The Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting – Part 2: Appearance

Since part one of our wine tasting guide discussed how to identify faulty wines, parts two, three and four get down to the fun part – the tasting itself. We’ll cover appearance, smell and taste in the hope that you’ll feel equipped to go to a tasting event, host your own party, or simply appreciate the next bottle you buy that little bit more.

Visually inspecting the wine before interacting with it is an incredibly important stage, as it’s important for identifying faults. You should always undertake your tasting in a well-lit environment (preferably with natural light) and use plain, clear glasses against a white background if possible. We recommend the internationally recognised INAO tasting glasses, which have been specifically designed for this very purpose. As part of this stage of the tasting, you’ll be looking to identify colour, legs and bead.

Colour – the colour of a wine offers clues as to its age and composition, especially red wines. In general, young reds demonstrate deep purple hues with little transparency, whereas older vintages become paler and edge towards the redder end of the spectrum. Grapes also have a strong impact on colour, with different varieties producing difference intensities. For example, Pinot Noir tends to be relatively pale in colour. White wines tend to do the opposite of reds, beginning life fairly pale and deepening in colour over time. Again, grape type has an obvious effect, with wines from vineyards in warmer climates appearing richer in colour tan their cooler counterparts.

Legs – this is a term that refers to the droplets of wine (which tend to appear oily) running down the sides of the glass once it has been swirled around. These ‘legs’ were traditionally indicators of wine quality, with slower legs representing better wines. Conversely, legs that dissipated quickly would indicate a weaker wine.

Bead – sparkling wines are often judged by the size of the bubbles they produce, with smaller bubbles – or ‘beads’ – representing a higher quality wine. Champagne, for example, tends to generate a finer bead than cheaper alternatives.


Continue to part 3…

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