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What is wine tasting?

Wine tasting is not drinking. Although wine is made to drink and enjoy, there are also times when it has to be judged and assessed. Mastering the art of tasting is essential in order to get the most out of your wine drinking.

Spotting faulty wines

There are several wine faults. Most come from poor winemaking or from

defective materials, especially corks. Faults vary in intensity –
some
merely lessening the potential pleasure from a bottle, others
making it
undrinkable.

Not all tasters are equally sensitive to particular faults –
some notice
a corked wine in seconds, while others may pick up on too much
sulphur.

 

Main faults
Corked – the wine smells and tastes musty and sour.
Caused by
a fault in the cork whereby a chemical called TCA destroys the
wine.

 

Oxidised – a wine that has had too much contact with
oxygen.
It has a sherry-like smell. Oxidised white wine is curiously
dark in colour
for its age while red is abnormally brown for its age. All wines
gradually
oxidise as they get older. This is an essential part of the
ageing process.
However, some wines are prematurely old. This may be due to poor
handling
of the grapes after they have been picked, faults in the
winemaking or
because the cork has provided an imperfect seal.

 

Over-sulphured – a wine that smells of burnt matches
and leaves
a sour taste in the back of the throat. It will often leave you
with a
foul headache the next morning. Sulphur dioxide is widely used
as a necessary
‘disinfectant’ in wine-making. Many winemakers now, however, try
to use
as little sulphur as possible. Today sulphur levels are
generally much
lower than they were twenty or thirty years ago.

Hydrogen-sulphide – bad egg smells that come from
winemakers
not paying sufficient attention during fermentation. Equally,
they can
occur if the wine has not been racked adequately while it
matures.

 

Unclean barrels (‘barrel taint’) – can give wine an
unpleasant
musty taste which is often very similar to a corked wine.
Barrels, especially
any that are empty for a while, have to be kept scrupulously
clean to
avoid tainting the wine. Where possible winemakers prefer to
keep their
barrels full with wine.

 

Acetic acid – common to all wines. In excess it will
make the
wine smell and taste vinegary.

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