wine tasting like a sommelier

We’re all guilty of enjoying a nice bottle of wine or two. As someone who appreciates good wine, you probably know what you like, and what you don’t. But do you know how to really appreciate the fine art of wine tasting?

I have had the privilege of learning from an experienced and professional French Sommelier, Teddy. I am the first to admit that both my taste buds and my sense of smell are not very mature. But following some of Teddy’s advice, I am now one to thoroughly enjoy the opening a bottle of good wine and understanding the refinements. I will now find myself smelling the wine, swirling the wine around my full palate, before reading the label to see how well I am picking up on the different aromas and flavours. I don’t always get it right, but I do always have fun with it. For instance, I can now pick up on citrus notes in our Chardonnay, which you may have remembered from when we first bottled.

If you’d like, you can also learn more yourself with our fabulous Ballgowns and Booze Episodes, where we share a recipe and then pair it with one of our wines. Thanks to my experience with Teddy, the French Sommelier, my taste buds have expanded considerably.

The following tastings notes have come directly from the Teddy, so please excuse some of the French translation grammatical errors. We’ve decided to keep Teddy’s notes as is because we believe French men have an authentic and beautiful way of referencing wine that does not need to be grammatically corrected.

Teddy’s Steps to Tasting Wine

1. Appearance

2. Nose

3. Palate

“Each step is very important to have information about wine. Appearance gives informations some about aged of the wine by the lights and legs of the wine give you information’s about degrees alcohol. With the nose, you can confirm aged of the wines, smell aromas for identification grapes variety used into wine. With palate, you can confirm your thinking about wine and see profile the wine with acidity / power/ tannins and more. We use this method for blind tasting, but it’s very interesting for training with learning to taste wine.”

Approach to Tasting Wine

APPEARANCE

Clarity: Clear / hazy (is the wine faulty, or is this more of an organic or natural style wine?)

Intensity: pale / medium / deep

Colour:

White Wine: lemon-green / lemon / gold / amber/ brown
Rosé Wine: pink / salmon/ orange

(Rosé wines are currently on-trend to strip the colour down to a more orange/apricot appearance. The colour presented by the Rosé Wine may not be the natural colour of the
wine. Learn more about Rosé Wines and why Verwood’s Rosé colour is so vibrant)

Red Wines: purple / ruby / garnet/ tawny/ brown

Other observations

E.g. legs/tears, deposit, pétillance, bubbles

“Legs” are those streaks that trickle down the side of any wineglass after you swirl the wine. If the legs in your wine are thick, then this means the wine has a stronger alcohol volume. Whereas if your legs are thinner, the volume of alcohol is reduced. We chat more about why Verwood Wines have thin legs and what this means for you, the drinker of wine.

NOSE

Condition: Clean –unclean (is the wine faulty?)

Intensity: light / medium(-) / medium / medium (+) / pronounced

Aroma characteristics e.g. primary/ secondary/ tertiary

Development: youthful / developing / fully developed / tired/past its best

PALATE

Sweetness: dry –off-dry –medium-dry –medium-sweet –sweet –luscious

Acidity: low –/ medium(-) / medium/ medium (+) / high

Adjective to qualify acidity: (how do you describe the acidity in your palate)

• Fresh
• Vividness
• Nervy

Tannin: low / medium (-) /medium –medium(+) / high

Adjective to qualify tannins:

Smooth / Vividness soft heavy / Vividness hard

Alcohol: low / medium/ high

Body: light / medium(-)/ medium / medium(+) / full

Mousse: delicate / creamy / aggressive (Only Sparkling)

Flavour intensity: light / medium (-) / medium / medium (+) / pronounced

Flavour characteristics: e.g.primary/ secondary / tertiary

Finish: short / medium (-) / medium/ medium (+) / long

CONCLUSIONS ASSESSMENT OF QUALITY

Quality level: faulty –poor –acceptable –good –very good –outstanding

Level of readiness for drinking: / potential for ageing = too young /can drink now but has potential for ageing / drink now = not suitable for ageing or further or further ageing / too old.

DESCRIBING AROMA  AND FLAVOUR

When describing aroma and flavour, think in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary.

