Many people have wondered ― why are wine critics capable of distinguishing such a wide range of flavours, while I can taste nothing but sour or sweet? Are they for real or just exaggerating?

Do wine critics have more taste buds than normal people? Just kidding. In fact, with a little bit of training, anyone can be just like the experts.

First of all, ask yourself this ― what do you usually do when trying out a wine? Do you simply pick up the glass, swirl the wine, take a sip, and swallow right away? I believe this is what most people would do, but unfortunately, this is drinking and not wine tasting. To understand a wine, we need to focus on the details.

Step 1: Seeing (Examine)
Before drinking, we must first observe the colour and clarity of the wine. Put the glass against a white tablecloth or napkin to see more clearly.

Do not underestimate what you can learn from a wine’s colour and clarity. Simply by observation, you can distinguish the body, alcohol level, acidity, and whether the wine is over-matured, or has even gone bad. Did you ever imagine you can get so much information just by observation?

Let’s start off with red wine. Some wines are so clear that you can look through the glass, while others are so thick that cannot be looked through. Clearer the wine means thinner the body and vice versa. You can also tell by the colour which grape variety was used, for example, Pinot Noir has a lighter colour and higher clarity than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Same for white wines. White wines from a warmer region with more sunshine have a darker colour and stronger flavour than their counterparts from colder regions. And clearer the wine means fainter the flavour with a hint of acidity. Sweet white wines have a deep yellow colour with a complex and rich aroma.

You can also estimate how far a wine has aged by its colour. A young red wine appears purplish, but as aging continues, its colour will gradually turn maroon; however, if the colour resembles brick red, it means the wine is over-matured and way past its best time of consumption.

The colour can further reflect if a wine has been stored properly, for example, if a bottle of 5-year-old red wine appears brick red, it means the wine is prematurely aged, which indicates poor storage conditions.

If the colour is brownish and murky, it means the wine has gone bad and is undrinkable.

Lastly, swirl the wine gently and observe the wine legs (Tears of Wine). High alcohol wines have more legs and flow slower. Some people believe that the slower the legs flow, the higher the quality, but that is just a myth. However, wines with a high alcohol level generally have a thicker body.

This is just the preliminary observation, we cannot drink the wine yet. Next up is smelling.

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