Wine Tasting: Look Before You Sip

Photo Credit: Wine Folly

If you are wine tasting, or just having a glass, before you take that next sip of wine, stop and take a good long look at the wine in your glass. There are so many things you can learn about the wine just by looking at it if you know what to look for.

When I teach the Wine Blending Class, the first thing we do is evaluate the visual appearances of the wine. Many people instinctively lift the glass up to the sky and peer deeply into the elixir. We have all seen the wine snobs do this, but to really get a good indication, hold the glass tipped at 45 degree over a white surface and look straight down through the glass onto white surface. Try if for yourself: first to the sky and second to the white surface. See the difference?

Now to understand what you are looking at. All wine should be visually appealing; bright and clear without any haze, suspended particles, insects and such. If it is a old bottle of wine and you see stuff floating around, you might consider decanting the wine first.

Next look at the depth of the color; pale wines tend to be lighter in body and texture. Likewise deep and concentrated colors or opacity suggest more full bodied wine. Different varietals have a typical color range and by learning this you can often identify a wine by color alone. While these are just general characteristics it is fun to play with.

All wines will darken with age. So older whites will develop amber tones and reds will often develop dark brick colors. Some wines get better with age, and some don’t. It is best to understand if a wine will age well before you decide to lay a wine down; it’s a bummer if your wine doesn’t age well, but more on that next week. So the color is an indicator of the age of the wine. Young whites will often have a clear edge while young reds will often exhibit purple edges and hues. So evaluate the color. Pay attention and remember what you are seeing for future reference.

Now for the quintessential evaluation, swirl the glass and look at the legs, or tears. These are the long streaks the form on the inside of the glass and are often mistaken for a wines quality. Predominantly what you are seeing is the alcohol content of the wine and a little viscosity effect. Almost any wine will form tears. In heavily pigmented wines such as a Petite Sirah, the tears will actually be very visible and may even stain the glass. In low pigment wines the tears will be harder to see.

So before you take that next sip, take a moment to look at your pretty glass of wine. You will gain a lot of understanding about the wine and this pause will heighten the anticipation and focus the attention.

Just as in life, one should be mindful; so always be in the moment with our wine, company and life.

Next week we will continue this series on Wine Tasting.