Red, white, pink, orange… It seems simple enough! In fact, the color of a wine can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside the glass.
HUE: Take a look at the hue. If it’s a red wine, is it more pinkish or reddish? This simple color observation is often a big clue as to the variety(ies) and climate where the wine was made.
The generally accepted hues for red wines are: Purple, Ruby, Garnet, and Tawny.
White wines use: Straw, Yellow, Gold, and Amber.
Rosé wines use: Pink, Salmon, and Copper.
Next, take a look at the color from the edge to the middle of the glass. How opaque is it? This is the color intensity.
Also, how much does the color change from the rim to the middle? This “rim variation” is often an indicator of age in a wine.
VISCOSITY: Swirl your glass and take a look at how it forms tears (aka “legs”) on the side of the glass. Are they thick, slow-moving tears or fast ones? This tells us the wine is either higher alcohol, higher sweetness, or both. It’s actually a phenomenon called The Gibbs-Marangoni Effect.
CLARITY: Is the wine clear, cloudy, or turbid (cloudy and thick with suspended particles)?
When we taste wine, it’s all about the texture. We sense body, sweetness, acidity, and tannin on our tongues as presence, oiliness, tartness, and astringency. When you taste a wine, focus more on these textures and how they evolve from start to finish. After this is done, you can think about flavors!
Many sommeliers rank a wine’s traits with a ranking of 1 (low) to 5 (high).
Body: Does it fill your palate or is it barely there?
Writing your final conclusion in your wine tasting notes gives you a chance to tie it all together.
Here are some things to consider:
How did the initial taste compare with the finish?
How long did the flavor last on your palate?
Was the wine complex or simple?
Overall, was it a “yay!” “meh” or “bleh?”
We Are All Different, But Not That Different
In my experience, communicating with wine drinkers of all kinds, I’ve observed something like a bell curve when it comes to opinions. (I hope to research this with more data in the future!)
In the mean time, this is the general consensus that I’ve observed:
One side of the bell curve prefers fruity, sweet wines with noticeable acidity. (Generally white and sparkling wines).
The middle of the bell curve looks for dry wines with boldness, fruitiness, lush acidity, and a smooth finish. (These are usally red wines).
The other side of the bell curve looks for wines with minerality, tannin, earthiness, and subtlety. (These are all kinds of unique wines).
None of these choices are right or wrong, but they are often in conflict with one another. They also affect how some of us should use wine ratings.
In fact, some wine reviewers (such as Stephen Tanzer and Antonio Galloni) rate wines higher for their structure and minerality, where as others (like Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate) rate wines higher that demonstrate the more optimal fruit/ripeness profiles.
So, where does your palate fit into this picture? (Hint, hint: Take more wine tasting notes to find out!)