Take a small amount of the wine in your mouth. Let it roll across the tongue to allow you to get a better understanding of its characteristics. Here you will really pick the various sensations – whether it’s sweet, bitter or sour for instance, whether it is oaked, what type of oak perhaps, the tannins, the acid and the overall texture.
Only with much practice will all of this make sense; the more immediate point is, when you taste a wine, take time to appreciate what it is and what characters you are getting.
You are trying to build a palate memory, so that when you identify these same qualities in other wines, you will understand what they mean.
And you don’t have to swallow to appreciate the taste. By looking at the colour, taking in the aromas and then tasting it, you will have all you need to understand the wine.
This is especially prudent if you’re in a wine region and driving from cellar to cellar. It is surprising how quickly the wine can build up and push you over the legal limit. Ask for a spittoon if there isn’t one and learn the art of spitting.
All wine will improve with decanting – even whites. The act of pouring into a decanter aerates the wine and brings out all the aromas and tastes.
Don’t be afraid to really give young wines a good splash.
With older wines a little care is needed, especially with reds. Carefully pour into the decanter until you can start to see a few bits of sediment. If you want, you can double decant back into the bottle. Simply rinse the bottle with fresh water and then pour the wine back into it. This allows you to bring a special bottle to the table.
Don’t leave an older wine too long once you have decanted it. Better to decant and leave for a short time before pouring into your glasses. You can then regularly smell and taste as the wine begins to reveal itself, so you don’t miss the moment when it hits its peak.
Once very old wines eventually open up they often begin to fall apart very quickly, so if you have left them too long, that hoped for ultimate reward could elude you.
I have adopted the 100-point scoring system in assessing the wines. There are a number of others including the 20-point system adopted in most wine shows. But the 100-point system works best for me and I think gives a better guide.
I adopt a joint subjective and objective assessment of the wines. In the first place, I need to ensure there are no faults and the wine meets all the criteria that would be expected of it in a show judging system.
Above all, the wines have to be balanced. Disjointed wines you are punting on changing for the better over time are a bad bet. Excessively tannic wines will always be excessively tannic no matter how long you wait.
In this 100-point rating system, anything over 85 points is a solid drink and anything over 94 points is outstanding and around gold medal class.
|97+||You sell the kids for this.|
|94-96||You sell your wife or husband and think about selling the kids.|
|90-93||Faultless, excellent drinking.|
|85-89||Good quality and worth a serious look.|