3 steps to tasting wine

3 steps to tasting wine

You need all your senses to taste wines of the Loire Valley, especially the sight, the smell and the taste. Watch the color of the wine, smell and taste it are the three steps of tasting.

Eye for colour

Place your glass of Loire Valley wine on the table, and look at the colour of the wine

The exact colour:

  • Loire Valley white wines can be dry or demi-sec, or luscious and sweet. Colours are diverse, ranging from greenish yellow through lemon-yellow, straw and gold to amber. 
  • Similarly, Loire rosés can be any one of a number of shades of pink: greyish-pink, deep pink, salmon, raspberry, cerise – even tinged with orange.
  • The colour of the Loire reds varies according to grape variety and how the wine is made. They can be reddish violet, cerise, ruby, garnet-red, purple, brown, black or even terracotta coloured .
  • Intensity: bright or pale, light, medium, intense, dark, opaque, deep.
  • Shine: vibrant, clear, bright, brilliant, dull, matt, oxidised, lifeless, tired
  • Opacity: cloudy, hazy, dull, foggy, translucent, brilliant, crystalline, with or without deposits.
  • Viscosity: fluid, thick, dense, oily, viscous.

Hold your glass of Loire Valley wine by the stem and angle it gently up towards the light. Observe the nuances of colour; swirl the wine gently in the glass and look at the “legs” or “tears,” which will give you an idea of the wine’s consistency: is it heavy and concentrated, or light and fluid?  

And now we go on to the smell.

Nose for bouquet

The nose is essential to experiencing flavour

Put your nose right inside your glass of Loire Valley wine. Inhale, take in the aromas – then take a breath of fresh air and start again. You should notice a whole range of aromas: subtle, powerful, fresh, appealing – or unpleasant, if the cork has affected the wine.

The aromas you perceive may evoke flowers, a fruit dessert, warm brioche, pouch tobacco, cooking spices, freshly picked mushrooms – or any other flavour that links spontaneously to your own memories of people, places or emotions.

Your aroma perceptions may include:

  • Florals (white flowers, roses, violets, acacia, elder, lime),
  • Fresh fruit  (apricot, citrus, banana, red fruit),
  • Dry fruit (including nuts),
  • Candied fruit (figs, orange peel),
  • Herbal aromas (grass, ferns, hay),
  • Forest floor (mushrooms, earth, humus),
  • Animal  (meat, leather, amber),
  • Toasty/roasted (toast, coffee, burnt wood, earth, sulphur, tobacco),
  • Balsamic (vanilla, thyme, pine resin),
  • Wood (barrels, green wood),
  • Spices (cinnamon, cloves, pepper, honey),
  • Minerals (gun flint, iodine).

Next, we taste the wine

Palate for Flavour

If you gulp your Loire wine down, you won’t have a chance to see, feel or remember anything much about it. How much better would it be to serve a glass of wine and savour every mouthful?

Is your wine flavoursome, like a Cabernet-d’Anjou or Coteaux–du-Layon? Fresh and lively like Muscadet, supple like a Saumur-Champigny, or elegant and refined like a Savennières or an Anjou-Blanc? Or you may have something light and fruity like a Touraine, sparkling like a Crémant-de-Loire or a Saumur-Brut, or rounded like a Chinon? Take a good sip and coat your mouth with the wine. “Chew” the wine with your tongue. To get the most from your glassful, try to pay attention to every detail.

Once you have swallowed or spat your wine, concentrate again: you can now identify the length of the wine – that is, whether the flavours and aromas disappear quickly or disperse more slowly.

Even with very little experience you should be able to identify some of the aromas that travelled from the throat to the olfactory area; to describe the tannins, whether they are gentle, soft and supple on the palate, and whether the overall sensation is pleasing.

Comparing the aromas with the flavours will make your tasting experience richer and more satisfying: it is an effective way of grasping the many aspects of the wine.

Do remember that it is your personal impressions that count. Here are some of the unwritten rules of wine-drinking (always in moderation, of course!):

  • You have the right not to drink
  • You have the right to like any wine - even that cheap bottle you picked up on holiday.
  • You have the right not to enjoy some wines  - even the expensive one you kept for your daughter’s wedding (It might have been better to open it when she was still in primary school !)
  • You have the right to your own opinion  - especially when faced with a seasoned taster
  • You have the right to spit the wine out – sometimes it’s the only way!
  • You have the right to tip the whole bottle down the sink (or onto the flowerbed…)
  • You have the right to taste alone  - although it’s more fun when there’s a group
  • You have the right to complain about cork taint,  even though there is nothing the winemaker can do
  • You have the right to make a noise when tasting although you don’t have to alert the whole restaurant to your gargling!

Happy Tasting from Loire Valley Wines!

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