Observing the wine in the glass allows one to assess clarity, colour with its nuances and consistency, replaced by perlage in the case of sparkling wines. The first phase of tasting is thevisual inspection - which is also the first point of the AIS wine tasting card - which provides a series of valuable clues to understand the type, composition and evolution of the wine being observed. This examination can also highlight negative situations such as alterations and diseases that can make one decide to stop tasting. Most of the time, the appearance of the wine does not lie: it is up to the skill and experience of the taster to draw on his or her memory and connect what he or she sees to the wines tasted previously.
- Limpidity (residues);
- Colour (pigments);
- Consistency (ethyl alcohol);
- Effervescence (CO²).
Wine tasting sheet for visual examination: clarity
Absence of suspended particles. In order to assess limpidity rigorously, an instrumental analysis must be carried out with a nephelometer capable of measuring the penetration and dispersion of a light ray inside the wine. The evaluation of clarity can be hindered by the lack of transparency of the wine, i.e. the property of the liquid to allow itself to be penetrated by light rays, which depends on the quality of the colouring substances present in the wine. The greatest passage of light occurs in white wines, rosés and some reds. For reds with a compact colour, it is necessary to orient the glass in such a way as to take advantage of every bit of light, or better still to position it between the eye and a light source such as a simple candle.
is a wine with numerous particles in suspension that therefore presents a pronounced opalescence and strong turbidity. These are generally wines in which alterations, undesirable fermentations, malolactic fermentation, etc. have occurred. UNACCEPTABLE.
is a wine with a few particles in suspension. The quality is not necessarily compromised. Causes can be long bottle ageing or bottling without filtration in red wines rich in colouring matter, while in white wines it happens if they are bottled with yeast and then re-ferment in the bottle. In these cases the handling of the bottle during pouring must be carried out with extreme care. In all other cases, the presence of certain particles should arouse suspicion.
is a wine with no suspended particles and therefore no deposit.
is a wine that is totally free of suspended particles and has an intense luminosity.
is a wine that has a beautiful lustre and vividly reflects the rays of light that strike it. This situation is favoured by the presence of carbon dioxide bubbles because these refract light rays and is therefore more frequent in sparkling and sparkling wines. Some important white wines, passito or liqueur wines, can also have a particularly brilliant colour.
Wine tasting sheet for visual examination: Colour
Colour is the most important element of the visual examination because it makes it possible to immediately understand certain characteristics of the wine and predicts others, which will then be verified in the olfactory and taste-olfactory examinations. The colour of wine is determined by polyphenols (anthocyanins, flavones, leucoanthocyanins, catechins, kampferol, quercitins, cinnamic acids, benzoic acids...) which are mainly present in the skin of the grapes. To obtain coloured wines in fermentation, contact between the liquid part of the must and the solid part must necessarily take place. Red vinification, also known as 'maceration', makes it possible to obtain red wines (200-500 mg/l of colouring substances) e rosé wines (20-50 mg/l of colouring substances)for which partial maceration is carried out. The concentration of the colouring substances depends on the intrinsic characteristics of the grape variety, the temperature and duration of fermentation, the amount of sulphur dioxide used and the number of pump-overs. Conversely, removing the marc produces the white wines (20-25 mg/l of colouring substances) also from black grapes. To produce white wines rich in personality, cryomaceration of the must and pellicular maceration (i.e. in contact with the skins) are used to extract the components that intensify colour, aroma and structure. Assessing the colour of the wine is essential to verify its correspondence with its typeas well as the relationship with the pedoclimatic environment, the grape variety and the ageing potential. The colour test ensures that no alterations such as oxidasic and phosphatic, ferric and protein cases are present in the wine (very rare) that could cause insolubilisation of some substances and the formation of coloured precipitates. Colour hue depends on the type of pigments present in the wine, acidity, pH and the state of oxidation of the polyphenols. In addition to being a reference for understanding the grape variety in front of you, it indicates the evolutionary state of the wine, as its variations are determined by the state of oxidation of the pigments.
is the colour found in young, light and fresh white wines with little softness and acidity. These are wines obtained from a rigorous white vinification of grapes harvested slightly in advance that may have undergone clarification and filtration. This hue can be described as a very pale yellow with distinct green hues that generally diminish after the first year.
is the colour found in most white wines that are still quite young and fairly balanced. In general, these are wines obtained by white vinification of grapes harvested at full physiological maturity, thus with a good acid/sugar ratio. This tonality can be described as a straw-like colour, while the different intensity or reflections (greenish or golden) depend on the pedoclimatic environment, the grape variety, the processing techniques and the evolution of the wine.
is the colour found in more evolved and softer white wines. These wines are made from perfectly ripe or overripe grapes, with a possible short maceration before vinification and fermentation and/or maturation in wooden barrels. This warm, golden hue is reminiscent of yellow gold. If it lacks liveliness, it indicates a negative development of the wine's characteristics, which is probably old and/or too oxidised.
is the colour found in white raisin or liqueur wines, very soft and not very fresh. This colour should be bright and shiny, if it is dull it indicates a bad situation such as old and/or over-oxidised wines.
is the colour of rosé wines made from black grapes subjected to maceration with brief skin contact. If this hue has purplish reflections, the wine is young, if it has coppery reflections (onion skin colour), one can assume that the wine was obtained from the white vinification of grapes with a delicate colouring matter, such as Pinot Grigio.
is the colour of rosé wines with a more intense hue similar to cherry pulp. These wines are usually obtained with a longer maceration and skins passage.
is the colour of rosé wines with a hue similar to red winesso much so that it could also be described as a very faint ruby red. These wines are generally obtained with longer maceration and skin contact than the previous ones.
is the colour of very young, hard red wines. It has strong violet hues reminiscent of fuchsia pink and is comparable to the cardinal's robe (cardinal red).
is the colour of red wines that tend to be young with an excellent softness-to-hardness ratio and generally well balanced.
is the colour of the most evolved and smooth red wines. If the shade is compact it is reminiscent of the colour of blood, if it is more transparent that of pomegranate.
is the colour of very soft red wines with long ageing. The hue is reminiscent of brick, with hues ranging from brown to orange. If it is dull or in young wines, it is a negative indicator of oxidation that has caused deterioration.
