Professional appraisal tasting is the art of consciously evaluating the quality of a consumable substance, whether it be wine, beer, liquor, liqueurs, coffee, chocolate or tea.
This process should be executed solely from an objective point of view. The reason for this method of tasting is to determine quality and whether or not the wine type is representative of its origin.
Hedonistic tasting is the philosophy of partaking solely for the purpose of pleasure.
It is understood that this style of tasting is comprised of both the objective and subjective points of view, with the latter playing the stronger role. In this format, the most important issue in a good wine is whether it tastes good to you.
Under no circumstance should you allow someone to influence your perception of what you enjoy, as no one knows this better than yourself. So for the purpose of hedonistic tasting, if it tastes good - drink it. Who cares what anyone thinks. Now let`s delve a bit further into appraisal tasting. Professionals in the beverage industry typically use this style of tasting - sommeliers, bar managers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, etc.
The process of professional appraisal tasting is basically broken down into three parts:
The appearance of the wine can tell you many things. Is it bright, clear and technically well made?
Is it young or old?
Is it a light or full-bodied grape varietal?
Is it from a cool or warm growing region?
The following are important steps for observing the appearance of a wine. The optimum place for tasting is in a room with natural daylight and a plain white background.
Clearness: Is it clear or cloudy? A hazy wine could be the sign of a flaw or minimal filtration.
Brightness: Is dull, bright or star bright?
Gas evidence:Is it sparkling?
Rim variation: Color starts to lighten and brown with age.
Tears: As the wine sheets on the glass, heavy tears indicate high alcohol and/or sugar.
Color and intensity: Is the wine dark and intense from a fuller varietal or pale and light from a lighter one? The color can indicate the weight of the varietal and the age of the wine. Heavier grapes like Syrah have deeper colors while lighter grapes like Pinot Noir are less intense. Also note that both red and white wines venture to brown as they age.
Smell accounts for 70 percent of the evaluation in tasting. If it doesn`t smell good, odds are it won`t taste good. It is especially important to pay close attention to the first sniff, as your sense of smell is more acute on the first approach. Remember that the sense of smell detects thousands of aromas, so concentrate on descriptors and the wine`s complexity or lack thereof.
Clean or dirty: If a wine smells like dirty socks, rotten eggs or wet cardboard, chances are there is a problem.
Terroir/earth: Do you smell gravel, chalk, slate or any other soil, which could indicate the area where the grapes were grown?
Intensity: Is it light or pronounced?
Wood presence: This can be described as oak versus no oak, new verses old.
Sugar smell: Is it sweet or dry?
Varietal character: Certain grapes exhibit certain aromas. Cabernet Sauvignon shows currants and mint, while Pinot Noir shows raspberries and cherries. Each grape displays its own characteristic.
The sense of taste can really detect only salty, sweet, sour, bitter and textural weight. All additional perception is literally a conformation of what was previously smelled.
Sugar level: Does it taste sweet, dry or semi-sweet?
Acidity: Is it flat, balanced or overly tart?
Tannin: Is it extremely stringent or balanced?
Fruit intensity: Does the fruit taste light medium or full?
Gas presence: It is sparkling?
Wood: Does the level and type coincide with the smell?
Alcohol level: Is it hot indicating high alcohol or not?
Body/texture: Is it light, medium or full in the mouth?
Varietal character: Do the flavors follow through with the aromas you have previously smelled?
Balance: Do the components of the wine balance equally in your mouth?
Length: Does the wine stop short in the flavor department or does it linger and last with the complexity that a great wine should?
The primary reason for using a structured tasting plan is to create discipline and hone your tasting skills. In the long run, using this tasting method will give you a better understanding and appreciation of the qualitative differences in wine.