Monday, April 11, 2011

Taking the "Snob" out of Sensory Evaluation: Part 2

Happy Monday, my wine loving and learning friends! I hope you all had great weekends!

Did you try any good wines? I tried some new wines- apparently my palette was craving some rosés as both Spanish and Central Coast rosés were my poisons of choice this weekend.

I am pleased to say that a friend who has been reading my blog called and asked for some wine recommendations. Luckily, both my suggestions (Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Segura Viudas Cava) were a success! Thanks for reading and participating, dear friend :)

I'm glad to be back from the weekend and writing again!

My last post covered sensory evaluation, which is a fancy way of saying 'the proper method to follow if you want to get the most out of your wine tasting experience'.

In my last post, I covered the first 2 of what I call the 4 S's of Sensory Evaluation: SEE and SMELL, and what these 2 senses can tell you about a wine.

Today's post will cover the last 2 S's and explain why this process of sensory evaluation is just so darn important. So, here comes the fun part, and what we all really care about. The 3rd S of sensory evaluation is SIP. After the wine is in your mouth, confirm the characteristics that you smelled. Does the wine taste like the lemon peel that you originally smelled? Or does it taste like melon? Does it taste like lemon peel and melon? Once again, try and identify the F.E.W items (Fruit, Earth, Wood) and go with your first impression!

Then comes the part that requires a bit more than just a lady-like SIP.


Yes, swish. It may seem strange, and you may feel a little gross doing it, but it is truly the best way to isolate every taste and aspect of the wine.

So, suck it up and just SWISH! Let the wine coat your mouth, and then pay attention to how it feels. Look at this little tongue map to see where your body physically identifies each element.

Does it burn in the back of your throat? It has higher alcohol content.

Does it make the sides of your tongue water? It is acidic.

Does it give you sandpaper tongue (if it's red)? It is high in tannin.

Does it coat every inch of your mouth? It is full in body.

Does the taste linger forever? It has a long finish.

Is it sweet? Dry?

All of those aspects make up the structure and composition of the wine which tells you heaps and loads about what the wine IS, if it's good/bad quality, how old it is, etc..

And, finally, the last S is: SUMMARIZE.

In this step, you re-walk through every S and sum up (ooo! another s!) what you experienced.

Take this example:

S1: This wine is pale, straw yellow in color. It is so pale that it is almost clear. There is nothing weird floating in the wine.

S2: This is a fruit forward wine. I smell mostly citrus fruit, especially lemon. It smells fresh and crisp.

S3: I confirm the lemon peel taste that I smelled. It is a very crisp, acidic wine. It is dry, and is light in body.

If the purpose of the tasting is to actually guess what the wine is, then you would take all these clues and add them up:

Due to the light yellow color, strong lemon characteristics and crisp acidity, I think this is a 2009 Pinot Grigio from Italy, most likely from the northeast region of Trentino Alto Adige.


Think you could never get this point? Well, you can, and I can help you! Have I told you that I can teach private and group wine tasting courses? :) But if you aren't interested in a personal wine tutor (which, why wouldn't you be?), there are 2 things you can do:

1. Read up on the character profiles of all the different grapes. Every wine book will tell you what each grape generally tastes, looks, and smells like from all the major regions. For the most part, all this information holds true.

2. Just taste. All the time. (Tough job, huh?) Go through this process and write it down. It doesn't have to be a blind taste, either. You can know perfectly well what you're drinking, but it helps to break it down aspect by aspect as you go along.

You'll eventually be able to connect #1 and #2 together.

What is the point of all this hoopla, may you ask?

Well, first of all, being able to blind taste is impressive! I have found that people think I'm more interesting when they find out I know about wine... Even though I'm really not.

Secondly, this process helps you fully appreciate all aspects of the wine, not just the buzz it gives you after a few glasses.

Thirdly, it helps you understand and isolate what you like to drink and why. Refer back to this post. Rather than just saying, "I like this wine", you can say why you like it, and know how to purchase a similar bottle!

Well, friends, I hope you've enjoyed learning this method. Next time you taste wine, please refer back to the 4 S's of Sensory Evaluation.

I would tell you to check back tomorrow for some other named post... but I have no clue what I'll be posting about tomorrow. I will be posting though, I promise!

Thanks for reading and learning with me,