Wine tasting sheet for visual examination: consistency
The consistency of a wine is an indication of its ethyl alcohol and extractive substances. Wine is a substance consisting mainly of water (75-85%) and ethyl alcohol (10-14%)., followed by acids, possibly sugars and many other substances that flow over each other, giving the wine a variable, more or less dense appearance, with a consistency greater than that of water. Monovalent alcohols (ethanol...) are decisive in giving wine consistency for theMarangoni effect (= mass transfer along an interface due to a surface tension gradient). The evaluation of the consistency is also done to verify that the wine is not affected by diseases such as stringiness, which can appear in white wines making them look like oil. Al consistency is assessed during mescita (when pouring the wine into the glass, assess how it goes down to the bottom), tumbler rotation (holding the glass at the base, rotate it slowly while carefully observing the movement of the wine); observation of tears and bows (after swirling the wine in the glass, it goes down the wall forming tears and bows).
On the glass, the spaces between the tears left by the rotation of the wine for the Marangoni effect are called arches and can be wide or narrow. In particular, it has been observed that if the wine is very rich in ethanol, the arches are thicker, but this is not to be taken as an absolute truth. The consistency is given by: alcohols (ethyl, propyl...), polyhydric alcohols (glycerol...), polyphenols (tannins, anthocyanins...), monosaccharides (glucose, fructose...) polysaccharides (dextran, gum...). A wine can be:
it is a wine that goes down in the glass too lightly, too thinly and too insubstantiallyalmost like water. UNACCEPTABLE.
is a wine that goes down in the glass rather lightly, with fast tears and wide bows. This situation is found in wines rather low in ethyl alcohol and with a weak structure, with a softness-hardness ratio in favour of the latter.
is a wine that goes down in the glass with moderate smoothness, fairly fast tears and medium amplitude bows. This situation is found in wines of all colours as long as they have a discrete alcohol component and structure, with a softness-hardness ratio often in good balance.
is a wine that goes down in the glass not very smoothly, with slow, regular tears and dense arches. This situation is found in wines rich in ethyl alcohol and very soft structure (sometimes sugars).
is a wine that goes down in the glass syrupily, with very slow tears and very dense arches. This situation is found in very few passito, sweet liqueur or botrytised wines. If a wine that does not belong to these types is viscous, it is a defect caused by the stringy.
You can now buy my book dedicated to aspiring sommeliers or scroll down the page to continue reading the article!
Wine tasting sheet for visual examination: Effervescence
Effervescence replaces consistency in the evaluation of sparkling wines and champagnes. Effervescence is due to the presence of foam and bubbles of carbon dioxide, a gas that is released from wine poured into the glass. Carbon dioxide is positive in these types of wines, as well as for young reds, but it becomes decidedly negative in developed or raisin wines as it denotes probable unwanted fermentation. Effervescence assessed positively during visual examination is that linked to the presence of natural carbon dioxide formed by yeasts during alcoholic fermentation in the production of sparkling wines, whether obtained by the Classical or Martinotti method, sweet or dry. In addition to determining the development of perlage, CO² has a similar effect at low temperatures: it encourages the release of volatile substances, emphasises the wine's aroma and in the mouth causes a slight tingling, tactile sensation of pungency that accentuates gustatory freshness and hardness in general, attenuating sweetness and all softness.
depending on the grain, the bubbles may be coarse, fairly fine or fine. Coarse bubbles are of a size reminiscent of sparkling mineral water. Fairly fine bubbles have intermediate dimensions and are the standard for sparkling wines on the market. Fine bubbles are very small in size, similar to the size of the tip of a pin.
Number of bubbles
depending on the number the bubbles may be few, fairly numerous, numerous. The bubbles are scarce if they are very rarefied and/or almost absent. Bubbles are quite numerous if they appear discontinuously and their formation is limited to a few points on the walls of the glass. Bubbles are numerous if they are abundant and form continuously from many places on the walls of the glass.
Persistence of bubbles
depending on persistence, the bubbles may be evanescent, fairly persistent, persistent. Le evanescent bubbles disappear within seconds after pouring the sparkling wine into the glass. The fairly persistent bubbles form for a few minutes and are generally not particularly numerous. The persistent bubbles are formed quickly and continuously even after a long period of standing of the sparkling wine in the glass and are usually also numerous.
Still/steady wine = CO² content max. 2 g/l; overpressure at 20° max. 1 atm; sometimes slightly pétillant appearance
Sparkling wine = CO² content max. 2-5 g/l; overpressure at 20° 1 - 2.5 atm; appearance with slight frothing
Sparkling wine = CO² content min 6 g/l; overpressure at 20° min 3 atm; appearance with perlage
As always, I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful!