There are three elements to tasting wine: seeing, smelling and tasting. Counterintuitive but true. Today I’m going to address assessing a wine’s appearance; we’ll cover nose and palate over the next days blog entries.
Firstly, pour a small amount of wine into the glass – around 50 – 75mls, or a quarter full. This is not pretentious custom. We need room in the glass for swivelling (aeration), and also so that we can keep precious aroma molecules in the glass.
Under normal circumstances, you will know the grape, region and vintage of the wine you’re drinking. That all the case, there are wines who lose their fruit quickly (age fast) or show characteristics atypical of their region or grape. We can judge some of these elements by sight.
Look at the colour of your wine: white wine becomes deeper with age; red wine becomes paler. All wines become browner with age. When you tilt your wine glass at an angle, older reds will be almost completely transparent at the rim: it’s not a lack of quality… it’s just age J Depth of colour – in red or white wine – will indicate how thick the skins of the grapes were and/or how long the grape juices were left in contact with their skins during maceration.
When your glass is tilted to the side: wines with a single, consistent colour gradient, are general “drink now” wines that are unlikely to evolve. Wines with a glossy appearance and subtle gradations in the wine colour are superstars – you must be drinking an artisan & vine wine J
Image: last July I tasted Catherine Massioneuve’s outstanding Cahor Malbecs across vintages and cuvees. The rich berry darkness of the wines a certain indicator of the rich flavours and aging potential.