Pour yourself a glass of wine, make sure you have good lighting, tilt the wine glass at a 45-degree angle against a white background and sight the wine or assess the wine visually. During the sight stage you should be able to approximate the age of the wine, narrow down what type of wines it might be, check its vitality and identify visual faults, (if any).
The sight stage follows the swirl stage; swirl the wine in your wine glass for about 3-5 seconds and assess the wine’s viscosity. Hold the wine glass at eye level and check the patterns formed by wine droplets on the side of the glass, this is also known as the tears or legs of the wine.
During the swirl stage wine is aerated so that the wine’s volatile aromas are activated. This prepares the wine for the sniff stage that follows.
Now, it’s time to sniff the wine; hold the glass in such a way that your nose is inside the mouth of the wine glass, then inhale. Sniffing is the process of smelling the wine through your nose, or ortho-nasal olfaction.
Smell Your Wine:
As you sniff, the volatile odor molecules, or aromas, from the wine enter your nasal cavity. The mucus-covered olfactory receptors inside your nose capture these aromas and transmit the information to the olfactory bulb – your brain’s odor-processing center. The olfactory bulb then tries to match the perceived aromas against your olfactory memory database, or your smell or scent memory.
Taste Your Wine:
Next, sip the wine to assess it’s retro-nasal aromas and taste, as the wine gets in contact with the warmth of your mouth and saliva, previously non-volatile aromas evaporate inside your mouth.
These newly activated odor molecules travel through the retro-nasal passage found at the back of your mouth to the nasal cavity, after which they are perceived by your olfactory receptors and transmitted to and identified by the olfactory bulb.
Taste is processed differently, as the wine gets in contact with your tongue the taste buds or papillae on your tongue and other parts of your mouth determine the structure of the wine and assess whether it is sweet, sour, salty, and/or bitter. This taste information is relayed to the brain where it is analyzed and processed.
After tasting the wine and smelling it through your retro-nasal cavity, swallow the wine or spit it out, then assess the wine’s aftertaste to determine the wine’s quality.
Generally speaking, the longer the wine’s aftertaste remains on the mouth or the longer the wine’s finish, the better the wine.
Please, drink responsibly.
Nic is an expert in the wine industry and is a regular on the BBC’s Good Food and Drink show.
- Wine Words Demystified: Aromas (enofylzwineblog.com)
- The Glass Menagerie – Choosing the right wine glass is just as important as the wine itself (theinsider.retailmenot.com)