An Essential Skill for Winemakers & Sommeliers
Winemakers and sommeliers use the Deductive Tasting Method to identify a wine in a blind tasting. Essentially, it establishes a factual basis for concluding why a certain wine tastes the way it does.
Professional wine tasters rely on this wine tasting method. It establishes a universal language for describing wine. The process forces tasters to understand how a wine can be quantified and align their sensory experiences with trusted palates within the field.
The Goal is Greatness
The goal is to remove subjectivity from the process of judging wine. Those who can master this task effectively establish their bona fides in a field riddled with subjective opinions.
It will never be an exact science, but it is a roadmap to greatness. Imagine a great master of abstract painting. They begin as an art student who spends many years rendering inanimate objects onto a canvas.
To be great, you must first master the medium. The same applies to winemakers and sommeliers. They must become adept at analyzing the objective properties of a given wine in a language all true wine experts understand.
Deductive Tasting Method
The process begins by drawing on the most accessible of our senses: the ability to describe the appearance of wine in the glass. A wine student must evaluate the clarity, color, viscosity, and rim variation in the glass.
Clarity is the ability of the wine to reflect light. Traditionally, a wine taster could assume that a limpid wine was a result of quality winemaking. This is less the case today when overly fined, and filtered wines are believed to “strip” the wine of complex flavor compounds. Nonetheless, it serves to focus the student on the task at hand.
Colors in Wine
Next is identifying the color of the wine. White wines gain color with age, while red wines lose color with age.
Wine tasters often describe young white wines as clear, straw, or light yellow in color. Aged white wines become more saturated in hue and can be described as gold or even light brown. Conversely, young red wines are often clear and bright, with red or purple highlights. These wines range from light red to garnet. Some wines are so dark as to appear black in the glass.
One of the most exciting discoveries for novice wine students is to notice the “bricking” effect in red wine. This occurs when the rim, or meniscus, of red wine, starts to lose pigment and turn brown. This is evidence of the wine’s aging process. For some grape varieties, it can be observed after only five years of aging.
Another expert clue as to the origin of a wine is its viscosity or the degree to which the wine appears to adhere to the sides of a glass. This is the origin of an often misunderstood concept in wine, the presence of “legs.”
Pseudo-sophisticates will often describe wines with discernable legs to be of high quality. Not so! The degree to which tears or sheeting of wine along the sides of the glass appear is simply the result of the alcohol content of the wine. The higher the alcohol content, the more “legs” will be visible.
It is a useful observation, however, as viscosity often correlates to climate. This assists a taster in making their ultimate conclusion as to a wine’s origin.