The practice of wine tasting was known as early as the 13th century. It has evolved since that time, with wine tasters and winemakers embracing new
flavours, and aromas, in today's modern wines.
Anyone can be a wine taster, however, it takes skill and experience to learn the many characteristics of a bottle of wine.
AROMAS - FLAVOURS
These are the common aromas-flavours that a wine taster looks for in order of importance:
PRIMARY AROMAS: Aromas from the type of grape and the terroir. Terroir has to do with where the grape was grown- the region, the climate, the soil. Primary aromas are usually focused around fruit, floral, spice, vegetable, and earth.
Fruits can include Tree Fruits (Quince, Apple, Pear, Nectarine, Peach, Apricot), Citrus,(orange, marmalade, grapefruit, lime, lemon), Tropical Fruits(Pineapple, Mango, Guava, Kiwi, Lychee), Red Fruits (Cherry, Raspberry, Sour Cherry, Strawberry, Red Plum, Cranberry), Black Fruits (Boysenberry, Blackcurrant, Black Cherry, Plum, Blackberry, Blueberry, Olive), Dried Fruits (Fig, Raisins, Date).
Floral aromas can include: Violet, Iris, Acacia, Lilac, Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Rose, Potpurri.
Spice aromas can include: Thyme, Mint, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Red Pepper.
Vegetable aromas can include: Gooseberry, Grass, Bell Pepper, Green Almond, Black Tea, Dried Tomato.
Earth aromas can include: Wet Slate, Wet Gravel, Forest, Clay, Petro.
SECONDARY AROMAS: These are from the winemaking process, known as Microbial. Flavours and aromas from this process can include sourdough, truffle, mushroom, butter, cream, fresh bread, and lager.
TERTIARY AROMAS: These are aromas from the oak aging process. Wines are aged in oak barrels, stainless steel vats, or in the bottle, or a combination of these. Commonly used barrels are Amercian Oak, French Oak, and less often used Hungarian Oak.
Wines can be aged for as little as a few weeks to many months to several years. Blended wines can have wine grapes that are all aged for different timeframes then brought together and sometimes aged additionally to get specific flavours and aromas. This would depend on what the winemaker wants for the final wine product.
Tertiary aromas include clove, vanilla, baking spices, roasted nuts, dill, nutmeg, clove, baking spices, coconut, hazelnut, caramel, smoke, dried fruit, toast, chocolate, espresso, woody, savoury, meaty, cotton candy, slightly burnt, cola.
Sparkling wines and young wines can have aromas of beer scent. This is from the yeast.
Malolactic fermentation is sometimes used in the wine making process to soften the wines and bring out more of the wine's natural aromas. This is common in some Chardonnay wines. This will give the wine aromas of buttered popcorn, and caramel.
TAKE A SIP!
Take a sip, not a large gulp! You want to recognize not only flavours and aromas, but also determine if the wine is complete, complex, harmonious, well balanced, or
perhaps a poorly made wine. Is it textured in taste? Does it have a mid palette distinct fruit flavour? Is it a lingering finish? A medium finish? Or not much of a finish?
It is said that a well made wine has a lingering finish of at least 10-15 seconds(The taste lingers in your mouth).
Some flavours are more easy to recognize than others, those usually are: ripe fruit, vanilla flavour, honey notes, smoky flavour, and a wine with dried fruit. A wine with a jammy tasting note usually has less tannins therefore it is fruitier in taste.
For tasting purposes, this makes wine with a jammy note very suitable for wine tasting. For example; a red wine with say, Ripe fruit, Jammy, Spicy, as its tasting notes, would be a good wine to try to taste ripe fruit, and a wine that has Blueberry, Jammy, Spicy, as its tasting notes, would be a good wine to try to taste blueberry fruit flavour.
If you don't get any non fruit aromas(like vanilla, spice), then taste for fruit aromas, there should be some fresh fruit taste. If the wine is too cold or very sweet you may not taste the fruit or aromas on first tasting. For red wines, drink them at close to room temperatures - 62 - 69 F. For white wines, drink them fridge cold.
If your not tasting much fruit or aromas, then change the temperature; if its cold, let it get less cold, if its already just slightly chilled, then let it get to a warmer temperature. Wine, especially red wines, are at their best with a room like temperature.
To see this for yourself, take a red wine and chill it in the fridge for hours, then taste it right from the fridge. You will notice there is not much of the wine's fruity taste and even less of its' aromas. Let the wine sit at room temperature, for 20 or so minutes, then taste it again. You can now taste the fruits, and especially the aromas and tannins.
