Stages of Wine Tasting

The most important thing is the overall impression you have formed during the wine tasting.

Maximilian Riedel tilds a white wine filled RIEDEL Veritas Oaked Chardonnay glass to assess the wine’s color during a wine glass tasting he moderates.<br/>

Look of the wine

Pour a small amount of wine into a glass, tilt the glass at an angle of 45 degrees away from you and look at the wine against a plain white background. The table of colors can help you in assessing the wine’s color. In addition to the color, assess the appearance of the wine according to the criteria below:

  • Clarity: Intransparent, Cloudy, Translucent, Hazy, Slightly, Transparent, Clear, Radiant, Brilliant
  • Color Intensity: Faint, Subtle, Light, Medium, Hazy, Dense, Dark, Deep, Opaque
  • Liveliness: Dead, Lifeless, Dull, Flat, Rich, Active, Vivid, Lively, Vibrant
  • Perlage/Carbonic Acid: Stale, Flat, Calm, Beading, Medium vivid, Tingling, Sparkling, Fizzy, Hissing
Maximilian Riedel smells white wine in a RIEDEL Veritas Oaked Chardonnay glass to identify the wine’s aroma during a wine glass tasting he moderates.<br/>

Scent of the wine

What you initially perceive from the wine are the most volatile aromas. Based on a first gentle sniff you can determine if a wine is faulty (has an unpleasant smell) due to oxidation, acetic acid (vinegar) or corkiness. Experiment by varying the distance between your nose and the glass. The aroma wheel can help you in identifying the wine’s aromas.

Maximilian Riedel swirls a white wine filled RIEDEL Veritas Oaked Chardonnay glass to release the wine’s aromas during a wine glass tasting he moderates.<br/>

Scent of the swirled wine

Gently swirl the wine in the glass with a rhythmic circular motion of your wrist. This releases the less volatile aromas, allowing you to capture the complete pattern of the nose of the wine. The more subtle aromas are now partially obscured.

Maximilian Riedel tastes red wine from a RIEDEL Veritas Cabernet / Merlot glass during a wine glass tasting he moderates.<br/>

Taste of the wine

Take a sip and keep it in your mouth. Pay attention to the wine’s initial impact, mouthfeel and finish. To intensify the tasting you can chew the wine (causing the tannins to emerge) or you can take in some air with your lips slightly open (causing sealed aromas to open up). Again, the aroma wheel can help you in identifying the wine’s aromas. Should you taste a series of wines, spit the samples out (this reduces the negative effect the alcohol has on your tasting abilities). To neutralize your palate you can simply drink some water. Do not eat any bread while tasting wine since this will significantly affect your sense of taste.

The list below can help you in further assessing the wine’s palate:

  • Sweetness: bone-dry, dry, subtle, medium-dry, sweet, heavy, syrupy, honeyed, plump
  • Acidity: hollow, thin, refreshing, lively, crisp, vigorous, tart, aggressive
  • Tannins: silky, velvety, tender, rounded, fine-grained, raw, hard, coarse
  • Astringency: subtle, smooth, mouth-filling, integrated, furry, coating, coarse, harsh, abrasive 
  • Bitterness: fint, subtle, light, medium, firm, dominant
  • Body: hollow, light, lean, round, powerful, muscular, voluptuous, fat, heavy
  • Alcoholic Strength: watery, thin, light, balanced, warm, hot, vigorous, intense, spirity
  • Consistency: diluted, light, medium, concentrated, rich, heavy, thick, pasty
  • Aroma Intensity: fint, delicate, subtle, pronounced, concentrated, intense, exuberant, explosive
  • Finish: abrupt, fint, slight, short, medium, expanded, long, lingering, infinite
Maximilian Riedel smells a RIEDEL Veritas Cabernet / Merlot glass to identify the wine’s aroma during a wine glass tasting he moderates.<br/>

Scent of the empty glass

You will once more find new aroma structures that can provide you with additional information about the wine.

Filled RIEDEL wine glasses on a wooden table during a wine glass tasting. From left to right: Vinum Oaked Chardonnay, Vinum Viognier / Chardonnay, RIEDEL Veritas New World Pinot Noir, RIEDEL Veritas Old World Syrah / Blaufränkisch and RIEDEL Veritas Cabernet / Merlot.<br/>

Assess the wine as a whole

At this final stage, assess the wine’s complexity, balance and perceived age. The most important thing is the overall impression you have formed during the wine tasting. You can score the wine using a scale of 20 or 100 points.

Complexity: dumb, dull, simple, straightforward, defined, layered, nuanced, complex, overwhelming

Balance: poor, unbalanced, incomplete, jagged, one-dimensional, centered, balanced, graceful, harmonious

Age: fresh, youthful, emergent, mature, advanced, declining, tired, finished, dead

20 point scale: 20 classic, 19 extraordinary, 18 outstanding, 17 excellent, 16 very good, 15 good, 14 average, 13 bel. average, 12 poor, 11 unacceptable

100 point scale: 95 -100 world class, 90 - 94 outstanding, 85 - 89 very good, 80 - 84 good, 75 - 79 average, 70 - 74 below average, 65 - 69 banal, 60 - 64 acceptable, 55 - 59 defective, 50 - 54 unacceptable