The only way to develop a good palate and a consistent, effective tasting process is through practice. Every time I taste, whether just for pleasure, or more seriously during organized wine tasting, I use the time to run through my process and add data to my memory bank. Also, I’m never far from a pad of paper to jot down some notes about the wine. Even if it is only to note a few highlights, or lowlights, I always try to examine and assess the following with a series of questions: appearance, aroma, flavor.
- What color is the wine?
- How deeply pigmented is the base hue?
- Is the disc of the wine clear, or slightly colored?
- Is the wine itself clear or cloudy?
- Does the light reflect off the wine?
- What does the wine smell like?
- Are there any “off odors?” Do they persist, or do they seem to “blow off?”
- How full and lively is the nose?
- Does the nose smell more like fruit or flowers?
- How much spice is in the wine?
- Does the wine smell like the varietal from which it’s made?
- How “heavy” is the wine?
- Does the wine have a lot of tannin?
- Do the tannins block out any other flavors in the wine?
- Does the wine taste acidic?
- Is the wine sweet? Bone dry?
- Are there “off flavors” on the palate?
- Is the wine smooth? Rough?
- How long does the aftertaste last?
- Is the aftertaste complex? Does it evolve?
Remember, above all, wine tasting should be fun! I include the above tips for those seeking guidance about developing, or refining the wine tasting process. As I said at the beginning, wine tasting is all about getting out what you put into the exercise.