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Wine Tastings - The Mystery Revealed

Have you have ever wondered why people at wine tastings go through a form of ritual of tilting their glass, swirling the wine around the bowl, sniffing the wine and apparently gargling with the wine before eventually spitting it out? If you have, then this whole process is not really such a mystery and quite simply represents the five steps that are necessary to assess quality of a wine.

Let's look at each of these five steps to see just how simple the process really is.

Testing the color and clarity of a wine. In the case of red wines the glass should be tilted and then viewed against a white background. If you look at the edge, or lip, of the wine against the glass and see a dark color that runs clear to the edge then this indicates a very young wine. A slightly lighter color that tends to hold to the center of the glass with a wide clear lip is indicative of an older wine.

For white wines the clarity is assessed by looking straight down into the wine. The greater the clarity, the more the wine will appear to sparkle, rather like diamonds.

Testing the body of a wine. Swirl the wine vigorously around the glass and then observe the wine on the bowl of the glass once the glass is held still. In some cases the wine will appear to adhere to the bowl of glass while in other cases there will be little if any sign of the wine on the bowl at all. The more a wine adheres to the sides of the glass, the greater its body.

Testing the aroma of a wine. Swirl the wine in your glass to release its vapours and then sniff deeply. Assessing the resultant smell is something of an art that takes time to perfect but, in general, a young red wine will smell heavily of berries and will sometimes also smell sightly of mint, spice, liquorice, or chocolate. As a red wine ages it will smell more of raisons or prunes and, finally, when it is past its best, it will take on the aroma of vinegar. White wines follow a similar pattern.

Testing a wine's sweetness, acidity and tannin. Take a small amount of wine into your mouth and start by rolling it around on your tongue. Then, hold the wine in the center of the tongue and gargle by slowly sucking in air to vaporize the wine and release its flavor.

A sweet wine will cause a tingling at the tip of the tongue, while an acid wine will produce a sensation of pins and needles on the sides of the tongue. A wine that is high in tannin will create a feeling of dryness throughout the mouth.

Young red wines tend to contain a lot of tannin which acts as a natural preservative and is the reason why most red wines can be stored for much longer than white wines.

Testing the concentration and aftertaste of a wine. The finest red wines have a deep fruit concentration which is experienced just before you swallow. For this reason you should always swallow a little of the wine at wine tastings. The best wines will display a lingering, pleasant finish.

As with many things in life wine tastings can appear to be something of a mysterious ritual art but, behind all the show, is a quite simple process that most of us can master along with the so-called connoisseurs.

About the Author

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"The 2001 Insignia (an 18.000 case blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, and 3% Merlot) is an inky/purple-colored effort representing a return to the superb quality of such vintages as 1997. Aged in 100% new French oak, this dry red California wine reveals gorgeous aromas of melted licorice, creme de cassis, liquid minerals, and hints of chocolate and spice box. The finish is long, full-bodied, opulent, and voluptuous. Considerable tannin is largely concealed by the lavish richness, extract, and glycerin. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2020+." RP - 95 (Subject to Availability) JPI01 JPI01

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