An example of Bordeaux tasting

I found this article very interesting in this blog: bricks of wine They are describing a tasting of Bordeaux wines from '86, '88, '89. They were wines sold for under twenty dollars, but now they could be around 40-80 dollars.
The bottles that they tasted are:
  1. 1988 Chateau Grand Mayne, St. Emilion
  2. 1986 Chateau Chasse-Spleen, Moulis en Médoc
  3. 1988 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
  4. 1986 Chateau Meyney, St. Estéphe
  5. 1989 Chateau De Fieuzal, Passac-Léognan
  6. 1986 Chateau Sociando-Mallet, Haut Médoc
  7. 1989 Chateau Meyney, St. Estéph             
Some of these bottles were corked, but fortunately not all.

What makes wines different?

Of course the climate! Before to understand what makes wines different it's useful to look at how grapes ripen. The vine has to have enough sunshine to ripen, otherwise it will remain green and hard, whit a taste acidic and sour. If there is enough sun the sour acid in the grapes will turn into sugar, the skin will ripen and if we're talking about black grapes they turn from red through to deep purple in colour.
If there is too much sun then all the acid will turn into sugar and in this way the wine will be flabby. If there is too little sun then the wine will be thin and sour in the taste. the conclusion is that we could have a good wine if there is a good balance between rainfall, sunshine and temperature.
After this we could discuss about the climate.
Cool climate generally give wines that are mainly white, high in acidity, lower in alcohol and with a refreshing flavour. Hot climate give wines that are mainly red (because the black grapes need more sun), high in alcohol and rich in flavour.

The descriptors used in wine tasting

All five sense are involved in wine tasting. Our eyes perceive the colour, clarity, viscosity and effervescence of a wine. The nose senses the wine's bouquet and aroma. Within the mouth three senses interact forming the complex perception known as taste. These are: smell as discerned by the retronasal passages, taste as appreciate  by the taste buds and tactile sensations felt in the oral cavity. The sense of hearing permits us to enjoy the fizzing of effervescence and the popping of corks as well as the buzz of friendly conversation.

(From "Speaking of wine" of Guy, Taylor, Farone Rosso)

Oak in the wine

In many labels You can see the word "oaked", this means that the wine has fermented or matured in oak and will gain flavours, tannin and texture from contact with the wood. Wines can have distinctive changes in style if they are in contact with oak, in white wines the wine can become buttery and have vanilla flavours, with red wines can become smoother with added spicy character

( from ' confidence for front line staff'  wset)

The body of the wine

This is the general feel of the wine in the mouth when You taste.
Light bodied: they are wines that generally are refreshing and easy to drink, like for example the Pinot Grigio from Italy (a white wine) and the Beaujolais from France (a red wine)
Medium bodied: the wine will feel richer and more substantial, because of the grapes used or because the wine may have been in oak barrels, adding an extra texture to the wine. For example are wines with medium bodied the white Burgundy from France and the red Merlot from Chile
Full bodied: the wine will be powerful and will seem more concentrated and heavy. This is usually due to the ripeness of the grape and for some wine the use of oak. For example are wines with full bodied the oaked Chardonnay from California and Shiraz from Australia

( from ' confidence for front line staff'  wset)

What is fermentation in the wine?

The fermentation is the process that converts the sugar to ethanol and carbon dioxide.It's done by the anaerobic metabolism of yeast. Thanks to Louis Pasteur we discover that are the yeast and the bacteria the responsibles of the fermentation in the wines. During fermentation one glucose molecule gives two alcohol and two carbon dioxide molecules.But how to monitorate the fermentation? It could be done in several ways. One is observing activity in the fermentation vessels. As long as carbon dioxide is vigorously given off, the yeast is still working.Laboratory fermentation are sometime followed by weighing the fermentation vessel at frequent intervals, thus obtaining  a record of the weight of carbon dioxide gas lost and by calculation the amount of sugar remaining.But this is a complex and time consuming.
The technique most used in the operating cellar is a measurement of the density  of a sample of fermenting juice, by floating a calibrate hydrometer in the juice.

(By The oxford companion of the wine J. Robinson)


Grape juice is naturally sweet but as yeast feed on the grape sugars during fermentation, the juice becomes less sweet. Yeast will die once the alcohol reaches 15% or when all the sugars have been used. Any sugar remaining in the wine once the yeast are dead will determine how sweet a wine is.

Dry : the majority of wine you will taste will be dry because the yeast will have turned all the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. For example the Valpolicella from Italy is a dry wine, like Pinotage from South Africa.

Medium : the wines you will taste that are medium will be usually white or rosé. To make a medium wine the winemaker will either remove the yeast from the juice before all the sugar has been consumed or add unfermented, sweet grape juice to dry wine. A medium wine should have sweetness but not be cloying or sickly. The Liebfraumilch from Germany and Blush Zinfandel from California are in this style.

Sweet : sweetness is noticeable on the front of the tongue. Often the sugar will make the wine feel thicker and richer. The best sweet wines are made from grapes so rich in sugar that the yeast dies before all the sugar is consumed. Often sweet wines will be balanced in flavour due to refreshing acidity in the wine. Sauternes from France, Port from Portugal and Asti from Italy are in this style

( from ' confidence for front line staff'  wset)