Article by the co-founder of Oscar Freire St. multi-lable Wine Soul Store, a top wine expert and an influential voice in the Sao Paulo City enological business scene, on the art of degustation
Chatting over a glass of wine is a most enjoyable past-time. It’s certainly fun to lounge in good company for hours, and insights on Bacco’s delight are becoming a must even in relaxed meetings with friends.
That beau plaisir is not be confused with degustation, though. This art requires a certain degree of focus and the absence of external factors that may interfere, especially with the senses of smell and taste, such as smoke and the usual, preexisting olfactory sensations in restaurants or bar environments.
Degustating wine involves reserving a moment to discover it. You should pay attention and capture what it evokes to your sight, olfactation and taste, for then to enjoy it and perceive its characteristics.
A few tips on the basic degustation stages follow.
Visual aspect: after pouring the wine into the glass, place it in a well lit location, preferably against a bright uniform background such as a towel or a napkin, and then assess its visual aspects, such as tonalities, whether it’s translucent or opaque, its texture and density. By doing so, you can already establish whether it’s a young wine (with vivid red or violet colors in red wines) or a more aged one with terracotta hues neighboring orange. Density can tell whether it’s a more alcoholic or a lighter wine, and so on.
Smelling is the second stage of degustating: those “affected” hand movements we see professional tasters perform are important to air the wine, often imprisoned in the bottle for years, and to liberate its scents. Bring the glass close to your nose and then deeply inhale – or, to put it more clearly, just stick your nose into the glass without shame!
Identify the smells. For this, it’s important to have an olfactory memory. As a friend suggested, make it a habit to visit open-air fresh food markets and smell attentively everything you’re allowed to, in order to create a data base, so to speak.
Don’t you recall the scent of pineapple? Or that of mango, or leather, or wet earth? Do not find it strange however when you hear about distinct scents you do not recognize – in Brazil for instance we don’t have too many opportunities to eat licorice, or to feel the perfume of European violets, since the Brazilian variety is of African origin and has a weak scent. You should make associations with what is common and frequent in your life.
Palate: In the mouth, you feel the weight, the body of the wine. It may be silky, flowing lightly through your mouth, or in denser, full-bodied layers.
Ana de Andrade
May 17, 2017, São Paulo, Brazil