Tasting wine starts with the eyes, not the mouth, so take some time to consider the details of what your wine looks like. To properly taste wine, you should first look closely at its color, clarity, and consistency. Color is much more than just knowing if the wine is red or white. Clarity is about much more than just whether a wine is light or dark. Consistency is about much more than how thick the wine is.
Examining Wine Color
There's more to wine color than just being white or red. White wines aren't really white, after all, they come in a variety of yellow and golden hues. Red wines are red, but only because of the skins of the red grapes and they too come in a variety of reddish hues. The wine's color tells us something about where the wine came from, the conditions it was grown in, and so something about how it will taste.
You should measure the color against a neutral background, which means a white napkin or tablecloth. The best way to do this is to tip the glass away from you and against a white napkin. The "true" color of the wine lies in the deep center, but it's also valuable to took around the edges and examine how the color transitions from the lighter to the deeper areas.
Possible colors for white wines:
Possible colors for red wines:
- Ruby Red
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to describing a wine's color. The point is to simply think about the color enough to come up with something that describes color to your eyes.
One topic to discuss when it comes to color is the "color intensity." A glass of wine may have either just a touch of color or so much color that it appears black. Experts describe a wine's color intensity on a scale of one to ten, with one being as if a single drop of ink had been added to a colorless liquid and ten as if an entire bottle of ink had been added.
Examining Wine Clarity
Clarity in wine is a function of the wine's ability to reflect or absorb light. Every wine should have a sharp clarity because an absence of clarity means a presence of film, muddiness, or cloudiness, all of which may mean that the wine has gone bad.
Clarity is easiest to see in a sparkling wine or champaign because it should have a bright glow about it. White wine is also easy to examine for clarity because you should be able to see right through it and it should be shiny.
When it comes to red wines clarity can be difficult to see because of the dark colors. Like when examining the color, it's best to tip the glass away from you and against a white napkin. You should be able to see a shine deep in the wine, almost like there is a star in it.
Examining Wine Consistency
Although discussed less often than color and clarity, a wine's consistency can also be very important when assessing its taste. Examining a wine's consistency means looking at how thick it appears to be and the best way to do this is to swirl it around in your glass a bit to get all around the inside. You can observe how much sticks to the glass and how this wine flows down the sides.
A second benefit to doing this is that it tells you something about the alcohol level of the wine. This is done by observing the "legs" flowing down the sides of the glass. Alcohol evaporates faster than water and so wants to move up. In the process, it breaks against the water, causing it to drip back down as "legs" or "tears." Some have believed that more legs means a wine is better, but more legs only points to a higher alcohol content.