Wednesday, September 16, 2015


This chart provides a few examples from a whole range of the possible options that are open in the complex business of tasting. It also demonstrates that it is possible to approach the task systematically and rationally. When tasting it is important to keep your options open until you have assessed the sight, smell, and taste of the wine. At each stage you should be seeking to confirm at least one of the possibilities that have arisen during the previous stage. Be confident and do not be afraid to back your own judgment—it is the only way to learn.

The clear, well-defined garnet color
of medium intensity suggests only
moderately hot climatic origins. The
tinge of purple on the meniscus
could indicate youth.
This is dominated by the distinctive
pear-drop aroma of macération
carbonique, hallmark of all but the
best cru Beaujolais. Often mistaken
for the varietal aroma of Gamay
(from which Beaujolais is made),
the aroma is characteristic of all
wines fermented in this way.
If this is a Beaujolais, the color
suggests something more serious
than a lighter basic Beaujolais
or Nouveau.
The balance between fruit, acidity,
and alcohol confirms that this is
Beaujolais. The good depth of spicygrapey
fruit beneath the pervasive
pear-drop character indicates that
it is better than average.
Grape variety Gamay
Region Beaujolais
Age 2 to 3 years old
Comment Beaujolais Villages
Water-white, this wine has obvious
cool climatic origins, although the
tiny bubbles collecting on the glass
suggest it could be a Vinho Verde.
But the palest usually have a
tell-tale hint of straw color. Probably
a modest Qualitätswein from the
Mosel region of Germany.
This is not Vinho Verde. Its crisp,
youthful, sherbet aroma is typical
Mosel Riesling. Considering its
color, the nose would confirm
that this is probably a Qualitätswein,
or a Kabinett at most, of a modest
vintage, but from a very good
grower who is possibly as
high up as the Saar tributary.
Youthful, tangy fruit, the flower of
the Riesling is still evident. More
flavor than expected, and a nice dry,
piquant finish with a hint of peach
on the aftertaste.
Grape variety Riesling
Region Mosel
Age about 18 to 24 months
Comment Kabinett, top grower
Intense, almost black color that is
virtually opaque. Obviously from a
thick-skinned grape variety like the
Syrah, which has ripened under a
very hot sun. Australia’s Swan Valley
or France’s Rhône Valley? California?
As intense on the nose as on the
eye. Definitely Syrah, and judging by
its spicy aroma with hints of herbal
scrub, almost certainly from the
northern Rhône. Australia and
California can now be ruled out.
More massive than complex, it must
be from an exceptional vintage.
Powerful and tannic, the spicy-fruit
flavor is rich with blackberries,
blackcurrants, plums, and cinnamon.
Beginning to develop, but has a
long way to go. This is a highquality
Rhône Syrah, but without
quite the class of Hermitage,
or the finesse of Côte Rôtie.
Grape variety Syrah
Region Cornas, Rhône Valley
Age about 5 years old
Comment top grower, great year
The brick-red color and watery
meniscus immediately suggest a
young Bordeaux of petit-château
quality. But first impressions can
deceive—more evidence is needed.
An attractive violet aroma with a
restrained hint of soft, spicy fruit.
Nothing contradicts my impressions,
although the lack of blackcurrant
suggests that the wine is a Bordeaux
with a high proportion of Merlot
rather than Cabernet Sauvignon.
The palate perfectly reflects the
nose. This is a medium-bodied,
modest claret of no great age.
However, the fruit is well rounded
and the soft tannin structure
indicates that in little more than
another 2, possibly 3, years it
will be at its peak.
Grape variety Merlotdominated
Region Bordeaux
Age 2 years old
Comment petit château
or good generic


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