Wine Tasting


Here is an interesting topic that will generate a lot of discussion among wine drinkers.  The human's nose and palate are very unique.  When gathered at wine events, wine tastings, or even drinking a wine at home with your spouse or friend there are differences of opinions on what each of us detect in the wine that we are drinking.  It is very common for people to ask the question, "What are you getting on the nose or palate."  Some people have extremely refined senses such as a sommelier but let's step a back little further.  Senses can be trained.  Take a chef or person who cooks frequently, they have a wide spectrum of various spices and ingredients that go into food to help them describe a wine.  This is extremely valuable.  My wife can detect and relate various subtle nuances of a wine to specific detailed spices, fruits, etc that I have difficulty detecting or finding an appropriate descriptor.  I have been a homebrewer for almost 30 years and have a keen sense of balance in flavors, acids, hops, sweetness, etc.  I'm also not bad at detecting the layers of flavors that many Old World wines offer. In a nutshell we are all different in our senses and evaluation of wines.

So what is the correct way for us to approach a wine that we are reviewing?Emile Peynaud in his book, “The Taste of Wine” passes along this quote on how we should approach a wine.  “When you taste, ignore the bottle, label, and those around you; concentrate instead on yourself and on forming a clear impression of the developing sensations conveyed by the wine.  Close your eyes and use your nose, tongue and palate to see.  So recommends Pierre Poupon.  'It is the surest method of avoiding errors of judgment due to conditioning and suggestions, the two traps that can catch even the wariest taster." 

This is one of the reasons that I do not like writing notes on wines that I taste at wineries.  Even reading the vintners notes on a wine before tasting can influence your description.  I may write on balance, crispness and tannins but seldom on the the presence of various spices, fruits, etc.  This should be a personal adventure between you and the wine.  At tastings I like to develop a position before discussing my findings.  Then you can revisit and discuss them with everyone's evaluation of the wine. Power of suggestion can cloud one's own review and perception of a wine. This will prevent you from developing the senses and descriptors for the wines that you taste.

Remember, there is no right or wrong here.  We are all different and so are our perceptions of a wine.  Follow Peynaud’s recommendation and you will surprise yourself.  Dissect the many layers that a wine has to offer, look for the balance between fruits and acid and last but not least, did you like it or not and why.  This is my challenge to you.


Rusty Sly