Once your skilled at wine tasting, you can taste wines of a specific wine climates easily; common are cool climate regions, warm climate regions. Floral aromas are common in the cooler climate growing regions for wines like Riesling, Gewurztraiminer, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc. Rieslings can be sweet or dry depending on the country, and some make a sweet and dry type. Viognier and Gewurz have unique floral aromas, and Chenin Blanc has honeyed fruit flavours aromas especially those made in Vouray Loire Valley France.
In a perfectly made wine, all flavours are blended seamlessly. There should be a balance between the flavours. Aged wines are more likely to have the possibility of this, while young wines not so much. However, a young wine can have all the components for a perfect wine, but because it is still young, they are not yet flawless. In the rare instance when a young wine exhibits a perfect blending, this indicates a wine that has been very well made.
When tasting a wine, we taste (our buds) bitter, salty, sour, sweet. In a good wine these should all be in good proportion to each other. The most important tastes are Sweet - the residual sugar in wine; and sour - the acidity in wine.
Saltiness is much less tasted in wine, and any bitterness should be from the wine Tannins, and it not really bitter as we know it, but rather a wine bitterness which is tannic in flavour, only from the Tannins. A wine that has too much sugar(sugary), too alcoholic, too bitter, or has a lack of acidity, is considered a poorly made wine and not well balanced.
DESCRIBE YOUR TASTING
Write or say the most obvious flavours - aromas first.
Saying: Raspberry, Pepper, sounds more fruit forward than saying: Pepper, Raspberry.
Use adjectives with your flavours and aromas: pepper? fresh pepper or dried pepper. Raspberry, is it a tart raspberry or more of a jammy raspberry.
Flavours and aromas are not always easily distinguishable in wines, so practice with easy to recognize known wine flavours and aromas like: Vanilla, Jammy, Honey, Floral, Caramel, Dried Fruit, Earthy.
Buy white wines with floral aromas/flavours to taste floral notes - Riesling-(Yellow Tail Australia); white wines with honeyed notes to taste Honey notes(Chenin Blanc- Vouvray, Riesling - Germany, France -Alsace).
For Vanilla, Jammy try(Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia), Dried Fruit and Earthy (Tempranillo Piqueras Reserva Spain). All these wines are around $12-$15, making them good choices to do your Wine Tasting.
With Wine Tasting Practice, you will begin to know the flavours and aromas, and then you can try more expensive wines, with more unique flavours and aromas.
A wine Master Sommelier is a person who is trained in the art of wine. They know not only wine brands, but also vintages, and the blended wines from all the wine makers.
They study wine, taste wine, and must know every wine region from New World regions and Old World regions, and what styles of wines are produced from each of these regions.
Master Sommelier hopefuls taste a lot of wine, and this is necessary because when they take the Master Sommelier Exam, they taste 6 wines. Each wine is from a different wine maker, and they must name the wine they taste, the varietal, including the wine's exact origin, and the year of the wine.
As you can imagine, this is quite a challenging task, and many do not pass the first time taking the exam. In fact, many take the exam several times before passing. If they do not pass, they must wait 1 year before they can take the Master Sommelier Exam again.
To achieve the Master Sommelier status; one must take examinations in this order:
Master Sommeliers' Introductory Sommelier Examination
Certified Sommelier Examination
Advanced Sommelier Examination
Master Sommelier Diploma Examination
There are several Master Sommelier like organizations around the world.
Various certifications are offered by many of them making them reputable in the wine world and amongst professional wine experts. Some of them are:
France - Union de la Sommellerie Française(UDS)
Mention Complémentaire Sommellerie (MCS), Brevet Professionnel de Sommelier (BP), Maître Sommelier.
Italy - Italian Sommelier Association(AIS)
Certified Sommelier qualification, Professional Sommelier qualification
London - Wine & Spirit Education Trust(WSET)
WSET Certified Educator qualification
Great Britain - The Court of Master Sommeliers(CMS)
Introductory Sommelier Certificate
Certified Sommelier Certificate, Advanced Sommelier Certificate,
Master Sommelier Diploma
South Africa - Cape Wine Academy
Cape Wine Master
Canada, China, United States - International Sommelier Guild(ISG)
Wine Fundamentals(I, II), Sommelier Diploma, Certified Sommelier Instructor Diploma
Also read - Sommelier Organizations around the World
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