Unlike other beverages wine comprises of six characteristics each of which helps in determining if the wine is just an ordinary wine or a great wine in the making. Colour, Nose, Fruit, Acid, Tannin and End ( CoNFATE ) make a full wine.
An ideal wine-tasting environment will have a flat table with white sheet and a room with white walls. Daylight enables you to get the colour intensities right. Wine should be poured in big, clear and clean stemmed glass bigger than 300c.c. Thinner and closer rim at the top is desirable to hold the aroma released from the wine. Red wine should be tasted with a wider-bottomed glass to enable better release of flavours. Glass should be properly washed and free of any odours.
Now pour wine in the glass. Red wine should be at 18-20 deg.C and white wine at 10-14 deg. C. Wine should be less than a third in the glass. In any case the glass should not be more than half filled unless it is sparkling wine in a flute glass. Let us look at these characteristics..
Colour: Hold the glass against light. Look at the colour, clarity and intensity from the side and top of the glass. Darker the colour, better it is for the wine. Dark red, ruby, purple, garnet, opaque are some descriptions of good red wines especially cabernets and will get higher ratings. Some young wines may be very dark in colour initially but will lose some of the colour with time. Sliding down the scale , wine would be very dark but not opaque and further down to light reds and very light reds.
Similarly, very deep golden yellow would be excellent but ordinary white wine may be very light yellow or white in colour. If the colour is rusty or with orange tinge it means that the wine has been oxidized and spoiled. Greenish white is good colour for Chardonnay.
NOSE: This refers to the flavour and aroma of wine. Immerse your nose in the the glass and take a deep breath through the nose and feel the aromas release by the wine. There are strong aromas associated with different varietals and finer wines will bring out these aromas better. Medium quality wines will have nice aromas but nothing to write home about while everyday table wines may not have any aroma or flavour at all.
The best way of releasing aroma in a wineglass is to hold the glass on the flat table. or by the stem vertically , swirling the wine around in either direction so that the liquid rises up the sides of the glass without spilling out. Thin layer formed on the glass makes the alcohol evaporate faster bringing out aromas interesting and different than the smell of grapes. As a fine wine matures, after-taste keeps on getting better and complex, usually multi-layered. There may be more than one flavour.
FRUIT: The best part of wine is tasting the fruit. Good wine should give you a feeling of huge fruit extraction; it should be rich and luscious. Going down the scale it will be very lean and thin. Fruit would have gone and the wine dried out. Usually, red wine with high tannin but not the best of grape quality may take time for the tannin to soften down but by that time the fruit would die out. For wines past their peak the fruit also starts going down fast.
Fruit will also give hints of the grapes used. Cabernet Sauvignons taste like black currants, plums, black cherries and spices whereas Pinot Noirs from Burgundy may taste like cherries and strawberries. Chardonnay may taste like peach, honey or pear. Take a small sip just enough to roll around all points of the mouth but not so big as to swallow some wine without enjoying it. Keep each sip for as long as possible. 20 seconds isn't long and more than a minute is desirable for a fine, mature and complex wine to extract all the information and feel the sensation. Chewing wine will also draw out the subtle characteristics and flavours.
ACID: Acid content in a wine is the sum total of agreeable grape acid in the wine which will be very sharp and tart if too much acid is present. The tartness will be modest in a well-integrated wine and when the level is very low it will taste flat. However, do not confuse it with sour taste, which is due to fruit of the wine.
TANNIN: Tannins add to the puckery taste like strong tea without milk and slightly strong. It is present in the grape skins, pips and stalks. It adds to the anti aging and good-for-heart characteristics especially in the red wines. It also helps preserve the wine and changes the character of wine drastically over a period of time in the barrel as well as the bottle.
A highly tannic wine may be very bitter and astringent especially in relation to the fruit. What one wants to taste is moderate, soft and well-balanced structure. If the tannins are very weak the wine will not mature with age and needs to be drunk young.
END: Also referred to as After-Taste and Finish this characteristic differentiates between a simple and a complex wine. This is the sensation left behind after swallowing the sip or spitting the wine. A mature or well-aging wine will have a long and complex finish sometimes lasting more than a minute. Ordinary table wine may not have any after-taste at all. There may even be multi-layered flavours. The sensation of one fruit may be followed by yet another. A long and complex End would undoubtedly enhance the beauty of wine.
Wine Tasting is an experience where one can appreciate all the components of wine. Whereas an ordinary table wine that we normally get in India may give us the usual kick of alcohol it should be compared with other wines after taking due note of all the above characteristics. [Wine Tasting also helps people decide what kind of wine to bring with them during their last minute holidays from On The Beach with their friends and loved ones!