The most important and decisive aspect for defining wine's bouquet, flavor and aroma is the region where the vine grows and its terroir. Vineyard geography is important not only for select expensive wines – easy ordinary "every day" wines are made from the same grape varietals and the same rules are observed in their making. The most popular wine-making countries are France, Italy, Spain, Chile and Australia.
French wines are elegant and fine. If you like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir choose wines from the North of France, especially Burgundy. As for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle - these are the classics of the South of France, where the climate is especially propitious for making of natural sweet ambrosial wines almost of liquid honey consistency. When choosing an Italian wine do not forget that continental wines there are very different from the island ones. Wines from Sicily and Sardinia are rarely exquisite, but they have an intense fruity taste. Spanish wines have a pleasant hint of bitter in their flavor, they are slightly tannic. Chilean soil is very rich in copper so wines of Chile often have a pronounced mineral quality, besides being ripe and luscious because of the perfect sunny climate. Australian wines are firm, full-bodied and unusual. Shiraz varietal (French Syrah) wines from Australia are particularly suited to steaks of Australian marbled beef.
You'll have to use three out of your usual five senses to appreciate your wine – those of smell, touch, and taste. And the sixth one, of course – it is the one that really helps you to distinguish between wines that are excellent and those that are simply very good. Here is some advice on how to taste wine and what to look for when you are tasting.
1. Color, or, in professional talk, eye
Look at the color of the wine poured into your glass; set the glass against a white napkin for best results. For example, you may roughly guess the age of the wine by its color: the color of older red wines usually has shades of russet or terracotta. Don't miss the "legs" on the glass side – if the "legs" trickle down slowly, that means a high alcohol or sugar content, yet it is no clue for the wine's quality.
2. Bouquet or nose
Whirl the wine lightly, then raise your glass and take a sniff to better appreciate its smell. Don't sniff too vigorously. Try to distinguish the aromas you know. Any vanilla? Grass? Fruit? Trust your first impressions, they are much more important than common opinion on the same wine voiced by wine experts.
3. Flavor proper, or mouth
Take a mouthful (don't be afraid to make a good one) of wine and roll it on your tongue, pressing it against the palate. Make sure the wine envelops your tongue entirely. Try to appreciate the wine's body. Wines may be light, medium-bodied or full-bodied. If you would like to enhance your feelings, suck in some air with the wine still in your mouth. The taste will be at its most intense just before you swallow the wine. Wines may be high or not so high in alcohol, on a slightly sweet or on a slightly acidic side, they may have various side-tastes. The important thing in wine is the balance of taste.
The quality of aftertaste or wine finish is judged by two things: - which tastes remain in your mouth after you swallow the wine - for how long they remain there The aftertaste is measured in seconds, just as time is. The best wines have a long and complex aftertaste that often enriches the original taste.
A selection of the taster's vocabulary:
The following words will help you to express your appreciation of wine better. There are some professional words here – they will help you to feel yourself at home when you talk about wine.
Aroma – the dimension of the wine's smell that is due to the grapes from which it has been made.
Balance – an appreciation of interplay of different aspects of wine – its sweetness, acidity, tannins and strength. Every good wine must be well-balanced.
Body – the measure of wine's density. When you take a mouthful of wine, try to appreciate how different this particular wine is from water, how much heavier than it – that's the body.
Bouquet – the smell of wine that is due to its having undergone fermentation and aging in bottle.
Breathe – you make the wine "breathe" if you open the bottle and leave it open for some time before drinking. It only serves, however, to remove some possible secondary smells – if you really like to expose the wine to oxygen, so that it becomes more open, pour it into a decanter.
Closed – a wine which hasn't got any smell to speak of. If you cannot discern any smell in a wine, it usually means that it's at an early stage of bottle-aging.
Harmonious – a well-balanced wine.
Horizontal tasting – a comparative tasting of different yet related wines of the same vintage, i.e. made of grapes grown in the same year.
Lively – forceful and crisp wine, often a wine with high acidity.
Long wine – a wine with long aftertaste.
Vanilla – its smell is mainly due to the American oak used to age nearly all Rioja wines and many reds of California.
To be continued.