© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
An essay-type tasting form
Tasting wine analytically is simply a matter of taking apart a glass of wine as you sip it, examining its components, and jotting down in plain, simple terms your observations about its appearance, smell, taste, aftertaste and the overall impression it makes upon you. Once you get the idea of it, it is surprisingly easy to do, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the added enjoyment that this analytical approach brings to wine appreciation.
Feel free to use the following free-form outline to help focus your thinking:
1. LOOK AT THE WINE. Is it clear? Brilliant? Transparent? Hazy? Is the color consistent throughout, or is it a different color near the edge than in the center? Do bubbles appear in the glass? Sediment? Does the color appear appropriate for the type of wine? Jot down your observations here.
2. SMELL THE WINE. Put your nose right into the glass in order to capture all the volatile elements that give wine its delicious aroma. After sniffing for a few seconds, stop, take a breath, then try it again. Try to describe what you smell. Don't resist the answers that your mind tries to give you -- you can't force this, but the responses that swim into your mind are likely correct, even if they may seem odd at first. Even though wine is made from grapes, it may smell of many different things -- every imaginable variety of fruit, from blackberries to bananas ... flowers ... aromatics like smoke and tar ... wood ... leather ... who knows? Give yourself plenty of time before reaching your conclusions; then write them here.
3. TASTE THE WINE. Take a sip, but don't swallow yet. Swish the wine around your mouth so a little of it touches every portion of your tongue and palate. Notice how different flavors seem to be concentrated on different parts of the tongue -- sweetness at the front, sourness (acidity) along the sizes, bitterness at the back of your tongue. Swallow, and take another sip. Think about the flavors as you did the aromas. Does the flavor seem consistent with the aroma, or is it significantly different? Notice the flavors that remain in your mouth after you swallow. Is this "aftertaste" similar to the flavor while the wine is in your mouth, or is it different? Does the aftertaste (which wine lovers call "finish") last long, or do the flavors diminish quicly? Are the flavors pleasant? Is the wine smooth, sweet, sour, astringent? Write your conclusions here.
4. STOP, THINK, AND DRAW CONCLUSIONS. What's your overall sense of this wine? Do the appearance, aroma, flavor and total impression seem consistent? How does it compare with all the other wines you've ever tasted? Does one sip make you desire another? If it is less than satisfactory, can you identify the elements that displease you? How would you rate this wine subjectively on a scale of your choosing, be it 1 to 100, 1 to 20 or 1 to 5?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Why do we submit a substance as ultimately trivial as fermented grape juice to such an extended analysis? For many who find the appreciation of fine wine an enjoyable hobby, it's a way of enhancing that enjoyment by turning it into an intellectual exercise that helps us compare one wine against another, develop an appreciation for its subtleties, and judge one wine against another.
But it's a little more than this: By training ourselves to stop, take a breath, and pay attention to the subtle elements that distinguish one wine from any other, I think we learn an important lesson about life -- that it's worth taking the time to slow down and appreciate ANYTHING that pleases us, from a glass of wine to a great work of music, literature or art, or a sunset or a scenic view. It's a simple way to learn to appreciate the little things in life that may in some small way enhance our enjoyment of every day.
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