What is wine evaluation?

White wine glasses at a wine evaluation event.

Wine evaluation is a means of rating a wine based on the taster’s assessment of a number of common wine characteristics. Many wine characteristics are considered when conducting a wine evaluation. Before drinking, the color, aroma and surface tension, often known as legs, are observed. The wine is then tasted to judge its flavor and mouthfeel characteristics.

Fermented wine in vat.

Common flavor characteristics seen in wine include fruity flavors, buttery flavors, and flavors of wood and oak. Many wine drinkers report tasting notes of cinnamon, cherry, peach, or other flavors within a wine. Sometimes fruit flavors that appear in wine can appear to have a cooked or baked taste. Some wines have distinct floral or green flavors, such as lavender or green pepper, or sweet flavors such as licorice or vanilla. Prior to tasting at a wine evaluation, the wine is often allowed to briefly aerate or stir to speed up the aeration process, which is believed to better introduce the flavor of the wine.

A glass of red wine.

Part of evaluating a wine includes diving into the flavor of the wine to determine if the flavor has similar properties to other flavors, such as spicy, fruity, or woody. Many tasters close their eyes when tasting wine in order to give their full attention to the tasting experience. Sipping, chewing and spilling wine, while frowned upon at dinner parties, are common techniques used to aerate and fully savor the wine.

The characteristics of the flavor can be evaluated during the tasting of the wine.

The amount of alcohol and the intensity of the alcohol flavor in the wine greatly influence the taster’s perception of the wine’s flavor. In general, wines with stronger flavors do better with a higher alcohol content than wines with lighter flavors. Consequently, red wines tend to have a higher alcohol content than white wines, as they generally have a stronger flavor. High-alcohol wines tend to run down the glass in pronounced stripes that tasters call legs. Another part of wine evaluation is the aftertaste. After drinking a quality wine, the aftertaste should be long, with a pleasant, moderate and slightly perfumed quality as it rests on the tongue.

A big part of wine evaluation is making sure the wine is sufficiently aerated during a tasting.

Although many wine reviews assign points to a wine that give it a seemingly quantitative analysis, wine tasting is not an exact science. Much of wine evaluation is subjective, based on the preferences and experience of the person doing the wine evaluation. Each person who tastes a wine will have a different experience of the flavor and body characteristics of the wine. Although many tasters often agree on the main flavor characteristics of wine, subtleties in a wine’s taste and texture can render differently to different people.

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