You can tell a lot about the grape variety, growing conditions and age of a wine by its colour. Pour the wine into your glass until it is a third full, and then hold it up against a white background, slightly tilted, to get a clear look. Often, the intensity of the colour is a good indication of its acidity – the darker, the drier and sharper.
Next, swirl the wine to release the scent, before inhaling deeply to draw the smell into your nose. Remember that young wines are often described as having an ‘aroma’, while older, complex wines have a ‘bouquet’. First impressions are important, so take note of any smells that come to mind, and be as abstract and creative as you like with your descriptions. Check that the wine doesn’t smell musty or sulphurous though, as these are signs of faults.
Now for the best part. Take a good sip, and ‘chew’ the wine to encourage the vapours into your nasal cavity. Connoisseurs often say that the tongue only tastes sweet, sour, salt and bitter, leaving all the subtle tasting to the nose. Sipping the wine should pick up where smelling left off, confirming the scent of the wine and establishing textures and tastes.
Don’t rush for the next sip straight away. Let the after-taste play out its flavour, as the length and sophistication of the after-taste indicates the wine’s complexity and age.
Practise makes perfect
To make sure you’re making the most of your stay in France, choose a holiday home that can help fuel your wine explorations. The Chateau Joncaises and most of our chateaux for rent have an impressive wine cellar of its own, and can also arrange tastings and tours of local vineyards for you. During a long tasting session it’s easy to confuse wines and mix up labels, so remember to jot down your thoughts in a wine diary. This way, you’ll be able to instantly spot the right bottle next time – and you’ll look the part, too.
Photos by Bayhaus