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Advanced Tasting Guide

Advanced Tasting Guide

The ultimate guide to tasting fine wine

A single wine can dramatically change in flavor and bouquet as the years wear on and you develop your palate. The first time you try 2010 Lafite, you might only taste and smell wine. But as your palate matures, you’ll learn to find more notes, like the scent of oyster that made this estate famous, or the strong black tea flavor hidden in the wine’s layers. If you train your palate well enough, you might even spot the elusive violet top note that the most experienced enthusiasts struggle to find. Learning how to taste fine wine requires patience and consistent practice, but it will ultimately make your collection more refined and your experiences with wine more enjoyable. Learn more.

How to taste wine from the barrel

Tasting wine from the barrel is an essential experience that every serious collector should have at least once. Barrel tastings can teach you a great deal about the vintage, including how long the wine will age, and even its potential value on the secondary market. By learning what to identify (and what to ignore) in a tasting, you’ll be able to pick the best wines for your cellar and palate. Learn more.

How to blind taste like a sommelier

Over the past few years, naysayers have been skeptical over whether sommeliers can actually identify wines from taste alone. You’ll see countless headlines online about how wine tasting is “junk science,” and that there’s simply no way to tell the difference between a good wine and a bad one. But those of us who have collected and tasted wine for years know that this isn’t entirely true. While a number of factors can impact how well you can taste wine, it’s hard to believe that a wine expert couldn’t tell the difference between, say, an Australian Shiraz and a German Riesling. Learn more.

How to interpret strange tasting notes

As a collector, it can be frustrating to read four seemingly completely different aroma and flavor notes from four different critics for the exact same wine–it’s like they’re speaking a different language. Wine Berserkers forum member Michael S. Monie describes researching notes for 2009 Barolo Cascina Francia, but being unable to find an agreement among critics. Wine Advocate said the wine had licorice, tar, and dried rose; Antonio Galloni described tobacco and flowers; James Suckling found roses and dark fruit that was more savory than sweet; Stephen Tanzer smelled and tasted strawberries, leather, and camphor. While all of these descriptions appear different, when combined they paint a clear picture of this wine’s character. Learn more.

Analyzing the science of wine tasting

What if scientists could pinpoint the perfect bottle of wine for your palate, based only on the genetic makeup of your DNA? A Silicon Valley technology company, Helix, claims that they can do exactly that. Using a DNA sequence and a short quiz, the company says that they can help their customers find their ideal wine style without ever picking up a glass of wine. But how reliable is this new technology, and could it really replace a wine tasting session? The science of wine tasting is still a complex and rarely-studied field, so before you get your genome analyzed, take some time to learn about why we prefer the wines we love, and what you can do to find your own perfect bottle from the comfort of your home. Learn more.

Understanding the impact of terroir on minerality

In my experience tasting Chablis wines, one tasting note consistently shines through: flint. The limestone-rich soil in this terroir is sprinkled with fossilized oyster shells that allegedly add minerality to its flavors. While scientists have found that mineral flavors certainly exist in wines, they are still unsure why this minerality is present. In multiple studies, wine critics tasted mineral notes in wines from the same terroir, independently of one another’s reviews, making it clear that minerality exists as a physical component of the wine. Learn more.

How lunar cycles impact the flavor of wine

You’ve likely heard of biodynamic winemakers racking the lees under the light of a full moon, believing that the clarity of the moonlight will also make the wine clearer. Did you know that many wine lovers and collectors are now tasting wine by moon phases too? According to those who swear by the technique, four different phases of the moon can impact the taste of your wine. Proponents say that if you happen to drink your wine during the “wrong” phase, you’ll end up with a much less flavorful experience, yet if you drink that same wine during the ideal moon phase, the wine will have bolder and more pleasant flavors. Learn more.

How to identify premox in wine

Wine collector Billy Grippo opened his first premox bottle about eight years ago, when he was out to dinner with friends. He brought along a fantastic Leflaive 2002 Chevalier-Montrachet that he thought would be incredible in its old age, but when he poured the first glass it looked nothing like the rich, straw-colored liquid he loved. He says, “It wasn’t even like it was slightly oxidized; it looked like weak tea!” He learned a tough lesson that day: always bring along a spare bottle, especially with premox on the loose. Learn more.

Understanding the individuality of taste

A common misconception is that taste buds in the mouth are solely responsible for our sense of taste, while our nasal passages are solely responsible for our sense of smell. In fact, our bodies are equipped with a third perception tool: the retronasal passages. This is the dime-sized patch of nerves in the back of the throat that combine taste with smell to produce entirely new flavors and sensations. Learn more.