The interpretation of sensory impulses in wine tasting allows the experts as well as any fans of wine to compare and adequately enjoy the quality of individual characteristics of wine.
Among basic sensory attributes that are important subject in wine tasting are appearance, aroma and taste of wine. Their quality is affected by the individual variety of the vine, level of ripeness, methods of processing of grapes, the technology used in wine making, as well as adherence to the rules regarding cleanliness in all important steps of the process. The age of wine, method of storage (presence of oxygen) and serving (temperature, cleanliness, type of glass, setting) are equally important in complex assessment of the characteristics of the wine.
The quality of the appearance is represented by the clarity and the color of the wine. In sparkling wines the quality and intensity of the foam is assessed as well. A skilled wine taster is able to judge from the diameter of the evaporating carbon dioxide bubbles and the persistence of the foam, the method by which the particular sparkling wine has been produced. More important factor in presenting the appearance of the wine is the color. The intensity and character of the shades of color is influenced by the variety of the vine, level of ripeness, health of the grapes, method of processing and the technology of production of the wine. Age of the wine, method of storing (presence of oxygen) has similar effect. Younger wines are lighter and more bright at first sight. With continual maturing and change in reductive conditions while aging, the intensity and the shade of the wine change. In red wines, part of a loosely bound coloring substance (antocyanins) polymerizes, oxidizes or crystallizes. Older red wines may therefore have lighter shade than when young.
The aroma of the wine is assessed by smell. Its intensity, clarity and quality are affected by the concentration and composition of the volatile substances in wine. We recognize primary (originating from the grapes), secondary (originating during the fermentation and wine making) and tertiary (originating during aging of wine) aromas. The most commonly recognized types of aromas in wine tasting are plant, flowery, fruit, spicy, balsamic, empyreumatic, animal, mineral and other aromas. A problem with presence of the cork or microbial contamination that directly affect the purity of aroma profile of wine may arise in tasting bottled wines. Partial or total degradation of characteristic aroma and taste may occur in wines that have a very high content of sulphates.
The taste is statistically the most important assessed characteristic of every wine. Except of intensity, clarity and quality, the persistence (length) of the wine is assessed. Depending on the amount of acids, sugars, alcohol, tanning agents, dissolved volatile and extractive substances, we may analyze the whole character of the taste. In Tokai wines and naturally sweet wines it is possible to assess the botrytis and wholesomeness of the wine.
The wine tasting in the presence of dedicated wine lovers or skilled wine tasters is definitely a pleasant experience for every wine lover. It brings along a memory enriching experience when properly accompanied by a verbal presentation. From the vast vocabulary of wine tasting we’d like to present a few examples:
Adstringent wine – unpleasant, almost constricting wine with high content of tanning agents and acids
Aggressive wine – most commonly young, sensorically hard, unaged wine
Aromatic wine – wine s with rich aromatic bouquet, made from white aromatic must varieties
Claret [Fr.] – wine of pinkish color made from blue must varieties without pre-fermentation; in Bordeaux a label for red wine
Complex wine – whole wine with appropriate character of characteristics of variety, sufficient extract, astringency, persistence and acidic content
Extract wine – wine with higher content of non-volatile substances, such as sugars and non-sugar substancesEmpty wine – wine, that does not leave in mouth or tongue a distinctive or otherwise expected intensity of taste (e.g. in comparison with its smell)
Full body wine – attribute characterizing full-body, distinctive, or even „tiring“ wine
Great wine – full, balanced, extractive wine with rich taste and persistence
Modest wine – wine that is simple, yet pleasant to drink
Oldie – a fault in wine, foul, oxidized smell and taste of wine, often without a variety specific character, wine with oldie has a more distinctive shade
Pelargonic wine – wine with an unpleasant off-taste that is caused by the decomposition of sorbic acid (easily identified among ingredients as a stabilizing agent)
Picant wine – harmonic, pleasant to drink wine with a balanced content of fruity elements in the smell and taste that are accentuated by a sufficient acidic content
Reductive wine – wine made with technology that minimizes the effect of oxygen present in the air
Robust wine – aged, sometimes even older wine, that does not feel aggressive when tasted
Rosé [Fr.] – rosé wine made from must and blue varieties after a short fermentation
Spontaneous wine – wine made by fermentation of must that has been spontaneously released from the pressed grapes; contains the highest level sugars and least amount of tanning agents
Sour wine – wine with higher acidity; higher concentration of acids cause that taster has spiky or even bitter taste of wine
Tanning agents – polyfenolic substances of plant origin that help in clearing of the must and wine; they are mostly dominant in red wines
Wine stone – crystals of potassium hydrogen tartrate are formed in young wines after fermentation is completed or during wine maturing; wine stone solubility is influenced by wine temperature, pH and ethanol content
Water wine – thin, runny wine with bright, watery shade