Take a swig and swish.
Five main things we’re looking for:
1. Tannins. Tannins come from the grape skins or barrels that wines are fermented or aged in. You can assess how tannic a wine is by how it dries your mouth. Think of that sensation you get when you leave your tea bag in tea for too long – that is too much tannin.
2. Acidity. Acidity sounds bad. Interpret it as “freshness”. You can assess the acidity in a wine by how your mouth waters. Now you start to build a picture: a balanced wine is one where the refreshing acidity of the wine balances the drying tannins in a wine.
3. Alcohol. In a good wine, you shouldn’t taste or smell alcohol. The flavour and aroma molecules in the wine should be more prevalent than the alcohol molecules. A wine that is too alcoholic can be detected by that burning feeling at the entrance to your throat.
4. Sweetness & bitterness both take a little more practice to detect. Your best guide is that if you feel you detect too much of either: it’s probably not a great wine.
5. Length. Length is one of the most reliable indicators of a quality wine. How long does the taste of the wine stay in your mouth? The longer the better.
Image: this time last year I was tasting wine with Alain Chabanon at his domaine in Languedoc. We’re stocking his rose this Spring – it’s a real winner!