lunedì 14 luglio 2014

Easy going Wine Tasting lesson: the visual examination!

I don't want to be rambling. Just to explain in few words (if I am able to!) what wine tasting means, in order to understand the most common gestures that we, sommeliers, do (sometimes)! And to understand what you hear always more frequently almost everywhere. You can hear and therefore speak about wine in a cellar, in a wine shop, in a restaurant but, why not, also in the gym while exercising, in the canteen during your lunch break, in the post-office while queuing... Just kidding :)

I will speak about different stages of tasting in separate posts, to give the time (also to me!) to digest them properly! Today it's about the visual part.
Wine tasting starts always with a visual examination. 

This steps it's important to give the first informations on the wine we are going to taste, confirmed during the exams that come after: olfactory and gustatory-olfactory. At this stage you judge the clarity, the colour (and we could speak hours about the different tonalities), consistency and effervescence.  
Clarity is "officially" defined a the absence of suspended particles. Mmmmm, what does it mean? Very easy: can you notice some bits on the wine surface? If not, it doesn't mean you are blind; it means that the wine is clear, which occurrs in most of the cases. 
A wine with strong turbidity has experienced something negative during its life: an unwelcome fermentation for example. Poor wine. It's better if you leave it! If the wine shows just some particles, it's not necessarily a wine with defects. It can be due to a long aging in the bottle (typical of some red wines) or when they have been bottled without filtration especially for red ones rich in extract.
In these cases, the manipulation of the bottle during pouring must be done with extreme care.  A decanter is advisable! (and also fashionable!). 
Always evaluating the clarity aspect you can decide that you are in front of a crystalline wine, with its own intence brilliance. Just think about a Champagne, with its beautiful shine and vibrancy that reflects the light rays passing through it, thanks to the presence of bubbles of carbon dioxide which refract the rays of light.

And with clarity we are over! Uff!
Regarding colour, it's often suggestive of the wine age. Think about a red wine with a vanished shade, tending to orange tonalities: it's quite uncommon to be in front of a young wine; it's rather a product which experienced a maturation and a related evolution in the colour. And what about a wine with ruby-red tones purplish highlighted? It's exactly the opposite: I wouldn't expect a wine of exstensive aging. 
As human beings, not all wines are the same, so we cannot generalize! These are just indicative directions to give the basis in wine "analyzing". Think about a very very tanned woman: she should come from a tropical country you would say; and what about solarium centres? So, rule #1: never generalyze!
Even though, my role is to give you some knowledge about wine colour and I will do so. What are the factors behind it?
The wine colour comes from the staining, given by the maceration of the must with the skins during the fermentation. For red wines the vinification is done starting from red grapes with a variable maceration time. For white wines the vinification is done starting from withe/black grapes removing the skins.
The intensity of the colour depends instead on the amount of substance present in the grapes that is the result of soil and climate, of the microclimate but also depends on seasonality of the rains, the maturation, the state of health of the grapes, winemaking techniques, etc. Soils rich in limestone and clay tend to give grapes richer in pigments compared to sandy soils.

For the more curious, here below a very slim analysis of the scales of wine colours!
Greenish yellow: in white wines very young, light and fresh, with a good acidity   - Straw yellow: in most white wines still quite young, but with a lower acidity; softer  - Golden yellow: in white wines with a more mature relationship softness/acidity; probable aging in wooden barrels. 
Light Pink: in rosé wines with a colour similar to the peach blossoms or pink roses colour; usually obtained from red grapes which had a short maceration on the skins   - Cherry pink: wines generally obtained through a little longer maceration.

Purple red: in red wines with a very young relationship softness/hardness in favor of the latter: tannins are quite aggressive - Ruby Red: normally this color is associated with a wine in a good state of health and conservation; good maturation - Garnet: in more matured red wines, rather soft than hard taste; it's similar to the color of blood (bleaaaa); a good evolution possibly with short periods in contact with wood - Orange-red: in red wines with a long aging (wow!)

If colour gives the first informations on wine evolution, consistency can do the same for alcoholic strength. Swinging the glass allows you to create some small archs on the glass walls, whose width and descent speed indicate if the wine you are going to drink has a marked or weak alcoholic strength. Generally, slow and regular drops associated to small arcs very closed to each other spot a wine with a good % of alcohol.
Just try to do it with a glass of water and see the difference! You will understand what I mean.

And finally, what about effervescence? This evaluation is considered only for wines with the presence of  bubbles (I like to call them in this way :) ), formed during alcoholic fermentation in the production of sparkling wines produced with the classic method or Martinotti, sweet or dry. When you rate the bubbles (in this world we really judge EVERYTHING), you analyze the grain (are they coarse or very thin?), the number (are they rare or abundant) and the persistence (do they disappear after few seconds or do they reproduce themselves continuosly?)!

Sorry but speaking about bubbles I have become thursty!
Cheers and ... talk you in the next lesson (or better post on tasting)!

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