How To Technically Taste Wine

Q: How do you technically taste wine?

ANSWER – Many books have been written about the ‘Art and Science of Wine Appreciation’ and it is difficult to summarise it in condensed form. However, there are a number of simple ‘rules’ to be aware of.

Firstly, the wine must look right. It should be clear and with my preference ‘bright’ to the eye and accurately reflect the wine’s age. Young white wines should look fresh and have greenish tinges, only oaked white wines may have a more pronounced straw colour. Older white wines develop a deep straw-golden colour but should still look fresh. If white wine has a brown colour it is oxidized and the flavour would be very undesirable, a bit like apple that has browned.

Young red wine should have bright purple tinges on the edge of the meniscus (tilt the glass away and look at the extreme edge). Older red wines will lose the purple hue and become ‘brick-red’ and ultimately brown.

The next step is to smell the wine and observe any faults as well as determining whether it shows varietal or stylistic characters expected in the wine style selected. Faults are many and varied and represent a whole subject on their own but put simply the wine should not smell bad, peculiar, ‘off’ or uncharacteristic. Swirling the glass can amplify many of the more volatile components and give you a more complete understanding of what the wine consists of. I also prefer to let the glass stand for a few minutes and gently smell the wine to gage the amount of less volatile compounds there.

Finally the wine is tasted and assessed as to the amount of flavour, its balance/structure, length of flavour and the absence, hopefully, of any off-flavours.

In a true technical tasting where the wines are judged you award them a score out of 20 points. Each wine starts with 20 points and scores are deducted for faults or anything lacking. The colour/appearance is 3 points, bouquet 7 points and palate is 10 points. The scoring is Bronze medal 15.5 to 16.9 points, Silver is 17 to 18.5 points and Gold is 18.5 points and above. I have judged wines for many years and never saw a perfect score.


Ask the Winemaker Articles


Chris Cameron is the winemaker at Jan Kris Winery in Paso Robles and has had a dynamic career in the wine industry with over 30 vintages and plenty of spectacular and challenging harvests, wines and winery experiences.
With his Aussie roots, quick wit and wealth of experience his contributions should not be missed. Read more, or ask your own question- Ask the Winemaker.