Analysing the taste is the third and final stage of the tasting process. This is where the wine will reveal its overall personality, including its flavour, structure and balance.
As we’ve said before, tasting wine is not easy but with a little practice and curiosity, you’ll get better at it and hopefully drink lots of amazing wines in the process.
The Three Stages of Tasting Wine
Attack, mid-palate, and finish make up the three stages of tasting wine. Don’t feel the need to analyse each stage in one taste.
The attack stage is the first impression the wine makes when you take a sip. With this first sip, you’ll be able to detect the temperature, the presence of any gas, and form a first impression of the wine’s overall personality.
Right from the start, you should be able to distinguish the quality of the wine. A quality wine will be open, clean, precise, generous, aromatic, or fruity. A wine of lesser quality may form an impression of being weak, fleeting, watery, or aggressive if there’s a strong or unpleasant taste.
With the wine still in your mouth give it a good roll around and then breathe in some air to help the aromatics develop. Think about how the wine feels in your mouth and what it tastes like as it develops. An example description could be ample and generous, a rounded mouth-feel with bold fruit flavours.
This is all to do with the length of time the wine’s flavour remains in the mouth once swallowed. Try to concentrate on the wine’s dominant flavour (not its acidity, alcohol, or astringency) and count how long in seconds that flavour remains in your mouth once swallowed. The longer the flavour remains the higher the quality and the greater the wine’s potential for laying down.
The finish can be described as long or lingering. Conversely, it may be short, brief, fleeting, or non-existent.
Analysing the Flavours and Aromas of Wine
Acidity comes from various acidulating elements; sweetness comes from possible residual sugars but also from alcohol; bitterness comes from the presence of tannins; and saltiness, which is rare, comes from various saline elements. All these flavours combine, sometimes cancelling each other out, but almost always complementing the aromas that were identified during your analysis of the wine’s aroma.
A red wine whose aroma has notes of ripe red fruits should also taste of red fruits. Backed up by a sweet flavour, that character will be all the more apparent. If instead, this wine had a dominant acidic flavour it would suggest an imbalance between flavour and aroma pointing to a wine of low quality. In a dry white wine with citrus aromas, a fresh bite of acidity is the character that should dominate in the mouth.
The harmonious interaction of the flavours and the aromas are essential to assessing the wine’s quality and balance.
Analysing Tactile Sensations of Wine
Along with flavours and aromas, wine also generates different tactile sensations in the mouth.
Alcohol has a soft and slightly sweet character, sometimes reinforced by the presence of residual sugars. Alcohol gives dry white wines their softness and, in red wine, provides an idea of the wine’s richness.
Acidity is less apparent in red wines but comes more to the fore in white wines and some rosé wines. Acidity encourages salivation, which leads to a sensation of freshness.
Astringency is the sensation of dryness in the mouth brought on by tannins. This is most common in red wines and some rosé wines. Along with acidity and alcohol, tannins are one of the elements that make up the skeleton of a wine.
Each of these sensations should form a balanced experience. There should not be any unpleasantness from an excess of one of these sensations, for example, a burn from too much alcohol or acidity, or dryness from unripened tannins.
The result of these tactile sensations is known as the body or fullness of the wine.
If you’re serious about tasting your wine it’s a good idea to keep tasting notes. We’ve created a downloadable and printable Wine Tasting Notes Template to help you make the most of your wine tasting.