We are pleased to begin a new series of articles about
the details of wine tasting. We begin today with a review
of wine tasting techniques because in order to be a better
wine taster you need to use the proper technique.
First, start with the correct glass. Since 1970, the tasting
glass proposed by the INAO (Institut Nationale des Appellation
d’Origine) has been the French standard for wine tasting.
(See following article concerning Riedel). The silver-plated
tastevin is now a museum piece!
The glass should be filled between ¼ and ½
full. Hold the glass by the stem or the foot. With a circular
movement of your wrist, gently swirl the wine around in the
glass. Swirling helps to release the secondary and tertiary
aromas found in older wines. Until you have the technique
down pat, swirl the glass in a vertical position without lifting
it from the tabletop.
Why do you have to breath in with your mouth when you sip
wine? Breathing in between your teeth when the wine is in
your mouth (remember to cup your tongue to keep the wine in)
creates a vapor of fine liquid droplets. Each of these droplets
is projected onto the taste buds by the influx of air. This
maximizes the potential you have to describe the resulting
sensations. Each of the wine’s components can then be
successively analyzed in the mouth. These droplets also play
a very important role in the detection of aroma molecules.
With the influx of air, these molecules are carried into the
nasal passages, thus maximizing aroma perception.
When the wine is in your mouth, your tongue presses it against
your palate and cheeks. In this way, you can judge the wine’s
texture, grain, fluidity, viscosity and other tactile sensations.
After you swallow, a small amount of wine remains in your
mouth, mixed in with your saliva. You can obtain further information
about the wine if you slowly “chew” this residual
liquid. To encourage further gaseous exchange of the remaining
molecules in your mouth, don’t keep your mouth shut.
Chew the remaining wine, while slightly opening your lips
All taste sensations are perceived by the taste buds on your
tongue before the wine reaches your esophagus. The process
of sipping, breathing in, kneading, swallowing and chewing
the wine takes several seconds. Use this time to analyze and
think about the wine. Only then can you describe the wine
using well-chosen words.
Do you need to sip water between each wine sample in order
to “cleanse your palate”? NO! Each wine produces
different stimuli that remain perceptible when you pass from
one wine to another. The important thing is to compare these
perceptions from one wine to the next. It is better to keep
the aftertaste of the previous wine in your mouth, rather
than to return to a neutral state with water. Rinsing with
water only forces you to recalibrate your senses with the
Who has a good palate? In anatomical terms, the palate is
the bony structure that separates the mouth from the nasal
cavity. The epithelium that covers the palate has no taste
buds. The palate therefore plays no role in taste! It can
only give you an indication of texture and particle size through
its interplay with the tongue. So beware of wine connoisseurs
who tell you that they have a “good palate”!