are gonna be about the what’s what in the wine world- correct tasting method, the different countries and grapes, the differences between champagnes and other sparkling wines such as Prosecco. I’m also gonna do a small introduction to spirits so everyone knows what to expect when they find the only random bottle left  in the drinks cupboard !

First up is the universal way to taste wine (along with most alcoholic beverages.)

Preparation for tasting

The first thing a person should know about a tasting is that your impression should not be altered in any way by outside forces. The ideal tasting room will be odour-free ( no smells of cleaning products,tobacco,food,perfume,etc) with good natural light and a white surface in which we can inspect the appearance of the wine..

your palette should be clean and be unaffected by tobacco, food, coffee, chewing gum or toothpaste.An easy way to clean your palate is chew a piece of bread which will remove any lingering tastes and flavours . Its important to note that any type of flu/cold/hay-fever will have an effect the outcome of the tasting as they affect our sense of taste and smell.

The best glass for Tasting wines is the universal ISO tasting glass scene below.

(Photo: http://tinyurl.com/m5tovqn)

Basically, “The tasting glass consists of a cup (an “elongated egg”) supported by a stem resting on a base. The opening of the cup is narrower than the convex part so as to concentrate the bouquet.” The rounded bowl makes it easier to swirl the wine , the stem allows the person to hold the glass without warming the wine inside it and as stated ,the narrow opening helps with the aroma of the wine.

There is a systematic approach to tasting and it helps to make notes as typically during a wine tasting, you will be trying a mixture of white and red, as well as a mix of grape varietals and styles.

First off, I would recommend printing off a few of these tasting cards.


Following the outlines in the picture above, there are three areas that are integral for a successful tasting- Appearance, Nose, and Palate.

Is the wine clear? Hazy? Does it contain any Sediments? Note that a wine being hazy/ containing sediment (which looks bits of grit) does not necessarily mean it is faulty.
Intensity- How strong is the colour of the wine. A simple trick is to hold the rounded bottom of the glass between your thumb and fingers and peer straight down into the glass if you see your thumb clearly, the intensity is pale, if you barely see your nail, the intensity is medium and if you cannot make out your nail, then the intensity is deep. Most white wines will typically be pale but you can find some medium and deep ones also. Red wine varies due to a number of factors such as the influence of oak, the grape variety, etc.

Colour- For whites, the three main ones are lemon (a yellow/straw colour), gold and amber. In terms of red, its pretty straight forward. Most reds will be either purple or ruby. Garnet is a slight orange tint while tawny is more red brick  brown.



First up hold the glass up to your nose and smell the wine is it clean? Unclean?  If the wine is faulty/corked , it will have a bad odour similar to damp cardboard.If it does , you unfortunately have a corked wine.
Intensity- Gauging the intensity of the wine is hard to do at first but will improve over time. A great example is to compare a French Sauvignon Blanc(which will typically have a light- medium nose) with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ( predominately quite pronounced, leaping out of the glass at you and easily able to tell the different flavours.)

Aroma characteristics- these can range from different fruits (peach,pear,plum,cherry), spices ( cinnamon, pepper), Oak ( bread like, vanilla, cedar, smokey notes) as well as some less than normal notes( petrol, sweaty socks, sulpher).


Sweetness- This is hard to judge because everyone has different ideas on Sweet wines. Most people mistake fruitiness for sweetness. Sweet wines are very sugary sweet, typically resembling treacle and are usually sold in 50cl bottles (examples include desert wines such as Sauternes). Most Wines you will try will be Dry and occasionally Off-dry.

Acidity- This is a good thing despite what you think! , Acidity is really the mouth watering effect the wine has on your palate. Very simple!

Tannin’s–  Tannin’s are found in red wine. Tannin’s dry out your mouth and gums. Varies from light tannin to Strong tannin ( think your whole mouth and gums going dry. It is important to note the first red you try will falsely seem like there are tons of tannin’s but it is not the case. After awhile you will be able to factor this into your real analysis.)
Body-  The body refers to the weight of the wine in your mouth .  Light-bodied wines would feel similar to water in your mouth and full-bodied wines would be more like milk as far as heaviness.

Flavour- Similar to the aroma characteristics this varies differently per person some may be able to pick up hints of things while others wont. The handy flavours card outlined above gives you a massive range to describe the wine – peach flavours, a hint honey, juicy plum, red cherry, vanilla flavours, etc.

Finish- This refers to how long the taste lasts on the palate. a good long finish lasts longer than ten seconds, aka the wine that makes you lick your lips and want more!

Finally we get to the Quality category. There’s bad wine and amazing wine, its very simple. The outstanding term is reserved for  the wine that makes you go out and buy a case of it while raving about it to your friends, the wine you’d sell your soul for. As such, most of these wines are typically expensive but you’d have no problem dropping €30-€100 a bottle for. Most of the wines will be just good or very good. Very rarely will you get a bad wine ( I’m looking at you €3 supermarket wine) so use common sense and splash a bit more next time you pick up a bottle and be rewarded by the massive jump in quality, structure and taste.

And there you go, a step by step guide to having your own personal tasting for you and your friends, enjoy!!



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