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How to Taste Bordeaux Red Wine

Assessing quality

When tasting the wine it is important to remain objective about it’s qualities that make it valuable as a product as opposed to other wines. Well all have our preferences, our likes and dislikes, however our aim here is not leisure, but to rank these goods and to predict their future potential. Well all right then, a little bit of a leisure too.

First things first

The glass. It has to be clean and dry, and polished. Washing up liquid stuck to the side of the glass would totally ruin and alter the perception of the qualities of the wine and that would be a shame wouldn’t it?

It’s not a good idea to wear parfume on yourself either, for the same reason. All in all, the environment where you perform this assessment has to be free of disturbing odours, has to be as neutral as possible. And bright. For first we are going to look into our glass of wine…they look so…different…

Surely, so far you might not know a lot about the subtle differences in the color of claret wines, other than they leave a more or less equally ugly stain on your white tablecloth if you knock over your glass.

Much more rewarding though is to observe the color through your glass! A lot of information is gained at this – often overlooked – 1st step. For a start, check whether your wine is clear or may be hazy?It will be clear most of the time however very old wines may become more opaque and loose their shine, and may appear to be slightly hazy. That is fine. This does not decrease their value. Avoid extremes though.

Next you will notice that the wine has a certain depth of color to it. Is it quite transparent or mostly opaque. I can tell you right now that observing a claret that is very transparent, well… not a good sign. Although an inky, dark wine does not guarantee quality either! More about that later. The color itself may range from inky purple to brown. The latter is a sure way of telling that your claret bit the dust and you can’t derive any pleasure from drinking it, likewise it has no money value either. But these were the extreme ends really, and in most cases you will encounter 3 main colors, ruby – garnet – tawny and myriads of their intermediaries….

You know when you leave a half apple on the kitchen table? The flesh slowly takes on a brown color. The same happens with wine and for the same reason. It is a slow oxidation. Oxygen both supports and destroys life. But that is not necessarily a bad thing because it is oxygen as well that matures our claret, helps it to realize complexity and finesse.

For now, just remember that the sequence in which claret changes it’s color is this: purple – ruby – garnet – tawny – brown. In a nutshell.

Therefore a wine at the beginning of it’s life will be of a ruby color and by the time it becomes tawny or brownish you can safely bet it reached the end of the road. And it is a bad idea to invest in it when you see this happening…

It is important to note however that the color indicates a relative age of the wine to itself, you cannot directly tell, say, this wine is 5 years old because it has a ruby-garnet color…

Therefore a ruby-garnet wine may be 10 years old – in which case you know its is a good vintage as well as a quality producer, but then a ruby-garnet wine might as well be 1 years old, in which case you know that it is either a poor vintage or a more generic, mass scale production one. You can find out more about the aging curve on the pieces of the puzzle page.

There is something else to the eye and just by looking you can have an informed guess about the ripeness of the grapes when harvested. The berries collect sugar as they ripen, and in turn this sugar will create the alcohol in the wine.

Swirl the wine slowly in the glass for two seconds. Then stop, and look at the side of it. You will see little drops developing and falling back to the bottom. How thick or thin they are and how fast or slow they move is the question. The good sign is if they are thick rather than thin, but most importantly they move slowly. Observing this, you can be sure that your claret was made using ripe grapes – that is to say, the berries had adequate sugar when harvested.

Later you will find out that there are different sorts of ripeness, sugar ripeness is one of them, while phenolic ripeness is something else. To make matters complicated these do not necessarily go hand in hand…but more about that later.

These droplets you see are referred to as legs, or tears, or even cathedral windows… but you want to know what is happening, and why is it a sign of ripeness of sugar (or the lack of it thereof?). When you swirl the wine basically you cover the inner side of your glass with 3 things, water, ethanol and glycerol. Ethanol is the main alcohol of wine and it is the ethanol – or ethyl alcohol content – you see on the label expressed by volume of the wine. 강남풀싸롱

It is created by the fermentation of the sugar. Thus more sugar in the must, potentially more ethanol. But what is glycerol then? Glycerol is the secondary alcohol of wine, but when it comes to observing the ‘legs’ it is more important for us. It has a viscous, sticky quality, it sticks to the side of the glass. When you taste the wine, this alcohol gives it roundness, mouth feel. What important is that the amount of glycerol is directly proportional to the amount of ethyl alcohol produced during fermentation. More alcohol, more glycerol. Although the type of yeast used for fermentation also has it’s part to play.

Glycerol, being an alcohol evaporates considerably faster than water. What you see falling back are water droplets, and what there is between them and in their way is – guess? – glycerol. This is why you can assume that, the slower these ‘legs’ move, the more glycerol there is in their way. And that is a good sign of course, as you can be sure that they have a higher alcohol content as well, so the wine is made from berries that had adequate sugar content when harvested.Let me stress again, there are different sorts of ripeness and sugar ripeness per se does not guarantee quality. About all of this serious technical stuff you can read about in the pieces of the puzzle section, as you know by now.

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