Swirling, sniffing and swishing … though it may look complicated or even snobbish, all wine-tasting is actually based on common sense. It’s simply a way to pause for a moment and to pay attention to the impact of a wine on all your senses and make your own quality judgement.
The Three Step Tasting Guide: Look; Smell; Taste.
You can tell a lot about a wine by its appearance. Hold your glass over a white background (a tablecloth or piece of paper) and examine the colour.
Rule of Thumb for whites: The more colour = the more flavour and age.
Rule of Thumb for reds: Bright, bold colours = young. Tawny & fading = mature.
Rim colour: You can guess the age of a red wine by the colour of the rim. Tilt your glass and look at the forward edge of the wine. A purple tint usually indicates youth while orange to brown (often referred to as mahogany) indicates maturity.
Swirling: Swirling the wine serves many purposes and releases aromas, but also allows you to observe the body of the wine. “Good legs” can indicate high alcohol content and/or sweetness.
Swirl the wine in your glass. This releases the aromas, (aka the ‘nose’).
Hold the glass up to your nose and contemplate the aromas. Don’t taste the wine just yet, concentrate on the impression that you are getting from the nose.
What does it smell like? Labelling smells is a useful way of remembering them.
Take a small mouthful and roll it around in your mouth. This allows the wine to reach all your taste buds and gives you an initial impression.
Then purse your lips and quickly draw in some air with a slurping noise (yes looks odd – but what better time for a bit of humour than when you’re tasting wine). This aerates the wine, allowing you to experience the full spectrum of flavours. Think about how the wine feels in your mouth. This is the ‘body’. Consider the texture. Is it light or rich? Smooth or harsh?
Finish: The taste that remains in your mouth after you have swallowed the wine. How long did the taste last? Was it pleasant?
After tasting the wine, take a moment to value its overall flavour and the balance of sweetness, tannin and acidity. Then ask yourself … how much did you like it?
Senior Account Manager
Averys Wine Merchants
The Flavour and Aroma Wheel
A helpful, easy to use guide to identifying flavours and aromas
And finally, some suggestions for Christmas
Three things that never go astray at Christmas are White Burgundy, Champagne and Claret. Why? Let me tell you.
Claret (aka Bordeaux) is the quintessential English red wine, beloved by red-nosed uncles for centuries. But also, no other wine goes quite as well with such a wide range of foods, or brings a smile to quite as many wine lovers faces as a good claret. But beware, cheap is seldom cheerful here – you’ll usually need to pay upwards of £10 per bottle and things like vintage, appellation, time in bottle and the reputation of the producer are all important, so this is where a relationship with a good wine merchant will prove invaluable.
White Burgundy is almost entirely made from Chardonnay but don’t let this put you off. Here in its home territory Chardonnay does great things. Although you can pay a bomb for the finest white burgundies, those from the Macon taste like bottled sunshine and can offer spectacularly crowd-pleasing value – neither too sweet nor too dry, nor too oaky or acidic, a good Macon can be all things to all people and equally at home with either turkey or smoked salmon canapés.
Champagne … do I really need to explain its appeal?
Good fizz makes any gathering feel like a special occasion, but conversely, there is nothing quite so disappointing as bad bubbly. If you want great Champers at a good price, stay away from supermarket bargain bottles – grapes cost 5 euros per kilo in Champagne, and it takes 2 kilos and 3 long years to make even a basic bottle of bubbly, so how much love do you think has gone into that £12 bargain bottle? You’re far better to go to a good wine merchant and ask for a ‘grower Champagne’ – these are made in small amounts by families who tend their own vines and you should be able to pick up a good one for under £20 per bottle – your guests will thank you for it.
Cave de Lugny Macon Villages Vieilles Vignes 2012
£107 per dozen
The Cave de Lugny is widely regarded as Burgundy’s best co-op and with the appointment of star winemaker, Jacques Lurton, the quality is soaring. This is packed with ripe fruit and has a deliciously creamy texture. Just the thing to serve with smoked salmon or roast chicken.
“It’s not easy to find a decent white under £10 in Burgundy, but the Maconnais is your best bet – especially the extremely capable Cave de Lugny.” The Observer
Chateau Moulin de Noaillac 2009 Medoc AOC
£115 per dozen
As a wine merchant with a long history of buying Bordeaux, we love seeking out unique, carefully-crafted wines. Château Moulin de Noaillac comes from a small estate and is made by Bernard Magrez, who owns several top Bordeaux château. The 2009 vintage was one of the best in living memory in Bordeaux, and wines like this are worth buying by the case – especially as they will only improve with age. Deep in colour with aromas of ripe cassis and berries. A blend of classic Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is smooth and rounded with generous forest fruits on the palate and a long finish. Enjoy with duck or beef, but would also be lovely with Christmas turkey and cranberry sauce.
Champagne Bauchet, Cuvee Damien, Brut NV
£19.99 per bottle
6 bottles just £119 or 12 bottles £230 (Save £129)
This is perfect for any occasion – beautifully crafted champagne from one of the oldest family producers in the region. Normally £29.99, at a 33% saving this is quite simply exceptional value. A delightfully creamy, toasty champagne with honey, pear and toasted brioche and raspberry aromas . This is the equal of many £30+ Grande Marque Champagnes. The blend is rich in Pinot Noir with a healthy dash of Chardonnay, so is full and rich on the palate with a fine, creamy mousse and great depth of flavour. An elegant aperitif, yet rich enough to serve with food.
To buy any of these wines, or for more advice, contact