801.1 Advanced Sensory Evaluation of Wine

To fully appreciate the information in this module, you should have read 301.9, 401.1, 501.4 and 501.9 as well as all the modules on Tasting Wine. Here’s what the wine judges / aficionados / hardened buffs of wine consider when faced with a wine.

Even before smelling or tasting the wine, judges can guess a wine’s style by examining its visual aspect and colour

Always examine the wine by tilting the glass and looking at the wine edges against a white background and in white light.

  • Limpidity – is the wine clear, limpid or crystal-clear, gassy or cloudy or hazy
  • Brilliance – is it dazzling and reflects light, bright or simply dull, flat and murky
  • Intensity – is it deep or pale and lacking in intensity
  • Tint & Colour

    • White Wines – White-gold, green-gold, pale-gold, golden, pale yellow, light yellow, canary yellow, green-yellow, gold-green, grey-yellow, water-green, amber-yellow, straw, old gold, rose.
    • Red Wines – Violet, purple, scarlet, garnet red, peony, deep purple, cherry red, dark cherry, bright cherry, ruby, bright red, brick red, orange-red, brown, mahogany, tile red.
    • Rosé Wines – Light scarlet, raspberry, light claret, orange tint, salmon, apricot. Quality rosé wines often show a purple edge when the glass is tilted.
    • Sparkling wines – As for white or rose wines but also including a description of the size of bubble, quantity, rate, duration

Wines that are unusually brown (white wine) or too light coloured (red wine), for their ‘age’ may have been adversely affected by premature oxidation or by improper storage (heat, light etc.).

Green – Young wine of less than 2 years Violet – Youthful wines of 1-3 years Whitish pink – Wines of less than 2 years old
Yellow – Wine with a few years maturation Ruby red – Wines with 2-4 years bottle maturation Pinkish grey – Wines with 2-4 years bottle maturation
Gold – Well aged wine of >6 years Tile red – Mature red wines of 5-15 years Amber – Mature wine

What affects the colour and tint of wine?

Dr. Alan Young (International Wine Academy) outlined the factors:

Extraction – The extraction of phenolic compounds including anthocyanins from grape skins during fermentation and maceration provides the colour in wine. Higher fermentation temperatures extract more colour.

Oxidation – Oxidation is the brown discolouration that appears with contact of grape juice or wine to air – recall cutting pear or apple and leaving it exposed to air? It turns brown!

As the wine matures, colours change due to slow oxidation in the bottle

  • red wines turn from red to ruby, brick red to mahogany and then tawny or amber brown. As tannins fall out in the sediment, so do the anthocyanins and colours
  • white wines turn a darker shade that change from straw to gold and then to brown.

Ageing of wines in oak barrels an oxidative process.

Stability of Wine – The pH and its reactions with sulphur dioxide in wine affect colour.

Other contributions of colour come from the:

Grape Variety – thick skins of Zinfandel provide more colour, thin skins of Pinot Noir provide less colour.

Maturity of fruit – colour builds up as the fruit approaches optimum ripeness.

Soils – soils rich in iron produce more scarlet colour

The growing temperature – cool climate fruit have relatively thicker skins and provide more pigments and colour. Warm dry summers produce more scarlet colour.

It is no wonder why wine judges and aficionados (those real ones) spend so much time ‘looking at a wine’ before smelling and tasting it. You can tell a lot about a wine by just its visual aspect!
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