In this Wine Tasting Series, you’ve learned about the appearance of wine as well as aroma and taste. Now it’s time to asses the finish and make your final assessment.
Wine Tasting: The Finish
After swallowing or spitting the wine, pause for a few moments, and focus on the fading traces of the wine’s flavour.
Take note of any flavours you experienced when you took your first sip of the wine. Do those flavours carry through to the finish (the aftertaste)? Are there different flavours that appear after the wine has left your mouth?
Note the intensity of the finish, and how long that finish lingers on your palate. Does the flavour stay with you for over a minute or does it drop off almost immediately.
Wine Tasting: Assessing the Wine
This is when we pause to consider the quality of the wine. Ultimately, the question to ask yourself is “Do I enjoy drinking this wine?” Whether or not you would ever spend money on this wine comes down to personal taste. If you like it, then it’s a good wine to you. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter if someone else assesses it as a good wine, you won’t buy it.
That said, there are certain qualities in a wine you will want to consider as you learn about wine. Sometimes when you appreciate and understand the quality of a wine, it becomes more enjoyable to drink.
Components of Wine Quality
Keep the acronym “BLICE” in mind. Balance, Length Intensity, Complexity and Expression. These are the qualities wine professionals look for to assess the quality of a wine.
Assessing Quality: BLICE
B = Balance
If there are certain characteristics that stick out like a sore thumb, the wine is not in balance. This isn’t to say that some flavour notes aren’t stronger than another or that it perhaps has one significantly more intense aroma. What it could be is that the alcohol seems unusually high and moves from a warming feeling to nearly a burn. Perhaps the sugar isn’t balanced with the acidity and has a very cloying mouthfeel. When all the flavour and structural elements of the wine are in harmony, the wine is said to have balance and therefore one of the elements of a quality wine.
L = Length
As discussed above, length is how long the wine lingers on your palate after the wine has left your mouth. It doesn’t matter if you spit out the wine or you consume it, after the wine is gone, you should still be able to taste some of the flavours and feel some of the structural elements like acidity, alcohol, tannins, body and the sweetness level. Time the finish. If it doesn’t stick around for at least one minute, the finish is short and less likely to be considered a quality wine.
I = Intensity
This is how strong the flavour and aroma characteristics come across. Think about whether or not the aroma is muted or the flavours tasted almost watered down. As you get used to tasting various wines and learning the typical notes of those wines, you should be able to pick out those characteristics fairly easily because they shine through. If there is nothing at all very distinguishable in the wine, it may be a lower quality wine.
C = Complexity
Wines that have only one or two flavour and aroma components to them are thought of as linear. It’s important to note that a wine doesn’t have to be a big, bold monster of a wine to be complex. Sometimes the most elegant wines are also the most complex.
E = Expression
Here we are looking for typicity. There are signature flavours, aromas and structural elements that each wine should express. For example, a Sauvignon Blanc should be pale lemon, light bodied, have high acidity and express some herbal notes along with fruit flavours. These are typical characteristics of a Sauvignon Blanc. A Pinot Noir that expresses typicity should be a pale ruby or brick colour with red fruit notes and low to medium tannins. If a Pinot Noir is a deep purple with dark black fruit and high tannins, it does not express typical characteristics and is likely either low quality, or has other grape varieties blended in. The wine should reflect what it is. If you’re tasting blind, this step is a bit more difficult to assess because you don’t yet know what the wine is, so you may have to wait for the reveal!
When it comes to assessing quality, you need to consider all the components of BLICE rather than hanging everything on one. A wine may be intense and complex, but if it is out of balance, the quality just isn’t there. A wine may also have balance, length, intensity and complexity, but if it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon that shows the signature qualities of a Pinot Noir, something has gone very wrong in the winemaking process.