Primary Aromas and Flavours

(The aromas and flavours of the grape and alcohol)

The primary aromas, therefore, come from the grape variety and the terroir. The grape pulp and skin contain many organic compounds, some of which are aromatic. The soil and the climatic conditions will accentuate the aromas already present in the grape and express new ones.

Floral: acacia, honeysuckle, chamomile, elderflower, geranium, blossom, rose, violet

Green fruit: apple, gooseberry, pear, pear drop, quince, grape

Citrus fruit: grapefruit, lemon, lime (juice or zest?), orange peel, lemon peel

Stone fruit: peach, apricot, nectarine

Tropical fruit: banana, lychee, mango, melon, passion fruit, pineapple

Red Fruit: redcurrant, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, red cherry, red plum

Black Fruit: blackcurrant, blackberry, bramble, blueberry, black cherry, black plum

Dried/cooked Fruit: fig, prune, raisin, sultana, kirsch, jasmines, baked/stewed fruits, preserved fruits

Herbaceous: green bell pepper (capsicum), grass, tomato leaf, asparagus, blackcurrant leaf

Herbal: eucalyptus, mint, medicinal, lavender, fennel, dill

Pungent spice: black/white pepper, liquorice

Other: flint, wet stones, wet wool

Are the flavours delicate or intense / simple or complex / generic or well-defined / fresh or cooked / under-ripe or ripe or over-ripe?

Secondary Aromas and Flavours

(The aromas and flavours of post-fermentation winemaking)

Secondary aromas arise during alcoholic or malolactic fermentation, thanks to the activity of yeasts and bacteria. The latter assimilate the nutrients in the must (sugars and amino acids) and transform them into alcohol, which creates new aromas. The most famous fruity aroma from alcoholic fermentation is bananas, very characteristic of Beaujolais wines. The malolactic fermentation, very popular to produce Burgundy whites, brings roundness to the wine thanks to the appearance of buttery and brioche aromas. It is the natural yeasts present in the must which are responsible for these aromas which appear during fermentation when they are put into action.

Yeast (lees, autolysis): biscuit, bread, toast, pastry, brioche, bread dough, cheese

Fermentation: alcoholic / malolactic – butter, cheese, cream

Oak: vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, coconut, butterscotch, toast, cedar, charred wood, smoke, chocolate, coffee, resinous

Are the flavours from: yeast, alcoholic fermentation / malolactic fermentation or oak?

Tertiary Aromas and Flavours

(The aromas and flavours of maturation )

Tertiary aromas first appear when the wine is aged in barrels. In contact with the wine, the wood of the barrel, previously heated, releases aromas of vanilla, emphyteutic (coffee, caramel, toast) and spicy notes. The aging notes depend intimately on the type of wood used, the heating techniques and the duration of the aging. For example, a keg that has undergone light heating is more likely to express aromas of vanilla, while more intense heating often creates the appearance of aromas of toasted almonds. Finally, the aging of bottled wine often causes the mutation of aromas of primary fresh fruit from grape varieties, into tertiary aromas of more cooked or candied fruit.

Deliberate oxidation: almond, marzipan, hazelnut, walnut, chocolate, coffee, toffee, caramel

Fruit development (white): dried apricot, marmalade, dried apple, dried banana

Fruit development (red): fig, prune, tar, dried blackberry, dried cranberry, cooked blackberry, cooked red plum

Bottle age (white): petrol, kerosene, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, toast, nutty, mushroom, hay, honey

Bottle age (red): leather, forest floor, earth, mushroom, game, tobacco, vegetal, wet leaves, savoury, meaty, farmyard

Do the flavours show deliberate oxidation, fruit development or bottle age?

Some adjectives to describe a wine: elegant, fine, delicate, full, rich, generous, balanced, silky, powerful, velvety, creamy, straight, structured, full body

For more, check out our Wine Glossary for the wine specific terminology to really impress your friends.

Natalie Tindale is the proud Vigneron of Verwood Estate Wines and will gladly talk to you all day about fabulous her wine collection is. Visit Natalie, Scott, Benji and the team at Verwood Estate Wines today to enjoy the full experience of tasting cool climate wines in Australia.

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