Wine Dharma

January 2020

DharMag January 2020 How to taste and judge wine: a gentleman's guide to sniffing the glass

How to taste and judge wine: a gentleman's guide to sniffing the glass With the Dharmag of January 2020, we return to a burning issue that many have raised: how to judge wine? And to analyze wine?

We offer you a month of tastings and what is our method, what has guided us for over a decade in the approach and the difficult attempt to understand something about wine. Let’s start immediately with some practical tips before leaving to sniff the wine and remember that planning is as fundamental as the ideal conditions to taste the wine. It is not enough to have a nose and a palate. Then we have the visual analysis to make a first diagnosis of the wine and certainly, the olfactory examination of the wine cannot be missing.

Let’s say that analyzing wine always starts from personal tastes, it is difficult to separate pleasure and preconceptions from an objective analysis of wine. Let’s take a renowned wine like Sassicaia 2015 elected by Wine Spectator as the wine of the year. Honestly, the 2014 vintage disappointed, but it was a horrible, rainy and irregular year, they would have done better to downgrade the wine, and it certainly did not shine in balance, the wood was an intoxication rather than a suggestion.

The 2015 Sassicaia vintage is green, with still roaring tannins, many edges, but these edges will surely become the engine for the years to come. What today are clear limitations to pleasantness will be a guarantee of long aging. The pulp is ok, but at the moment the wine is not ready. So why was it elected by the American magazine as the wine of the year?

De gustibus non est disputandum… Do you want to create a new case to sell and prod the interest of an audience too accustomed to clichés?

Let’s read the comment of WS about 2015 Sassicaia: “Dense but lively, structured however impeccably balanced with vibrant acidity that runs through the long aftertaste full of fruit.”

All very suggestive, but to say that it is “impeccably balanced” is a villain, it will be ready in at least 6-7 years, so much that they write the ideal period is between 2023-2042. But didn’t they say “already balanced”?

This is not an attack on Sassicaia (among other things 2015 is a fabulous year and it was an exceptional year in the whole Italian territory), but it is only to make you understand that the judgment rarely manages to be equidistant. The subjectivity of the drinker, his needs for certainties (and to sell a magazine), his psychological customs, are essential. So let’s stop with this farce of the wine gurus. You can try to be as impartial as possible, but it’s not that easy.

What we can tell you are the parameters that we use objectively to judge a wine. Frankness, sincerity, pleasantness, but not intended only as drinkability, but as a set of characteristics that make a wine worthy. And if we want to summarize them, they are very simple and clear concepts: the length of the sip, the variety, the gustatory volume, and its persistence, the balance between the parts, the potential, the adherence to the land of origin (terroir) and the quality-price ratio.

The last parameter will make purists turn up their noses, who perhaps think that if a wine is good the price does not count … But honestly, we feel compelled to be impartial and shameless, after all, if you are reading these pages it is because you want a dispassionate judgment. And being honest is what interests us, otherwise, all this babbling is useless. We are first of all consumers and we have set ourselves the objective of being at least useful to consumers, trying to make a rational judgment, useful for understanding if it is worth investing you/our money in a bottle. Nothing more.

But we don’t even want to offer you a sommelier course, we don’t want to bore you with graphics and cabal of combinations and Rubick’s cubes of sensory analysis, there are no aesthetic exercises here to sip. But above all what we like to adopt is the perspective of the winemaker. The man/woman who made the wine and had a purpose, an idea, a motivation that goes beyond profit: so be careful when you judge a wise. But there are indeed objective parameters that can make it clear whether a wine deserves its price or not. You can start from here, but what you need is the experience in the field, so let’s uncork some bottles!

Photo credits